After months of competitive research and endless deliberations, it’s finally happening: your organization is adding new software. Having thoroughly vetted your vendor of choice, you’re confident the product is high-quality, the service is top-notch and the solution you’ve just opted in to is just what the doctor ordered for your soon-to-be-more-efficient-and-profitable organization. You’re already celebrating your success, when you remember there is still one critical step: implementation. Even if the software itself is a perfect fit for your organization, it won’t work if it isn’t implemented correctly. Fortunately, many common implementation pitfalls can be avoided simply by examining the mistakes of companies past so that your organization is less likely to repeat them.
Avoid these common pitfalls to stay out of an implementation rut:
- No point person – Selecting the right team and establishing who does what and when is a crucial component of any successful software implementation. Failure to involve the right people in the right cadence of meetings puts an organization at risk of a stalled – or rushed –implementation, as no one is sure who has the final word and everyone is too busy to attend meetings that go nowhere.
- No timeline – Failure to impose a clearly-defined project timeline and scope usually results in ongoing implementation with no end in sight. Treating a software implementation like a lean startup – think Minimal Viable Product (MVP) – is a better approach that will allow you to move forward with the implementation and continue to iterate. Don’t be afraid of picking the project up again later – as they say, the best time to remodel a house is after you’ve lived in it for three months.
- No focus – It’s easy to get caught up in all of the shiny new features that helped close the deal, but don’t. Resisting the temptation to think about every detail instead of focusing on the big picture is vital to moving the implementation forward. Once you take care of the high level issues that spurred the need for the new software in the first place, you can return to enjoy the icing on the cake.
- No expert – Clients often expect software vendors to configure the new software to match their internal operations – this can lead to long-term negative consequences. Remember, the software vendor knows the product architecture inside and out and knows what will work and what won’t. Keeping the lines of communication open and remembering who the expert is – the vendor when it comes to the new software product and the organization when it comes to business operations – is a key component in any successful software implementation.
- No user buy-in – After a long vetting process, it’s common to assume the internal sales process is over. Nothing could be further from the truth. The employees who will be using the new software the most may not have been involved in the approval process. Use analytics – reports, dashboards and metrics – to ensure they value – and champion use of the new software and you’ll increase the likelihood of a timely implementation.
While avoiding potential implementation pitfalls may seem daunting, a successful implementation is achievable with up-front planning, good leadership, and a focused effort. Remember, there is never a good time to go through an implementation, so move forward at your earliest opportunity knowing that the end result will likely be a more efficient and more profitable organization.
Take a page from software engineers; they're religiously devoted to SCRUM, their agile process and quick-reacting project management that is focused on small, concrete steps and public commitments. The Art of Doing Twice the Work in Half the Time is a must-read for anyone who is interested in an effective methodology for running cross-functional implementation teams.