Your company has selected the greatest software ever designed by mankind. You have done your research, applied best practices in selecting the software, and the software is the answer to all of your problems. Now comes the hardest part of any new software choice, putting it into place in your company. This is a critical endeavor, and to help you here are some best practices to keep in mind.
Pick the best time to implement the new software. Selecting the right time to begin implementation is extremely important. When deciding the timeframe to put new software into place managers need to keep important deadlines in mind. While no time will be perfect, ignoring the fiscal year ending, or required cyclic report deadlines can lead to internal chaos. The best time will be when work is normally slow and the company is in a maintenance mode. This gives time for the technicians to address the inevitable problems that will occur.
Ensure managers have bought in to the project. Managers must be on board with the new software change. When your managers think that the software is just a hassle, and will be of no benefit, the implementation will be doomed. You may be able to force managers to say the right words, and keep the party line. If they do not buy in to the new system their employees will know. When management is not even sure they want it, employees will remain hesitant.
Attempt to identify all of the issues that may occur prior to beginning any implementation. Gather the major stakeholders, department leaders, and key employees. Ask this group what issues they can see with deploying the new software. Actively listen to their responses and create plans to address them. Even what seems meaningless on a higher level can cause critical failures if not addressed.
Identify problem areas and give them extra attention once they have been identified. The new software should not be rolled out until there is at least a plan for dealing with problem areas including changes to work flow, and physical changes that might be required to facilities. These plans may not work out as hoped, but it is better to have a draft plan than to make things up on the spot. Problem areas can be addressed best when input from the people involved is solicited and acted on.
Create realistic periods for implementation. Putting new software into place needs to have a timeframe. The timeframe has to be realistic, or you put undue pressure on an already complicated situation. Look at how long you are able to complete the implementation throughout the company. Add around ten percent to this estimate and then expect it to take longer. The reality is that implementing a new system is never quick, and placing pressure on everyone involved will not make the implementation better. Only set timeframes for reasons of actual need, not just to look good.
Know what people are capable of without additional training, and then provide them the additional training they need. This training can not be something that is last minute, and done just to put a check in an implementation checklist. Some people are technologically oriented and can take to new software with minimal assistance. Others are not as good at this and will require training before the software is even put into place. This training should not bore those who are proficient, but it should be focused on those who require help in order to use the system to it’s maximum capabilities.
Provide training that is relevant and useful to the implementation. This factor is often where death by PowerPoint occurs. The use of long, drawn out, repetitive lectures to mass audiences is less than effective. If at all possible training should be hands on with knowledgeable instructors. When providing system specific training during implementation, it is not the time to include safety briefs, workplace rules, or annual training requirements.
Look beyond raw numbers for results. Numbers can easily mislead you when determining if your software implementation is on track. Results such as number of desktops updated and total users online can lead management to believe everything is on track and going well. Raw numbers should be balanced by departmental reports to determine how functional the new software actually is. These reports must be honest and accurate, with the departmental heads not worried about reprisals if they report less than stellar results.
Don’t let people expect too much from the new software. If you sell your new software as the solution to every problem your company ever has you are raising expectations beyond what may be achievable. Introduce modest expectations that are based on real estimates of functionality and improvements. Make sure your employees know that in any transition problems will arise that nobody thought of. When expectations are realistic they will not talk badly about the software when it doesn’t live up to inflated expectations
Find objective ways to measure value. Value is the entire reason you have selected new software to implement. An actual increase in profit is often difficult to determine at first. There is a tendency to decide that there is value because that is what the goal is. Once the implementation is successful put some objective metrics into place. Try to gauge if the software is making things faster, more streamlined, and resulting in profit or productivity.
Don’t skimp on support. Support is most often offered as an added product. At the end of any implementation the urge is to cut costs and not purchase a support contract. Things are going well, everyone is on board, all the issues were solved during implementation. Always remember that with employee turnover, departmental changes, and new workloads a software system can need configuration changes. Employees may require additional training that is included in a support contract.
Keeping these points in mind will help your company implement your new software with less hassle, and with greater success. Establish a procedure for the implementation and follow it as much as possible. Having a clear path for implementation keeps everyone on the same page, and reduces wait times as departments coordinate for the same resources. Your software may be the best choice, but make the best choices to get it put into place. Only then will you achieve the maximum results from the new software.