While the goal at the beginning of any software implementation is to have it run as smoothly and seamlessly as possible, unfortunately for most businesses, this is not usually the case. This is often due to the fact that many businesses do not plan for failure, and instead, assume that the implementation process will be completed according to their original go-live deadline. Although businesses have the best of intentions and stick to their implementation plan as best as possible, failure remains very high.
Software implementations can fail for a variety of reasons such as poor change management, selecting the wrong software solution, unrealistic time and budget expectations, lack of communication, and training that doesn’t meet the needs of the business. While there are many reasons why a software implementation can fail, the key is to prepare for any potential issues that may arise and ensure the implementation plan takes these into account. It is also imperative to ensure that all members of the organization are onboard with the implementation and are ready to being the process. This blog post will provide keys to ensuring a successful software implementation, while making sure your business is both ready and prepared to take on an implementation process.
1. Develop Implementation Plan
While the implementation plan is static in nature, it should be created with the frame of mind that all things are subject to change. Leaving time or budget for certain contingencies is essential to the implementation process continually moving forward and not getting stuck at any roadblocks along the way. An effective implementation plan should contain change management, software vendor selection, the training process, and a plan for go-live. The implementation plan should be the basis for deploying the software within your business. We will go into detail on each of the implementation plan aspects.
2. Change Management
Even before deciding on which software solution is right for your business, it is essential to get buy-in from all employees that will be using the software system. Change is difficult to achieve for any business, which is why it is imperative to ensure those who are typically averse to change buy-in to the process. While some employees may be comfortable using the existing software or Excel spreadsheets for example, the key is to demonstrate the benefits of putting the new software solution in place such as time savings, reduced errors, and less headaches. Consult with each of your employees to determine if they would have any concerns regarding implementing a new software solution, and try to address their issues within the implementation plan itself. Not only will this help your employees feel like you are taking their concerns seriously, but it can also provide useful insight into the implementation process that your business may have not thought about originally.
3. Software Vendor Selection
Once your business has buy-in from majority of your employees and feasibility has been determined, the next step is to establish the criteria for the selecting a vendor. With so many software packages on the market today, it can be difficult to narrow down which option is right for your business. This is why it is essential to make sure the software selected meets the needs of your business. Certain decisions, such as whether to go with on-premise or cloud, if you need a solution with accounting built-in, or whether you will need mobile capabilities are all things that should be considered before selecting a software solution. Many businesses tend to focus on price, which is an important factor, but definitely shouldn’t be the only consideration. Also, you will want to ask the software vendor for references, either through case studies or directly speaking with their clients, to get a better idea as to how the software functions. Another important consideration is the approach to training, as well as the training consultant you will be provided with, which leads us into the next stage of ensuring a successful implementation.
When investing in a software solution, it is imperative to ensure the training process meets the quality of the software itself, as software is effectively useless if none of your employees know how to use it properly. With that being said, ask the software vendor of choice as to what their methods of training are, such as onsite, group, or online for example, which gives your business more flexibility in terms of getting all your employees trained in a timely manner. In addition, asking about the experience of the training consultant is always good to know as well. Once a software solution has been selected, it is at this point of the implementation process where you will want to learn as much as you can about how to operate the software and gain insight into best practices. Training is very important, as you will want to ensure your employees understand how to use the software, which will not only keep your business running efficiently, but also reduce time wasted making support calls in the future. Once your business is fully trained on the software, the next step is to prepare for going live.
5. Go Live & Support
Right before your business is ready to go live on the software, a thorough testing of the software should take place. This is essential in helping to ensure your specific business runs well on the software and you can test out real life situations and processes that occur on a daily basis. Ask your software vendor if they can either provide you with test access, or show you how to perform specific tasks within the software that are important to your business. Once your business is confident in operating the software, the next step would be to go live and start using the software. While this can be a daunting task, ensure your vendor has support in place to handle any requests or issues you may come across. This is extremely important, as support cases that are not handled in a timely manner can be very costly to your business, which is why ongoing support is another key factor to consider when selecting the vendor of choice.
When it comes to successfully implementing a software solution, as we have seen within this article, the most important aspects are done well in advance of actually implementing and going live on the software. Developing an implementation plan that is specific to the needs of your business is the most important factor to ensuring a successful implementation, as this is where all of the research, planning, and considerations should take place. By following these steps above, your business will be on the right path to a successful software implementation.
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