Choosing a software supplier is only half the battle.
This guide aims to support you through the process of software implementation, with a number of actionable tips to help ensure a smooth onboarding.
Introduction To Software Implementation
Any business that’s previously implemented a new software solution will attest to the fact the buying process does not end once you have signed on the dotted line and paid your invoice. After-purchase support and guidance is equally, if not more important, than the software decision itself.
Software implementation can be defined as the onboarding of a new solution into a business and typically involves a number of steps such as data migration, training, familiarisation and fine-tuning. It’s often seen as a secondary consideration; an unwelcome and unnecessary expense.
After all, you’ve already spent plenty of time trialling every system until you find the perfect fit…..isn’t that the most important bit done?
Without implementation processes, businesses run the risk of introducing ineffective ways of working and reducing the likelihood of internal buy-in which could mean that staff will stop using the system. This could have a detrimental impact on ROI and your company could completely miss out on the benefits of your new software.
Approximately 63% of CRM installations fail due to poor system implementation, which highlights the importance of a smooth transition towards embedding new business software.
With this in mind, it is crucial that you are prepared to put the time and effort into this part of the process to be able to see results. Business critical software cannot be expected to be a quick fix, but instead must be viewed as a long term commitment.
4 Key Considerations Pre-Implementation
Firstly, let’s explore some of the ways that you can improve software implementation right from the get-go and ensure you’ve covered all bases to give your team the best chance of success.
1. Choosing the right supplier
Before we get started thinking about implementation itself, you have to ensure you’ve found the most appropriate supplier to begin with.
Although software solutions can be very similar in design, each supplier is entirely different and to get the most out of your purchase, it is crucial to learn from a team who have in-depth system knowledge. This means working with the people who know their way around the software and can help you identify the hidden benefits and most effective ways of using it.
When choosing a supplier, you have to ensure that they are willing to spend time and resource to help you get the most out of your investment. This could be in the form of Project Management, a Technical Helpdesk, best practice webinars, training or other methods of customer support.
In choosing the right supplier, you can ensure that, although the system implementation process may not all be smooth sailing (this is software, remember), they will be on hand to tackle any issues that may arise and provide support from the outset.
A great way to learn about the team your business will be working with is by reading testimonials and case studies or even speaking with their existing customers.
At accessplanit, customer success is at the heart of our business and we have implemented a dedicated Customer Experience process to ensure that customers optimise their usage and maximise ROI from our training management software. This means being allocated a dedicated Project Manager and Customer Success Manager throughout implementation and training to help find your feet within the system. Our customers also benefit from lifetime support from our Support Helpdesk team.
We believe that these elements of implementation are essential in assisting customers to reach their business goals and maximise their return on investment.
If the implementation phase of a project hasn’t been discussed with your potential supplier, or the package they’re offering seems too good to be true, it’s worth calculating how many man hours are actually going to be dedicated to getting you up and running!
Remember: Don’t choose a software solution based on functionality or potential business benefit alone, choose a trusted partner that will guide you and your team from being novices to experts.
2. Gaining internal buy-in and staff support
Of course, project success does not rely solely on the support provided by the supplier. Many companies overlook the importance of internal buy-in and support from staff. Setting realistic expectations and highlighting stages that could cause delays are the best ways to allow for system implementation to run smoothly. This means making sure that everyone is aware of the implementation process and can see the value in it.
It is important to outline how the change will impact their day-to-day and bring a range of benefits to their department and organisation. By encouraging knowledge sharing from the start, your staff are more likely to be enthusiastic about the change and you can improve internal communication.
To learn more, consider reading our blog on how to successfully lead employees in times of organisational change, which highlights the importance of empowering action and being transparent about organisational changes. These are some of the main influences in successful implementation as employees can sometimes be overwhelmed by the introduction of new methods. This means it is crucial to include all parties throughout the process and make sure that they are aware of any aspects that might affect them.
3. Assigning a key contact for communication
Implementation includes much more than just setting up the system. Many companies believe that they should be able to plug a system in and go. This is one of the biggest misconceptions surrounding software implementation and it is important to understand that, particularly for systems that are going to run your business such as a CRM or training management software, they’re not off-the-shelf solutions.
Project management is essential, therefore it is a good idea to assign a key contact to supervise the process and manage all communication. This is a great way to increase the likelihood of smooth software implementation, because it means that one person receives all information and can be the trusted implementation advisor for the organisation. This reduces the risk of miscommunication and fragmented operations. By having one key contact, your implementation processes can be simplified and cohesive, to reduce risks and errors.
4. Invest enough time in planning
Don’t enter the implementation phase without identifying the specific outcomes and objectives you desire.
Most businesses go into it without really knowing what they want to get out of it or what they want in place post-implementation. Often, the only real goal is to have a system that will make things easier than they currently are. This is often, at least at a user level, very functionally focused opposed to looking at the bigger picture.
However, deeper details are often not fully considered, and sometimes not considered at all. It’s easy to focus on the shiny stuff instead of investing time in looking at the process as a whole. Far too often complications arise because secondary considerations are uncovered late in to the buying process.
A huge part of implementation is planning – this is the time to identify your specific goals, map and test your processes and tie the whole thing together within a unified hub.
3 Top Tips For Implementation Triumph
Once you’ve nailed the four core pre-requisites above, your software implementation should be fairly straightforward. However, if you’ve never introduced a new system at your organisation, you may find that this all still feels a little overwhelming.
In order to fully prepare your team for the new software, here are a few bonus tips to help you pass the implementation process.
1. Communication is key
Maintain communications with all relevant team members through your software implementation.
Communication is imperative to a successful project, especially between you and your supplier. This needs to start on day one, with both sides clear about what is expected, who is responsible for which tasks, and keeping the communications channel open – so, if something does slip through the net, it’s possible to catch it before it snowballs into disaster.
Internal communications with all colleagues associated with the project is equally vital. Not only must everyone understand why the new software has been brought in, but also how to confidently use everything the system offers. Our implementation manager, Jenna Culshaw, said:
‘I’ve seen it time after time where the key users of the system are not involved until the last minute. By this point, all of the big decisions have been made for them and they have zero buy-in. It is a recipe for unhappy employees.’
Finally, your customers need to know about the upcoming changes. Nobody likes having to unexpectedly grapple with a new system and have new processes thrown at them unannounced. Let your customers know that a change is incoming and what they can expect upon launch.
2. Take a considered approach to the system as a whole
Don’t bite off more than you can chew.
It’s easy to focus on the projected ROI. That’s likely one of your primary reasons for implementing a new system. But remember, 24% of budget over-runs are due to scope creep.
Get your basic system up and running first. It’s far more efficient to lay the foundation, and then enhance the system with additional peripherals as you progress.
This is better for your team – they won’t suffer from training overload. There’s also much less pressure on you to ensure absolutely every facet of the system is completed by the agreed launch date. Your use of the software will also benefit, as your core processes can then pave the way for your less essential processes, which means you lower the chance of missing anything important.
Unfortunately, many businesses continue to add additional features and modules throughout the implementation phase. Most believe that, by adding these in now, they’ll see an even quicker increase in return-on-investment. The issue here is that they fail to take into account how much time and effort is required to get everything done at once – in short, you risk delaying the system launch and spending more than you initially thought. Successful implementation is a marathon, not a mad-dash sprint.
3. Your supplier understands
Listen to your supplier – they have the experience.
Remember, your supplier has been through the implementation process countless times before. And while every customer is different – from the size and scale of implementation to the specific modules included with the software – this simply means your supplier has the expertise to identify just about every scenario you’re likely to encounter. It also means they’re well-equipped to advise you on the best course of action, every step of the way.
7 reasons why software implementation fails
Have you had the experience of being hyped about the new software your business was implementing? And remember that crushing disappointment and frustration when everything – well, almost everything – went wrong? The increased workload, the irate phone calls jamming up the helpdesk, and your employees at a loss as to what to do. In short: Absolute carnage.
You’re not alone. New business software has a truck-load of benefits, such as business growth, reducing cost and increasing your company’s efficiency – but if it’s handled badly, there can be all manner of reasons why software implementation fails.
Let’s look at a few stats, courtesy of Panorama Consulting…
- 46% select software because it’s the best functional fit
- 57% of projects go over budget, usually due to feature creep
- 57% over-run projected timelines
The figures speak for themselves. Given the amount of time and money company-wide software implementation costs, you need get it right first time. This is vital regardless of whether you’ve opted for an off-the-shelf model (the ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach) or chosen a flexible, modular system, customised depending on your required functionalities and business needs.
1. Unrealistic expectations and goals
One of the key reasons why you may run into issues implementing software is a lack of realistic expectations. Maybe you’ve been told by your software provider that this is the silver bullet to all your business woes. That it’ll bring about world peace. Or make a great cuppa.
Whatever it is, from the out-set it’s important to precisely communicate what you want from the new system, what you hope to achieve with it, and what’s actually possible. Then stop there (for now, at least), rather than adding more and more other features to a project that risks spiralling out of control.
2. Lack of training
Your software is installed. The system is up and running. Just one problem: No-one really knows how to use it. Basic training that’s just not comprehensive enough, or worse no training at all, immediately puts a business on the path to failure (not to mention the negative impact on your bottom-line).
Not only that, but further problems may arise as an inexperienced, untrained operator blindly tries to figure their way around the system. And that’s before we consider all those missed opportunities, too, with companies not taking full advantage of all the features the software has to offer.
3. A substitute for real customer relations
There’s a big difference between customer relationship management software and actual customer relationship management. One is a conduit for the other, but a CRM alone should never be considered a substitute for personally supervising a user’s experience with you.
Your new software may help manage your sales pipeline and marketing campaigns, but it still needs you at the end of that phone or attending that meeting. This is particularly important when you consider that even today, in the digital age, B2B companies are heavily reliant on word-of-mouth referrals.
4. No proper planning or project management
There’s the point where a company decides to invest in training management software (or any software, for that matter); there’s the point where they lay out a three-week time-frame for project completion. There’s just one thing missing: That whole middle section where everything actually happens. So when it does start rolling out, nobody has clear objectives, it feels as if everyone’s actively working against each other, and while half the company are using one system, the other half are transitioning to the new one. Cue pandemonium. That has major knock-on effect for the company, staff and clients. All because no-one got together at the start and worked on a solid software implementation plan.
5. One size fits all approach
All too often, companies are sold a one-size-fits-all system that either does more than they’ll ever need, or just can’t cope with the company’s requirements.
Neither has a happy ending here, with smaller companies paying more than they can afford for a system that simply overwhelms them, while larger businesses end up requiring more because what they’ve bought is just too limited in scope. Take the tailored approach for best results.
6. Employee resistance to change and procedure
Changing your in-house systems often means changing your entire company culture, and the procedures that go with it. Some people, however, just aren’t that keen on such changes – ‘But we’ve always done it that way’ is their unchanging clarion call. It can be difficult to alter the way an entire company operates (and even how it thinks), and an inability to challenge the status quo can seriously damage your launch (this eBook explores gaining internal buy-in).
After all, you need employees trained and ready when implementing a new system. Highlight the benefits for all those who use it, to incentivise that change in attitude.
7. No post-implementation support
We believe that one of the biggest issues facing companies undertaking software implementation is the lack of support once the system is in place. No dedicated support team, no helpdesk to call, and no-one answering your emails. You’re inquisitive, so you’ll no doubt have more questions on how to get the best out of your solution, or you may discover problems preventing effective and efficient running the software, but if there’s no-one there to help you, you might as well have purchased a pad and pen for all the good it’s doing your company.
Software implementation doesn’t have to be fraught with difficulties. Simply understanding common issues you may face, and how to avoid them, when rolling-out a new system can help prepare you and your business to make a seamless transition to automating processes. As can choosing the right software provider – one that intuitively understands your business, your needs and how best to deliver maximum success.
You can find out more about software implementation right now by downloading our free software buyers guide. Alternatively, to discover how we can help your business, get in touch with our team today.
The accessplanit Way
We take pride in the implementation services we offer training businesses that decide to invest in our award-winning training management system. We understand that our software is complex, and that implementation can be difficult and it’s not something you do every day. We’ve broken our process down in to 4 key areas.
Here’s the accessplanit way…
Planning your implementation
During the initial stages of your implementation, you can expect us to…
- Gather all pertinent information
- Map business processes
- Identify your required resources
- Fully plan your project together
Executing your implementation
As we move into the next stage, you’ll need to…
- Provide us with your final requirements
- Engage your team with your new system (because gaining internal buy-in is crucial)
- Work closely with us as we built the system
- Learn how to use the system
Testing your implementation
In the third stage, we need to ensure the system performs precisely how you need it to. So, we…
- Create test scripts
- Run tests on typical daily processes
- Test system performance over rare scenarios
- Sign off on the system – we’re almost there!
Ending your implementation
Finally, we’ll bring the implementation phase to a close – but not before we…
- Soft-launch your system internally
- Perform an external launch for your customers
- Review the project, and close the implementation
- Consider the next phase on your accessplanit journey
The essence of successful software implementation has two key dependencies:
- A supplier that has a tried and trusted, effective onboarding process that allocates enough time to properly implement the new system
- A committed organisation undergoing the transition, with a team that’s bought in to the project and committed to it’s success
When the above two criteria are met, it’s conducive to a successful project.