You should be interested in an article called "7 Steps to Winning When Integrating New Systems," which appeared in Outbound, a quarterly publication from TMW Systems, the trucking software people from Beachwood, Ohio. Here is a condensed version offered with TMW’s permission:
Software vendors often promise better customer service, major cost reductions, and the proverbial competitive edge. But how do you hold a vendor accountable? Here’s how:
Define your objectives. Before you invite vendors in, talk to your own people and develop a clear understanding of what is needed. Disappointment is likely without it no matter how good a vendor’s solution.
Make sure the vendor views your IT group as partners. Make sure your vendor conducts in-depth probing and is not trying to hide potential pitfalls until after a contract is signed. Make sure the people working on the system and the people who will use it have the same expectations.
Break the project into defined segments. Set specific, measurable goals for each. If possible, tie contract payments to those milestones. Look for sources of hidden costs such as undetermined development fees after implementation.
Assign responsibilities. Require skill profiles of the vendor’s staff and a well-defined project management plan.
Start with at least two sessions. A meeting between your staff and the vendor’s team should ensure that your management understands the proposed solution and that the vendor understands your business. This group should consider risk factors, where problems might arise. A second meeting of both project teams should make a list of deliverables and a contingency plan for all risk factors.
Keep the schedule and budget in line. Track performance as the schedule unfolds. Your project manager should confer regularly with the vendor’s implementation manager. But don’t include your ClO and vendor executives. Their presence often inhibits honesty about what’s really happening, and problems may not be addressed as directly as they should.
Get proof. The project is not complete until you have proof that all objectives have been met and that your team fully understands the workings of the new solution.