Software Implementation – 10 Tips to Make it Work
Is your company in the process of selecting a new software for your business?
Will you be involved in software implementation, but you’re concerned you’re not very experienced in this kind of project or you’ve experienced its fail before?
Is your company seeing this as a business or an IT project?
The debate about the last question has a long history, but it’s hopefully a generally accepted view at this stage that a software implementation isn’t an IT project for its own sake, but to enable a business change, to become more effective, to free up time for more value-add activities, and to remain competitive.
Investing in software does not guarantee business challenges will be resolved or processes will automatically be streamlined, but it is a critical part for evolving as a business.
Understanding that the software implementation is part of a much wider business change is key, and there is much to be gained from the implementation – and adoption – of new software.
Here are 10 useful points to consider when it comes to a software implementation:
Know why you are doing it
It is essential to have a good understanding of the challenge the project is aiming to tackle, and the expected business benefits to be realised after the project is delivered. If you know why you are doing the project and what the expected outcome is, you can always cross-check at decision points to ensure the project always aligns with the underlying business case for the project.
Any form of change is challenging. The bigger the change, the larger the challenge. Be realistic, you are more likely to be successful with measured changes. For example, could you reduce complexity and strain on your project resources (who frequently remain in their day jobs in parallel) by phasing your implementation? Would a phased go-live make the adoption by your end users easier? Use your vendor’s experience and advice to define an approach that works for you!
Weigh up the true cost
Cost is often only considered in terms of budget when implementing a new software. There is much more to consider, for example, the time needed by a department to undergo training and familiarisation with the new product as well as the time needed to move data from a legacy system to the new product. Ensure budget and resources are available to start the project in the right place – and stay in place throughout.
Plan! Plan!! Plan!!!
There is an old adage we can refer to here: If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail!
Planning doesn’t guarantee your project will go perfectly, but it certainly helps to minimise risks. Projects often involve many moving parts and the project team – both on customer and vendor side – need to know what is happening, how it is happening, when it should happen and what is critical to something else happening. The format of the plan depends on the size of your project and the culture in your company. As a vendor we’re always very flexible as to what the plan looks like – as long as you make sure the whole project team knows what are the steps ahead and can answer the questions above as and when required. There is always an element of the unknown and unexpected. So you plan, plan – and re-plan when required.
On a small scale, think of putting together a home full of flat packed furniture without the instructions… Enough said.
Can you hear me?!
Communication is vital to the success of any project. From gaining buy-in for a project to communicating progress of the project and of course conclusion of the project, it is essential for the project team, but also stakeholders to be kept in the loop. A project can very easily go off track if the project team isn’t aligned or risk the support of essential stakeholders if they are not informed in the appropriate way of progress. If in doubt how to set up your communication and stakeholder management, ask your vendor project manager to advice and work with you!
Right tool for the job
There are times when we can get away with using a pocket knife for a task requiring a screwdriver. However, when it comes to implementing a new system, we can’t afford to take such risks. It is important to have the right resources in place to make the project a success.
This goes all the way to the top, from ensuring the right choice and number of people are trained, the right knowledge is involved in the project and the right decision makers are in place to direct the project.
Similarly, asking two people to complete a task which requires four people could increase project timescales significantly and/or some very stressed employees.
Throwing resource at the problem, at the last minute, does not guarantee success either. The additional resource may require training and time to get up to speed. Planning the right resources for each project phase is key to success.
Stick to the basics
It is very easy to get carried away with a new piece of software and want to engage with all of the features. However, there is more than enough to worry about when it comes to taking on board basic information about the new product. First get to grips with the essentials and master the use of these before deploying other flashy features.
Think of it as buying a new car. There will be “must” requirements that drive your decision as to which car, with which features you buy. There may also be nice-to-have that you focus on less at the point of purchase, but will make a difference when you got used to your car a bit. Heated seats anyone?
Fetch my slippers! There is often the temptation of wanting a new system to do everything including making it cater for tasks outside of what a system would or should do.
A software implementation is always an opportunity to evaluate if other ways of working would support the business change. Does the new system really need to work in exactly the same way as your legacy system did? The cost of this expectation can be high. Is it a good investment?
It is advisable to stick with the original scope where possible, focus on the must haves as defined at the beginning of the project and only amend the project scope if the change is a key miss. There is always time to expand and deepen the use of the system while your end users grow into full adoption with you.
The end is near
A project has a start, a planned end and set of deliverables. The closure phase of a project provides a deadline to work towards, a planned process to transition to business as usual, and an opportunity to conduct “lessons learned” sessions and release resources from the dual pressure of day job and project work. At this stage, the internal communication and the choices made to drive the adoption of the system with your end users will hopefully get a wider group – possibly your entire organisation – onboard with what you’ve been working on for a long time already. As a vendor, at this stage, our work is generally done and our Support teams take over, but we still very much keep our fingers crossed that you’re achieving what you were hoping to achieve!
Tried and tested approach
There are methodologies out there to choose from when implementing new software. At times companies borrow from one or more methodologies to develop their own approaches. Whichever way you go, speak to your vendor to make sure you understand how they work and how the approach will fit your needs. Sometimes small changes to the ways of working can make a big difference!
Hopefully your next software implementation will be as smooth as possible, drive the business changes you were looking for and gain end user adoption in the key days and weeks after go-live!