Many organizations doing business today make use of several softwares and programs to run their business processes. Such software makes tedious and potentially back-breaking work simple and easy. At some point, there might be a need for some software to be upgraded or an entirely new one implemented. This is where software implementation comes into play. Implementation of software is an important process in any organization. It must be done the right way. Otherwise, it will not give the desired results.
Software and IT hardware is a trillion dollar industry. Yes, there is that much money involved. So, it is understandable that there is a lot of pressure on businesses to keep playing catch up in this digital age. Businesses have to keep chasing the edge that using the latest technology and software gives them. Their competitors are sure taking advantage of it. If you own a business and you snooze in this race, you lose, big. Nonetheless, it is useless acquiring the latest software without having an implementation plan. It would only be a huge waste of resources. A proper implementation and sustainability plan is the way to make the most of any new technology.
Software Implementation: How To Do It Properly
When implementing brand new software for a business, you want the transition from old to new software to be smooth. It should happen without any hitch. The very last thing your staff members want to be doing is struggle to understand how your new software works. It will waste valuable work time and slow down your work processes. You also need to work sustainability into your plan. Even after deployment, how fast and how well is it adopted and for how long? According to studies, about 5-15% of IT projects flounder before or right after deployment. That is about $50 billion dollars lost to improper planning. If you want to do it right and not be part of the statistics, here are some steps to follow:
– Plan Well
Implementing new software for your business is not something you decide to do on the spur of the moment. It should be a result of careful planning and strategizing. You should know right from the get-go, the processes that the new software will help you with. What it will cost to get it up and running? Will you need to train your team members on the use of the software you are implementing? These are questions you should have ready answers to.
You should also make sure that you have concrete business justification for the software project before you venture into it. Your business should need this solution. There should be a specific value proposition. What your business stands to gain from having that software installed. Essentially what the Return On Investment (ROI) will be after implementing the software. It would not make sense to spend so much money on implementing new software, without any measurable return on investment to be had from the entire process.
– Choose the Right Vendors
You have determined that your software implementation will be beneficial to your company in the long run. Now it is time to figure out what software vendors to use for the project. There are some steps that would help with the software vendor selection.
Here they are:
o Form A Team For Evaluation
Form a team in your organization whose job will be to check your prospective software vendors. The team will make a list of potential vendors and do a deep dive. They will help determine the compatibility of their software solution for the company. This evaluation team should consist of members of top management, experts and the members of staff that will be using the solution. You might also want to include one or two external professionals that are not part of your company.
o Perform A Business Assessment
This will involve making a list of your business processes and trying to determine which ones need a facelift. Which ones will benefit most from a software upgrade? You can also find out how optimizing these important processes can help your business perform better. Otherwise, there is no need for implementing new software.
o Create A Software Shopping List
This can help with selecting which software solution will fit your company’s needs. Create a list of criteria that you want to see in your vendor or their software solution. This criteria could include price, ease of use, platform and so on. Choose which criteria are most important to your company’s needs. Some of these may include:
Industry Expertise– How knowledgeable about your industry is your potential ERP vendor? Have they provided a similar solution to another organization in the past? Does the vendor follow best industry practices?
Can They Handle The Scope?- If your organization works from many locations, you need to be sure that your software vendor has the capacity to match that. Can they provide multi-site support?
Customer Service– Find out if your software vendor has a functional and responsive customer service system. Whether they have an in-house team or they outsource. It is important that they should be able to respond to all questions or issues you might have after implementation.
o Ask For References
Your software overhaul is too important for you to leave chances. You need to be absolutely certain you are giving the job to the right vendor. Ask for references, and not just those that are already primed to give glowing feedback. Ask for references from companies that are in your industry; companies which the vendor has provided a similar solution to in the past. You could even take this further and visit those companies. Hear first-hand accounts of the vendor’s service and professionalism and how well their solution works.
– Project Kick-Off
This is where things get really interesting. You are done with all your preparatory tasks. Your software implementation plan is off to a great start, you are good and rearing to go. Do not get too far ahead of yourself though. You should start slow and be a firm believer in incremental development.
In this particular instance, you cannot be a perfectionist. When it comes to anything relating to software, feedback is important. If it does not work well the first time, do not panic. Collect the feedback and make it run better the next time. Fixating too much on making every process perfect will do nothing but hurt your project in the long run. You start to lose sight of the big picture, and your project starts snowballing. Then the dreaded Scope Creep pops in.
What Is Scope Creep?
Scope creep is what happens when you keep adding extra features or functions. Maybe you add a new product to a project, all outside of the agreed-upon scope of the project. At the end of the day, your project is bogged down under the weight of so many extra and mostly, unnecessary additions. Then you cannot deliver on what you initially planned.
In software implementation, scope creep happens when you decide to make every function, feature, and process of every capability to start working all at once. Granted, working on new software can be so exciting that you might be tempted to go bonkers with the functionalities. But you need to rein that impulse in and make sure your key features are working well at first. The others can be added in later.
Here are some of the causes of scope creep:
o Vision or data that is not well defined right from the start
o Design document without detailed explanations
o Jumping the gun on the project. Beginning too early without proper research
o Hiring the wrong software vendor
o Making bad decisions because you want to cut costs.
o Budget allocations that cannot cover the scope of the project
Now you know the causes, here are the indicators that your project has started on the slippery slope known as scope creep:
o When time moves forward without the project moving forward at a proportionate pace. You will have deadlines coming and going while the project is stagnant.
o When people that are not part of your core team start giving their inputs to your vendors and development team
o When you add functionalities that were not in the original specification document
o When you lose sight of your end goal
When you notice any of these, then you should know that scope creep is having a go at your project. You can do something about it though. Understand that implementing software is a process that tends to evolve all on its own over time.
Also remember that end-user feedback is one component that is necessary to determine the success of your project. So, collect feedback, accept the “bad parts” that need fixing, and go back to the drawing board and try to fix. Make sure to get all your key functionalities working from the get-go. Do not get stuck up on customization, this can come later as the software evolves. Another effective way of stopping the slippery slope that is scope creep is to use some project management tools.
Here are some options you can choose from:
o If your company is a big one (50+ employees) you might want to use the services of a proper professional project management system. This is interestingly ironic as that would be one of the things you would be required to put in place.
o If you are working with a mid-sized company of about 11-50 employees. You could go for free project management tools. This would help get your implementation processes back on track.
o What if your company is a small company with 10 or fewer employees? You could go a bit simpler and make use of platforms like Google Sheets, Calendars and some other digital methods.
– User Adoption
It does not matter how awesome and smart the system you have implemented is. It still does not translate to user adoption. You have to now put a plan in place to make people accept the system and adopt it. Under-utilization of implemented software has made many companies pull back the throttle on their technological development. This is because the software has not met the expected ROI goals as well as the user adoption goals. A successful software implementation ends with massive user adoption numbers.
Getting users to engage and adopt your brand new software might not be as easy as you might think. Human beings are generally averse to change. A new software implementation means learning new processes, new tools and so on. In some cases, it means doing away with the entire old software and learning a completely new one. Whatever the case may be, the adoption of new software by end-users is something that needs to be worked on.
In a lot of cases, users point out bad user experience as a reason for non-adoption. This is why end-user feedback is essential in the entire software implementation process. Collect user feedback and use that data to drive further development.
A great way to drive end-user adoption of your new software is to provide some form of engagement. Let there be a prize for early adopters or some other form of reward. Barring this, there are some key steps you can take to make the adoption process run a little easier:
- Show Goals That The New Software Will Help Achieve
What if members of your team can understand how the new software can help make their work processes easier? Then they might be more predisposed to trying it out. Identify the pain points that will be addressed by the new software. Then outline how removing these pain points will improve your business output.
Be as specific as possible. Don’t generalize how this new software will improve their output. Instead, make specific declarations. For instance, instead of saying adopting the new software system will greatly improve work output. Say that adopting the new system will improve work output by 70% within the first 3 months. This kind of measurable metric can help spur adoption and acceptance.
o Communicate With The Team On A Personal Level
You have gone to great lengths to define pain points and list goals that will be achieved through adoption. It does not make sense if you do not communicate these ideals to your staff properly. The best way to pass this message across is to personalize it. Different teams within your organization will most likely have different goals. Goals that the new software will help them achieve. So it makes sense to tailor your communication to each team and their specific goals. This sense of personalization will help a lot in end-user adoption.
– Should You Go For Custom Software Or Off-The-Shelf Software?
Here is a dicey one. For your software implementation, is it advisable to go for custom software development or will an off-the-shelf variation do the trick? There sure are pros and cons to either choice. But ultimately a bespoke software implementation is the way to go.
The thing is, even if you decide to go for off-the-shelf software implementation, there are bound to be some bugs and issues that will need fixing. You will still need your own team of developers to handle those issues. Even after implementation is done, you will still need support for continued development.
The take away from this is that custom software implementation is always better. There are only so many tweaks and fixes you can make on off-the-shelf software. Although, software kits including Salesforce and NetSuite are powerful in a way that few custom solutions can match. But the question is, how adaptable are they? When you go the way of off-the-shelf software, you lose the ability to roll out updates. You become stagnant. That is not a good place to be with software implementation.
Now that you have gone through this article, you should be able to rustle together your own software implementation plan. You should pay attention to the points so that you can get the most value from your new software. After you are done with implementing your software, you can outline a plan for driving end-user adoption. A mark of a successful software implementation is a huge wave of user adoption and of course, making sure that the ROI is met and exceeded even. Be sure to maintain an open channel of communication throughout the process.