Software implementation planning is a lot like moving. It’s a daunting task, but completely necessary. When you move from one place to another, there are a lot more variables involved than meets the eye.
First, there’s the matter of packing up your things. This seems simple enough, right?
You get some boxes, neatly organize your clothes, electronics, photographs, kitchenware, knick-knacks, etc., into those labeled boxes. Then, you hire a moving company to transport those boxes, along with your furniture, from location A to location B.
Are you finished moving? No, as a matter of fact - not quite. There are a few other important factors involved in moving aside from your early possessions.
What about calling the cable company to set up your cable and internet to the new address? What about updating your billing and delivery address so that you can receive your mail? Does your driver’s license have your old address still listed on it? Oops, it looks like you have to update that as well!
When it comes to any big project, whether it’s moving, going on a vacation overseas, organizing a major event, etc., you must have some sort of plan in place.
Many businesses make the common mistake of purchasing off-the-shelf or custom-tailored software solutions without planning how to fit it into their daily operations.
It’s as if you had the thought of cooking a 5-course meal for a group of friends. You go to the grocery store with an idea of what you want to make, but you haven’t made a plan.
You have a shopping cart full of essential ingredients, though you haven’t a clue how to leverage the items to create the meal you envisioned. Now what?
A software implementation plan helps businesses find and deploy the perfect software to handle their business needs. However perfect that may sound, not all systems are one-size-fits-all.
You must choose software that hits everything on your checklist. Ask yourself the right questions so that you can choose the right software solution to match your business needs.
Does this system save my company time and money?
What are my business needs, and does this software support them?
Is this system user-friendly for my employees?
Does this system incorporate all of the necessary modules needed to carry out business tasks? Is it all-encompassing?
How will my company benefit from using this software solution?
Remember, adopting new software can be both costly and time-consuming. Executing a solid software implementation plan requires careful planning and quality assurance (QA) auditing to be proven as an asset to your business.
Proper software implementation will maximize the value of your workflows. However, if you don’t have a plan before the process starts, your software adoption will most likely fail.
Here, we will discuss how to create a software implementation plan so that you can avoid loss, maximize your ROI, and harness the power of your off-the-shelf or custom software solution to achieve business success!
Implementing new software for a company, big or small, is a serious decision. It’s not something that you decide to do on a whim.
Mistakes of any kind can result in high financial loss, especially for smaller companies with a limited budget.
Smaller companies have more opportunity to pivot quickly, though they have more to lose if the software adoption fails.
Larger corporations tend to have the most difficulty with software implementation because the network rarely moves as one, singular entity. This often means that some departments and locations fall by the wayside if the software of their choosing caters more to other departments than others.
As a company grows, the decisions become more complex in nature. When business executives need to make decisions based on complex situations, mistakes are often made, which loses the company value assets, resources, and of course, money.
This is why you need to build a business case to prove that you’ve made a smart investment in this new software solution. Building a case for your software implementation plan will help you to paint a clear picture of who, what, where, when, and why your company will benefit from the software.
But how do you make your case?
First, you want to consider all of the points in which your company is currently struggling. What challenges is your company facing at the moment? What aspects of your operation needs improvement and why?
Once you considered your pain points, come up with a solution. Draw up a detailed outline of how new software can improve these problem areas and promote positive team efficiency and productivity.
Conduct a cost-benefit analysis so that you can justify the investment. Analyze the tangible and intangible gains that your company stands to achieve through successful software implementation.
Set a reasonable timeline revolving around when you wish to evaluate, implement, and gain an ROI on your new software system. This isn’t an exact science, but you can estimate how long the process will take upon conducting some research.
Lastly, decide how your company as a whole will manage this significant change. Remember, this isn’t changing the color of the paint on the walls. This is potentially changing the entire scope of how you operate within the company.
You want to think about every department, employee, workflow task, and just about every aspect of the day-to-day. How will this software take your current system and alter it into a flow that works best for your company?
This is the million-dollar question and is one that you must answer clearly before implementing new software.
Once you’ve built your case as to why your company needs a software solution to operate effectively, you must choose the most suitable software vendor.
The vendor that you choose will become an essential part of your everyday routine on the job. This, along with many other reasons, is why it’s important to consider the facts and take your time with the selection process.
Ask yourself the right questions so that you can narrow down your options:
What features do you require?
Are you looking for a cloud-based, on-premise, or hybrid system?
Is the software scalable?
Does the vendor provide software training?
How much does the software cost?
Does the implementation cost include after-sales support?
Does the software integrate with the system that you already have?
Are updates and upgrades cloud-based?
Once you’ve answered these questions, and then some, you must conduct some research.
Generally speaking, there is a software solution that streamlines workflows for every industry type. Even if your business is a niche business, there is still a solution that will align with your business objectives.
Software vendors and engineers tend to think very pragmatically, executing requirements according to the provided specifications. This means that if you ask for A, B, and C, then you’ll receive A, B, and C.
When spelling out your requirements, you must be thorough and precise in your descriptions. If you’re unsure and provide vague, unsolidified parameters, then you will certainly find discrepancies between the outcome and your vision for what the outcome should be.
By boiling down software acquisition to the granular details, the project parameters become increasingly specific and more effective.
Suppose you happen to find the perfect off-the-shelf solution that checks all of your boxes, then great! You’re one of the lucky ones.
However, not every solution will encompass everything that you want as it currently exists. Sometimes, customization is in order.
If you want to take the custom software solution route, you’re really on track to execute a well-established software implementation plan.
Define the requirements and granularly as possible, and then find the development partner who offers you the amount of support you need. Corporations with little to no internal development resources should collaborate with development services that provide full-service options - custom programming, integration, and implementation - in conjunction with an extensive portfolio of success stories.
Hold yourself accountable for the granular details and the partner you choose to engineer the details into a tangible form. Without a proper software partner and an intricate blueprint, successful implementation is an unachievable proposition.
What is scope creep, you ask? Scope creep refers to how a project’s requirements can increase unexpectedly over a project lifecycle.
Before you know it, you find roadblocks in your workflow due to improper planning, hence project requirements “creeping” up on you beyond what was initially agreed.
Unfortunately, not everything is perfect the first time around because the software world is feedback-driven, meaning that we pinpoint weaknesses through use-cases and make adjustments accordingly. Even massive brands perfect their software systems over time.
In step 2, when we said to get granular, we meant “proactively” granular, not retroactively. Retroactive granularity is the parent of scope creep.
Let’s take a look at some of the causes and symptoms to help you prevent uncontrolled project growth.
Here are the causes:
Shallow explanations in the design document
Too many participants in the conversation
Porous vision or idea
Beginning the project too early without the proper research and development
Engaging with the wrong software partner (not enough industry knowledge, experience, or tenacity).
Cutting corners to cut costs
Unrealistic budget allocations
Here are the symptoms:
Deadlines are coming and going without progress
Significant amendments to the original specification document
Individuals beyond your primaries are feeding input to a development team
Unauthorized functionality additions
There is no clear end-goal
Intended users become a secondary concern
Cost-benefit analysis is no longer at the forefront of decision-making
If you recognize the symptoms, you can avoid that slippery creep slope and clarify your mission. Come to terms with the fact that software implementation self-evolves over time.
End-users feedback is the missing piece to any software project fresh off the press. In the beginning, keep essential features close to you and focus on executing the key functionalities.
Customization should be done over time - like how leather chairs mold to their owners, quality software is engineered to do the same thing.
Employees (and humans in general) are change-adverse because system changes require the integration of new tools, new people, and new processes.
At times, users are encouraged to completely abandon old processes to make room for a new technological ecosystem.
Invariably, we find subpar user experience and lack of training are to blame for poor adoption rates.
Underutilization has caused many companies to scale back their technological development plans because the software doesn’t yield favorable ROI without a loyal and engaged user base.
An effective method to utilize to generate user adoption is to incentivize use. Successful software implementation coincides with a strong adoption wave. The formula is a little like this:
If the user experience is debilitating adoption, collect end-user feedback, and use that information to propel further development.
You may think that software will allow employees to work smarter, but poor UX can lower productivity as users spend more time navigating the interface than leveraging the functionalities.
So, how do we conquer training deficits and avoid development bottlenecks? By allocating the appropriate IT support system to train end-users and hold them accountable for use.
Advanced computing tools that can only be understood by a handful of experts have no place in a large-scale implementation effort.
If 90% of your staff has basic literacy skills, implementing a solution designed around the remaining 10% with high-literacy sets your implementation up for failure. Instead, design the solution around the 90% and have the 10% train the rest on the ins and outs.
Even off-the-shelf implementations require bespoke adjustments. As user feedback funnels in and preliminary testing returns a list of shortcomings, you’re going to need a development team behind you to make incremental changes.
Post-implementation support is not a commonality, although it should be. Noncommercial implementations require the most support because they have the most to lose, considering their ROI is less concrete than commercialized solutions.
Cultivate a plan for continued development and decide whether this will happen internally or through an outsourced implementation partner.
Ensure that you document everything, holding onto all versions of the implementation outcomes since you never know when you’ll need to rollback to an earlier version.
There’s nothing worse than a buggy, error-ridden update that you can regress from.
At Chetu, we keep all client code in a centralized repository, making rollback possible and deployment easy.
The moral of the story is this: bespoke is always better. Inevitably, off-the-shelf solutions lack in at least one department, and you can only tweak off-the-shelf software so much.
What is the antithesis of adaption? Stagnancy - something that off-the-shelf platforms have mastered. When you go off-the-shelf, you lose the ability to roll out updates and improve incrementally.
Stagnancy is the number one reason for software implementation failure.
To achieve the most successful software implementation outcome possible, hire a team of dedicated and experienced developers from Chetu.
With over 20 years of experience developing, deploying, and implementing software solutions for businesses of all sizes and industry types, we’re confident that we can help you maximize your ROI and accomplish your business goals.
Chetu does not affect the opinion of this article. Any mention of a specific software, company or individual does not constitute an endorsement from either party unless otherwise specified. This blog should not be construed as legal advice.
Founded in 2000, Chetu is a global provider of business software development services, solutions and support services. Chetu's specialized technology and industry experts serve startups, SMBs, and Fortune 500 companies with an unparalleled software delivery model suited to the needs of the client. Chetu's one-stop-shop model spans the entire software technology spectrum. Headquartered in Plantation, Florida, Chetu has fourteen locations throughout the U.S. and abroad.