Have you ever had a bad experience when introducing new software?
If companies are opting for new software based on individual criteria and careful research, then why are the intended goals not reached? What are the reasons for failure of an introduction and most importantly: What is the key to a successful introduction of software?
The Necessity to Reduce Costs
Procurement, introduction and use of software generate costs. At the same time every company has financial limitations and actually strives to reduce costs. Licenses cost money, as do maintenance and care. So where can you cut down expenses? Very often the answer is: in software introduction.
Of course no software introduction is alike. Introducing a word processor poses different challenges than introducing a project management tool featuring numerous customization options. Furthermore, visible costs are accompanied by additional costs, e.g. for the compilation of a requirements catalog, for a market analysis and preselecting, manufacturer presentation, evaluation, internal decision-making and of course procurement.
Visible and less visible costs (some may even call them hidden) combined make up for a pretty expensive endeavor, making the necessity to reduce costs very understandable.
Key Factors in Software Introduction Processes
Goals have to be defined, participants integrated, activities synchronized and an effective team structure has to be build. In short, content, structure and the right approach are what matter most, and they go hand in hand.
Content: What is the current situation, what are the goals and what are the concrete options that will help you reach these goals?
The initial situation must be carefully analyzed:
- What are the specifics of the different user groups?
- What challenges to individual user groups pose?
- Are there conflicts or any other issues within these groups?
Apart from questions regarding the existing as well as the prospective technical environment the support of operations must be the main focus of attention. In what ways do the operations need to be adjusted to the software, and vice versa? Can certain problems be anticipated? For example, experience shows that if a new operation is introduced at the same time as the software the whole solution tends to be rejected by users.
As equally important as goals are the results of an introduction:
- What are the benefits of the introduction?
- What needs to be different after the software has been introduced?
- How does the company notice that things have changed?
Structure: Defining Responsibilities and Basic Conditions
An approach that has proven to be effective is to introduce new software along with a new project and to define and clarify the importance of the new tool for the success of the project. Finding answers to a few questions helps to ensure success:
- Who are the responsible persons both in the company and at the supplier, and how is communication ensured?
- How important is the introduction compared to daily operations?
- Who will participate actively in the introduction and who is responsible after the software has been introduced?
Of course, granting a leave of staff members from daily business is difficult. And if a staff member has to concern himself with the introduction of software beside his day-to-day activities he probably will prioritize the introduction lower. What is needed here is a clear commitment of the management underlining the importance of the software and its introduction.
Approach: Planning, management and controlling of the introduction and customization of the solution as well as integration of all participants.
One of the main goals of an introduction is to generate value, for the user as well as for the company. If a user does not gain from using the new software but instead is bereft of his personal freedom he will not accept the new software. Only individual advantages will convince him to use the tool and in doing so generate value for the company. The following aspects are particularly important:
- Determining the rough as well as the detailed approach, including scheduling and monitoring of milestones.
- Iterative opportunities to accumulta experience (for risk minimization)
- Configuration and Customizing
- Developing role-based trainings and conducting these trainings for specific user-groups
- Possibly Key User Trainings
- Institutionalized feedback regarding usability, quality assurance and new/changed requirements
- Project coaching for continuous advancement of the solution
- Internal marketing including open discussions and presentations
Conclusion: A targeted approach to software introduction is necessary. The scope of the introduction depends on the type of software as well as the concrete goals. The most important factor in this is the staff, individually and collectively. Without his or her willingness to accept the software the introduction is likely to fail, which is precisely the reason why each software introduction needs structure.
Acceptance does not come from nowhere. Acceptance can only be achieved by integrating the users. Selecting the best software is not enough, introducing the software with care is as equally important.
PS: We talked with Clemens Schmidt, IT developer, administrator, coach, project manager and consultant, about successful software introductions and the need of project marketing. The interview can be found here.
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