The reason implementing a new software program into a business is so difficult, is because of one simple thing…CHANGE! People hate change and they especially hate it when it impacts their stress levels, their professional opportunity, their income, etc. Work environments are already competitive and stressful, adding any type of change to the comfortable routine your employees have created for themselves is not always going to be easily received!
Implementing a software program has very little to do with technology and everything to do with psychology and human behavior. It is about taking into consideration what the people who will be impacted the most want and need, and how they learn, and all of the ways this might create stress for them. In other words, implementing a software quickly becomes about eliminating stress which is caused by fear.
Your success in life isn’t based on your ability to simply change. It is based on your ability to change faster than your competition, customers, and business. -Mark Sanborn
I know what you are thinking, “what is wrong with stress? They need to suck it up and just do it!” And that is why many software implementations fail! You can simply and easily avoid this with these 3 keys to a successful software implementation: A dedicated implementation specialist from within your organization; a strategy and plan for implementing it; and finally, good training and support!
DEDICATED IMPLEMENTATION SPECIALIST
The person you choose to drive and manage the implementation for your company is critical. They need to believe in the product, have good rapport with the staff who will be using the product, and they need to be organized. They don’t have to be tech savvy depending on the type of software you are implementing, but it always helps. This person is going to be doing everything from working with the software company, to learning and training the software product, to communicating between employees and company leadership. They will need to drive the implementation strategy and adoption of the product. They need to have some power to hold people accountable or at least have the authority to communicate the consequences for not meeting the established goals and metrics. I know it sounds tough but every great software success story has an implementation specialist or team who tirelessly made it happen.
IMPLEMENTATION STRATEGY AND PLAN
Next, the strategy or the plan! I know, this is annoying for most doers and this step can get very complex and sophisticated, but if you put a little bit of time into this, it will pay dividends and if you put a lot of time into this, it will pretty much guarantee success. A really good software platform will have a dedicated person or team to help with onboarding, training and support, there may be minimal cost to this but it is well worth it and you aren’t left alone to flounder.
You want a team of people building the strategy and you want representation from each department who will be impacted by the software. The goal is to think through each step of the implementation process, who it impacts, how it impacts them and how to overcome resistance and/or anything and everything which deters users from using. Most resistance is fear based so be empathetic and understanding. Foster an environment where everyone is comfortable learning and asking questions.
You want to map everything out in a timeline as it relates to key milestones and deadlines, for example when the software setup should be completed, when you will introduce the software to your staff, when you want everyone trained, etc! You want to answer the basic questions, who, what, why, when and you want to be able objectively measure the results your new software program is getting. A lot of these questions should have been prepared during the purchasing of the software product but you want to think through anything everything related to how this software will impact the company, personnel, customers, product, etc.
EDUCATION: According to behavioral scientists and authors Chip and Dan Heath in their book, SWITCH, shaping an environment which fosters the change you want to see is one of 3 critical ways to invoke change
And that is the final key to a successful software implementation…training and ongoing support but I like to call it education because it needs to be more than just a class everyone sits through and listens to an instructor. You want multiple layers where your users can learn and receive help! Training is so much more than showing people the features of the product. It is giving the users a reason and context to use the software. It’s showing them how it will make them better, more efficient, more money, or whatever the benefits are to not only the company, but them individually.
Provide multiple opportunities for your users to attend training classes and learn in a manner they are comfortable with. Make sure there is clear deadline when the initial training ends and users are required to use the product consistently. You want to create an environment where people feel comfortable learning at their own pace but they need to be held accountable for taking advantage of the training opportunities. You want to communicate all of their resources and make sure they have multiple options: help articles, center or chat help, training videos and webinars, and live trainings, if possible.
Remember, you aren’t managing technology or a new tool or piece of equipment, you are managing human beings who have a natural inclination to run from change, especially in a work environment. Show them leadership and a respectful implementation by assigning a qualified person to lead the implementation and by having well thought through plan and strategy for introducing the software and finally, create an environment of learning and support so your team has multiple educational outlets.