The first step is building a business case, defining your end users and analyzing how they will benefit. After careful cost-benefit analysis, the next step is to find capable back-end support. This can be filled internally or outsourced with a software development provider. You must also decide custom or off-the-shelf, educating yourself on drawbacks of each.
Boil down the project to the most granular details possible prior to kick-starting the campaign. The more robust the project specifications, the less discrepancies will exist between your vision and the final deliverable.
When the codes complete, educate your staff on how to integrate the new IT system into their preexisting processes. An uneducated staff results in underutilization and debilitates ROI. Collect feedback from your staff and incrementally evolve the software to better fit your needs.
Here's where we're going if you want to jump ahead
The software lifecycle is one, long rollercoaster ride. Once you board, there's no getting off until the ride ends. We can nail down the programming and prepare the best-in-class code for deployment, but if we don't have a detailed plan for implementation, the rollercoaster ride stops short and leaves us hanging upside down.
IT hardware and software represent a $1 trillion industry. There is immense pressure for businesses to participate in digital transformation. If we assume technology breeds efficiency, nonparticipants are subject to cumbersome processes their competitors have already eliminated.
However, avid participation in the digital movement does not equal sustainability. Successful implementation and adoption equal sustainability. For this reason, 5-15% of all IT projects are forgone before or immediately after deployment--$50 billion dollars lost to substandard solutions.
How do we avoid loss and maximize ROI? Through a comprehensive software implementation roadmap with all the necessary checkpoints.
Build a Business Case (Yes, One with Numbers)
In less abstract terms, strategize and strategize well. Remember the impulsive decisions you made when you were younger, the ones your parents advised you to let simmer? Let this one percolate.
This applies to businesses of all sizes; although smaller businesses have more opportunity to pivot quickly, they also have the most to lose. Large corporations have the most difficulty with implementation because the network rarely moves as one, singular entity, inevitably some departments and locations lag.
Owned by eBay, Magento was birthed by professionals with a deep understanding of ecommerce and how retailers profit from using ecommerce platforms. The marketing capabilities of the platform are rich and boundless with customer segmentation and personalization, instant purchase capabilities, visual merchandising, responsive design themes and more.
So regardless who you are, reach out to your intended users and collect their input. Zero in on where their pain points overlap, and build your case around the most arduous tasks. Like all decisions, you want to form an unbreakable value proposition: how do you stand to benefit and what do you stand to lose? Can we equate the two or is one more substantial than the other?
Obviously, here we're looking for a return on the investment (ROI), a metric we're all intimately familiar with (and forever imprisoned by). It's a simple formula we sometimes neglect until after the fact. We're only reminded when the software implementation project returns are less than anticipated.
We're amidst a fluid, digital transformation, meaning software modernization is an inevitability for companies with any intention of surviving in this climate.
Returns come in all shapes and sizes, so do investment costs. So, define your intentions. If you intend to monetize the gains, round down your estimations to accommodate unexpected investment costs. If the gains come operationally, outline the anatomy—the workflows the software will optimize, the internal ecosystem you plan to refine, and the network of end-users you'll need to educate.
Cost of investment translates into time and resources, the expenditure and the amount of time allotted to the project. Gartner estimates that by 2019 companies will invest a combined $201 billion in enterprise application software alone.
You have to wonder what percentage of that software failed due to erroneous ROI calculations.
FloQast offers a free SaaS ROI calculator, you can download and contextualize to your own project.
Choosing a Partner in Crime and Chiseling Away Abstractions
We interview clients for our case study projects; it's a means of collecting different perspectives and forming a more holistic view of an initiative that is inherently more than one-sided. Do the same for software implementation projects. This will excavate project parameters to a deeper, more granular level, but it will also increase reinforce your position.
Software vendors and engineers think very pragmatically, they execute requirements according to the provided specifications. This means if you ask for A, B, and C, you will receive A, B, and C. If you're unsure about how you expect A to turn out, and you provide vague, unsolidified parameters, 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 (interviewing intended users, conducting ideation sessions, analyzing whatever data you have available), the project parameters become increasingly specific and more effective. The more detailed the requirements, the more narrow the gap between vision and execution. If the execution is a sibling to your original vision, rather than a distant relative, the rest of the implementation plan progresses much smoother.
So, remember there are two sides to every coin and for this coin, there's the development and the implementation. Define the requirements and granularly as possible, and then find the development partner who offers you the amount of support you need. Corporations who have little to no internal development resources should collaborate with development services who offer full-service options—custom programming, integration, 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.
Bring an ideation board together. They'll serve as the sieve, filtering out any unrealistic, extraneous plans. Give them a block of marble, and the chisel your abstractions into the Michelangelo of project plans.
Finalize your business case. Calculate the ROI, consider each dimension of the implementation, and familiarize yourself with the projected outcome.
Get granular. The nitty gritty, the most minute details that you will replay to your software development and implementation partner.
We are probably biased, but full-service always seems to be the best decision for software development partnerships. With us, you set the agenda, define the requirements, and scale the scope to your specific needs. Our partnerships give way to a colorful range of implementation expertise (Oracle, Microsoft, SAP, EllieMae, and the list goes on).
Regardless who you choose as your partner in crime, use your ideation board to set the criteria and evaluate vendor capabilities. See what they've accomplished, figure out if there's overlap between those accomplishments and your idea.
Prevent Scope Creep at All Costs
Two words: Incremental Development.
Not everything will be perfect the first time around because the software world is feedback-driven, meaning we pinpoint the weaknesses through use-cases and make adjustments accordingly. Even massive brands perfect their software systems over time.
When businesses become fixated on perfection, they lose sight of the big picture, and the software implementation project snowballs. Suddenly, kickoff comes and goes without an initial product to introduce, deadlines are moved, and initial investment doubles. We call this scope creep.
Project Management Institute defines scope creep as the act of, "adding additional features or functions of a new product, requirements, or work that is not authorized (i.e., beyond the agreed-upon scope."
In Step 2, when we said to get granular, we meant proactively granular, not retroactively. Retroactive granularity is the parent of scope creep. When scope creep occurs it's easy to lose control. Let's talk about the causes and the 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 on the forefront of decision making
If you recognize the symptoms, you can avoid that slippery, scope 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.
We collect, we concede, we cultivate. 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 the owners, quality software is engineered to do (sort of) the same thing.
Raffle off a Lamborghini to Drive Adoption
Okay, it doesn't need to be a Lamborghini. Maybe it's kudos, maybe it's a tracking methodology, but corporations should incentivize use to drive adoption.
Underutilization has caused many companies to scale back their plans for technological development because the software doesn't yield favorable ROI without a loyal and engaged user base. Successful software implementation coincides with a strong adoption wave. The formula is a little like this:
Employees (and humans in general) are change-adverse because 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.
Innovation is not enough; innovative technology without adoption is like a conductor without an orchestra. Invariably, we find subpar user experience and lack of training are to blame for poor adoption rates.
If user experience is debilitating adoption, collect end-user feedback and use that information to propel further development. You may think software will allow employees to work smarter, but poor UX can lower productivity as users spend more time navigating the interface than they do leverage the functionalities.
How do we conquer training deficits and avoid deployment bottlenecks? By allocating the appropriate IT support system to train end-users and hold them accountable for use. If you're planning incremental development, plan for continuous education, segment training by modules and break up the information into palatable parts.
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 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.
Bespoke or Beware
Here's where we recommend bespoke. Even off-the-shelf implementations require bespoke adjustments. As user feedback funnels in and preliminary testing return 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 we believe 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. Outsourced implementation support offers greater objectivity during the testing and feedback stage, and accept accountability for missteps.
Hold onto and document everything. You never know when you'll need to rollback to an earlier version. There is nothing worse than a buggy, error-ridden update that you can't regress from. We keep all client code in a centralized repository; this makes rollback possible and deployment easy.
Moral of the story: bespoke is always better. Inevitably, off-the-shelf lack in at least one department, and you can only tweak off-the-shelf software so much. Software kits like Salesforce and NetSuite offer a maturity, no bespoke solution can match, but they meet their demise in a conversation about adaptability.
What is the antithesis of adaptation? Stagnancy—something 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 software implementation fails.
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.