7 Tips for Better Software Implementation

11/30/2017 11:39 pm ET

The right piece of software can make all of the difference in the world for your business. However, even the right piece of software can be ineffective without the proper implementation strategy. It might be time for your organization to reassess its software implementation practices to ensure you get a better return on investment.

7 Software Implementation Tips

In a time where on-premise software solutions are becoming less practical, web applications and cloud software solutions are experiencing a surge in popularity. The convenience and cost-effectiveness of these tools also mean businesses are using more of them. According to one report, the average organization uses roughly 13 cloud apps, and that’s probably understated.

When you really study the state of software and app usage in the business world, it becomes apparent that there are two categories: ambient software and conscious software. Ambient software consists of tools that run in the background, or apps that require effort to operate and manage. The Google search engine would be an example.

“As the world becomes more digitalized (with layers upon layers of invisible software), as software developers get better at creating ‘effortless’ user experiences, and as our cultural norms of embracing software-powered interfaces and capabilities keeps pace with the exponential growth of technology, the volume of ambient software in our lives will continue to multiply,” marketing technologist Scott Brinker believes. “And it won’t bother us one bit — because for the most part, we won’t notice.”

It’s not the ambient or invisible software that businesses have to worry about, though. It’s the conscious software – or the tools and apps that do require effort to operate and manage – that can derail your business if you don’t have a plan of attack.

Every piece of software has its own specific purpose, but the common goal – regardless of the type of app or tool – is to simplify or improve something. When implementation is done incorrectly, the entire purpose of investing in the software is defeated.

Take inventory management software as an example. The purpose of inventory management software is to improve the visibility of inventory and ensure the appropriate amount of stock is on hand at all times. If the implementation is done incorrectly, then the business can’t utilize all of the features appropriately and may actually make the process of tracking inventory more confusing than it was prior to investing in the inventory management solution.

Choosing the right software is one thing, but you could argue that nothing is more important than how a piece of software is deployed within an organization. Even if you already have an implementation process in place, chances are, it could be improved. Here are a few tips:

1. Define Success Metrics

Everything starts with defining what success looks like. From the very start, you need to know what the best-case scenario is and how you’ll grade implementation.

The more specific you can get, the better. For example, if you’re implementing a CRM solution, you might grade success as a 7 percent increase in repeat purchases over the first 120 days. You don’t have to get this specific, but goals tend to be more helpful when they can be measured in an objective manner.

2. Ensure Compatibility

If your company is already using a handful of tools and software solutions, one of the first things you must do is ensure that the new software will be compatible. Nothing is more frustrating or inefficient than having fragmented solutions that don’t interact with one another.

3. Assign a Point Person

It’s easy for your company to say it takes software implementation seriously, but organizations often put this responsibility on the backburner and don’t pay attention until things have already gotten messy. The best way to ensure software implementation goes well is to assign a point person whose specific job it is to oversee deployment and integration.

4. Take Things Slow

You never want to implement multiple software solutions at the same time if you can help it. You might think this is the most efficient use of time, but the reality is that most businesses aren’t capable of handling this much change at once. One new piece of software is hard enough. Trying to simultaneously manage the implementation of two or three is next to impossible.

5. Give Users Time

It’s also important that you give individual users time to adjust to new software. Unrealistic expectations about how long it should take employees to master a new resource aren’t helpful for anyone. The learning curve can be steep and it’s better to allow for extra time than it is to cut training short.

6. Stick to the Vendor’s Standards

When a vendor walks you through the different standards and systems, your mind shouldn’t immediately jump to ways you can customize and tailor them to fit your needs. Heavily customizing a new system to do things it’s not really designed to do often renders it useless, leaving you in a worse place than you were before. Stick with the vendor’s standards – especially in the early stages – and you’ll be better off.

7. Create a Culture of Communication

Ultimately, it all comes down to communication. Good software implementation doesn’t happen in isolation. There need to be clear channels of communication between you and your employees, as well as the company and the vendor. If you notice communication slipping after the first few days or weeks of implementation, address the issue and get everyone back on the same page.

Stop Devaluating Your Software Investments

Make no doubt about it – software is an investment. And if you aren’t paying attention to how you’re implementing new software, you’re devaluing your investment. That might seem like an oversimplification, but it’s the truth.

Software implementation doesn’t have to be an impossible feat that requires you to bring in a consultant and shell out thousands of dollars. With a little common sense and a healthy dose of patience, any business can improve its ability to successfully introduce new software and generate a healthy return. The big question is: Do you have a plan for implementation?

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