Going live

19 March 2008

Hewden in the UK went live with its new M3 (formerly Movex) rental software system from Lawson on 2 July, with over 100 depots and the company's headquarters going online at the same time.

Colin Hotchkiss, Hewden's head of IT (right), tells IRN that the launch went very well and there were “no disasters” on the day; “We did enough testing-we were confident it was stable and would work.”

The company chose the &big bang' route-going live on everything-rather than opting for a piecemeal approach. “We considered doing it by geographical areas, by business unit, or even by customer”, says Mr Hotchkiss, “Ultimately, we felt there were two things against that. We would have had to write interfaces between the new and the old businesses, and even more compelling, customers would have had two different experiences, [which would have been contrary to] the &one-Hewden' approach.”

The success of the transition is the result of an enormous amount of preparation. Mr Hotchkiss says that 47 internal trainers were appointed to carry out training at 17 locations throughout the UK. “That was a seven-week programme and a military exercise on its own”, he says.

On the days following the introduction of the system, Hewden set up a telephone support centre with 15 Hewden staff and a further 20 outsourced staff. The centre received 4000 calls in its first week.

What has Hewden learned from the process? Preparation is everything, says Mr Hotchkiss. “For example, prior to going live, we manually keyed in 20000 rental agreements-every live rental agreement that was going to be open we keyed into M3 before going live. We could have done it automatically, but that would have been very, very difficult.” This had other advantages-it provided staff with some hands-on experience of the system before going live, and gave them a kind of ‘ownership’ of the data and the system.

He says the other key thing is to understand that a new system can change working patterns and even roles. “A whole company suddenly has to deal with a new way of working. People's job roles change, sometimes subtly, sometimes big changes.” This was most evident in workshops, where service staff had often had no experience of computers at all.

It is still early days, but Colin Hotchkiss says the system had already made the company more efficient; “The first benefit is the visibility of assets”, he tells IRN, “The older system, you could only see assets in your own locations. Now it's just much easier to satisfy customer demand.”

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