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Government software implementation tips

Government agencies often invest significant time, resources, and money when replacing an outdated legacy business system.

But governments don’t replace critical business systems every day, so how do they make their investment worth it and ensure success?

Success indicators are often:

  • More efficient processes
  • Improved communication
  • Simplified citizen interaction

Does replacing and modernizing your software always accomplish those goals?

The answer lies with the software, of course—but also with the project leadership’s critical decisions during and after the implementation.

Here are three reasons government software implementations fail—and how to fix things.

Imitating the Functionality of the Legacy System

Maybe you’re happy with your legacy system but need to replace it because it’s no longer supported. Or maybe the technology is outdated, the security vulnerabilities are mounting, and the risk is too significant to ignore.

Governments sometimes tell software vendors, “We want the new system to work just like our old one.” While this sounds simple and ideal, it’s often not.

One reason is that—for example—software that provides permitting, licensing, and land management solutions often have features built on years of experience with other customers and have become best-in-class. So while it’s often possible to configure these systems to replicate the old system, doing so often prevents the software from working as designed.

And fixing the new software to behave like the old software to help employees transition often has the reverse effect because you aren’t using the software’s native functionality and may have implemented a complex configuration or workaround that’s difficult to support or enhance.

Designing the System to Be Too Rigid

Projects also get themselves in trouble by making the system too restrictive. Sometimes, that’s from making user permissions very specific to prevent staff from making mistakes.

In other cases, it’s from having the project team implement business logic to limit user actions and force staff to follow the process—but this approach makes it difficult for staff to handle exception cases. While 80% of your processes may follow a standard path, 20% may not. Don’t increase staff and customer frustration by preventing employees from doing their jobs quickly and efficiently.

Lack of Continuous Improvement

After a lengthy implementation project, the new software is finally live. The project team is glad to be finished with the workshops, testing, and training.

But although you spent significant effort testing the system, it’s normal for suggested changes to arise for:

  • New or missed requirements
  • Process improvements
  • Unique, unusual, or infrequent use cases
  • Changes to processes or legislation

Governments sometimes assume that once software is implemented, the IT department will provide timely support and maintenance. However, since they’re already understaffed, they typically can’t, and users wait months for even simple changes. Or worse: There are no plans for maintenance or improvements.

How to Fix Things

Luckily, you can avoid these pitfalls whether you’re planning to replace your legacy software or are in the middle of an implementation. And even if you’ve completed the implementation and are struggling with some of these issues, it’s not too late.

Here’s how to fix them:

  1. Re-examine the custom workaround to see if you could use the out-of-the-box functionality instead. Ask the software provider or your implementation partner if there’s a better way. Removing the “old” process and using the software as intended might be easy—but even if it’s not, software/process changes will be repaid tenfold in ease of support and maintenance.
  2. Remove some of the tight permissions/restrictions. Train staff to follow the process—but also allow them to handle exceptions without management or IT support. They’ll thank you for making their jobs easier. If you have concerns about easing restrictions, remember most software has detailed audit logs.
  3. Invite staff to suggest ways to improve system processes. Ask them to prioritize the improvements and group them logically. Commit to tackling items in a reasonable time frame and have a plan to implement them. You can reduce the burden on your IT staff by working with an implementation provider to outsource time-consuming or complex enhancements.


Every project team that manages a major system replacement worries if it will succeed and if they’ll get it right. Whether you’re at the start of your journey or struggling with these pitfalls after implementation, it’s not too late to turn the ship around and change the project from ineffective to successful.

Vision33 has delivered IT consulting and professional services to public sector clients across North America since our inception. Simply stated—we know government

Our experience spans multiple jurisdictions at the federal, state, provincial, county, and municipal levels.

Drop us a line anytime.

Mark Fahey, Delivery Manager for Vision33 eGovernment, has over 20 years of experience managing and leading enterprise-level eGovernment implementations.