The TLDR: Before implementing new software solutions in your organization, leverage four phases for a successful deployment: 1) Define the problem at hand and the measurement(s) of success, 2) Assess your own priorities and how they align with the capabilities of possible solutions providers, 3) Create a game plan for onboarding your organization, and 4) Measure the outcomes to ensure goals were met.
If you’ve been in business for more than a couple of years, odds are you’ve experienced the standard cycle of software adoption. You recognize your issue or opportunity, engage with a company, get sold a bill of goods, and then are left to figure out how to adapt your business to the limitations of the software…or worse, hire a c-word. (A consultant, of course!)
What begins with so much promise often ends with a high bill, a frustrated team, and a new set of challenges to figure out. Fortunately, these outcomes are avoidable if proper steps are taken before, during, and after new software implementations.
Setting the Stage
Before you go in search of new technology to turbocharge your business, start by simply writing a problem statement. Once you’ve documented the issue or opportunity you’d like to address, circulate the statement. Do other stakeholders agree or disagree? Often technology implementations can be solutions in search of a problem. After providing clarity for the task at hand, it’s time to define success. If we onboard a new solution to help with A, B, and C, we should see results of X, Y, and Z. This not only reinforces the problem statement with additional context, it sets the stage for the post-implementation assessment you’ll want to do to determine if the thing actually did what we hoped it’d do.
Technology implementations can have two of the following three attributes (but not all three at once): fast, cheap, or good. Determine what’s most important to your organization based on the reality of circumstances. Is your biggest obstacle time or budget? There are lots of affordable, quick- and self-serve solutions in the technology space, but sometimes it can end up costing your organization more in the long run in wasted time or even consulting fees.
What are the other attributes your organization values? Do you want a partner who can help with all technology or one that has domain expertise? Does the vendor show a willingness to work collaboratively with your organization? Challenge them to share what the post-purchase experience will be like. All-too-often solutions providers are eager to sell their services but less inclined to support them after the fact. And don’t just take their word for it; read reviews or, if it’s a newer business, ask to speak directly with some of their users. If you believe an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, exercise proper due diligence before locking arms with a partner.
Implementation Game Plan
Now that you’ve identified the problem, defined success, and thoroughly assessed your product/partner options, it’s time to develop a game plan for implementation. Often new technology can flop inside an organization not because the tech itself was substandard, but the employees rejected it. Start with a defined group to pilot the launch of the software, and ensure they’ve been properly trained and understand where to go for help. Once you’ve worked out any of the kinks, you’ll be able to onboard more members of the company. Don’t forget that training and ongoing support will be critical, especially if this technology impacts how they operate on a daily basis.
Measure Twice, Cut Once
Before you run along to the next amazing software implementation, thoroughly evaluate the outcome from this most recent effort (going all the way back to your initial targets). Nothing is ever perfect, and you should uncover areas where tweaks can provide improvements or even where gaps exist. Don’t forget about the “feelings” side of it, too; how do users within the organization think about the new tool(s)? Employee sentiment can have a major impact on the ultimate success or failure of new technologies, so don’t overlook their feelings even when the quantitative measures suggest the solutions are working.
There’s never a one-size-fits-all solution for companies. Every organization has different needs, SOPs, cultures, etc., so while looking at what’s been successful at other organizations is a great starting point, always be sure to perform a sufficient amount of planning and evaluation when bringing on new technologies. Future you will be so grateful!