An Interview With Clemens Schmidt about Successful Software Introductions

After the decision for the purchase and implementation of new software has been made, the inevitable next step is to introduce the software to your organization. But how do you introduce new software successfully and what should be at the center of attention? An interview with Clemens Schmidt, IT developer, administrator, coach, project manager and consultant, and Michael Schenkel of microTOOL.

Michael Schenkel: Mr. Schmidt, you have vast experience regarding the introduction and administration of new software and are also an experienced consultant. What are the most common reasons for failing software introductions and what part of the process should be taken better care of?

Clemens Schmidt: I guess there is no need to talk about the required usability, options, quality etc. of a software. So what comes to mind first are two sentences that express some of my experiences: The weak point of every software-based system is the user; thus, they must be given special attention. The ones that should – SHOULD, I say – benefit the most from a software-based system are the users; thus, they must be given special attention.

Michael Schenkel: How do you feel about the growing need to cut costs?

Clemens Schmidt: Well, if this is the first thing future users learn about a new software solution the future of the project does not look promising, and the planned costs will very likely be exceeded. 

Michael Schenkel: Why is that?

Clemens Schmidt: The goals of a project need to offer something tangible, a real-world benefit for the users. Otherwise they are likely to reject the project, consciously or unconsciously. This will have a negative effect on the introduction and also create unnecessary costs, costs that are to be avoided! Trying to save money by cutting excitement factors, evaluations, trainings or workshops will ultimately have the opposite effect.

Michael Schenkel: We as a tool manufacturer would never recommend to cut software implementation costs…

Clemens Schmidt: Because cutting implementation costs actually makes no sense at all; cost cutting very often leads to structural problems, and getting rid of these problems at a later point of the project is much more expensive than getting it right the first time. A friend of mine once said, ‘Cutting costs is the most expensive thing’.

Clemens Schmidt - technical expertise and the art to use it right

Clemens Schmidt – technical expertise and the art to use it right

Michael Schenkel: So what is important when introducing new software? Project marketing?

Clemens Schmidt: An honest, authentic, transparent, custom-tailored approach that involves all departments, including project marketing. This no easy task; but it will pay off in the long run.

Michael Schenkel: Have you got an example?

Clemens SchmidtSure. Let’s look at a software introduction pushed by management. How and when should users be made aware of the introduction and its goals? The users should be informed about the search for a new software as soon as it begins, and they should also be informed about the goals and about who is in charge. In addition, they should be provided with regular updates on the state of the project; this creates transparency and helps to avoid rumors. Also, the goals should be phrased to reflect the interests of the users! To explain all this I have put together possible goals and arguments and divided them into three separate groups.

  • Goals and arguments well received by users
    Improved informations flows (finding, not looking; knowing, not asking)
    Simple, intuitive operation
    The system should help our company grow
    We need an accessible, well structured systemfor all
    The system must help to simplify procedures, to avoid mistakes, to minimize stress
  • Goals and arguments falling flat with users (management yadyada that is entirely abstract and has no real-world application for users)
    We want to save money

    We want to more efficiently
    We need to improve transparency and control
    Something external (the norm, the market…)
    We must stay competitive
  • Goals and arguments of zero interest to users (only to be mentioned upon request)
    Application of innovative technologies
    Minimized administrative effort
    Data portability
    Managememt expectations (some numbers, cuts)

Michael Schenkel: In other words…

Clemens Schmidt: Upon close inspection you can say that goals that fall flat with users are reached automatically when reaching those that are well received by them. But if these goals are mentioned first it is possible that users think they are not as important. 

Michael Schenkel: Is it fair to say that the success of a software introduction hinges on his or her acceptance?

Clemens Schmidt: Absolutely. Involving users is as important as finding the ideal software.

Michael Schenkel: Do you have more tips?

Clements Schmidt: Yes. Depending on how extensive the software is and how complex the user scenarios are, a modular approach to introduction may help to save costs. Stumbling blocks only appear in partial projects and do not delay the entire project. In addition, results are available earlier, which helps managers to justify the project (laughs).  Also, in my opinion agile methods are helpful for software introductions. Realizing requirements should be daily business, but creating excitement is the real challenge! 

Michael Schenkel: Thank you for your time.

Clemens Schmidt: My pleasure.

Find more information on Clemens Schmidt at http://tec-arts.de/.

You may also be interested in this:

How to Boost Acceptance of Your Project Management Software

My name is Michael Schenkel – and I believe in tools, if they are useful. Tools that support users in their work, tools that provide a common working environment for all types of roles in a project.

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