by Christopher Springer
This piece was previously published on SupplyChainBrain. Because the content is timeless, I am sharing it here for our blog readers.
Across my career, I’ve participated in scores of software implementations for companies ranging from SMBs to industry giants. Some have gone exceptionally well, while others have encountered delays. Each effort has served as a learning experience, offering insights and lessons learned about the characteristics “smooth” projects share – and the pitfalls to avoid.
My takeaways are not revolutionary in any sense of the word. However, these common-sense “best practices” form essential prerequisites to every software implementation effort I undertake. Follow these six recommendations and you’ll experience smoother implementations as well.
- Appoint a project lead. A single point of contact, who participates in everything from user setup to operations to accounting, is critical. The project lead need not be fully immersed in everything – or possess in-depth knowledge about technology. This individual simply needs to be someone who can encourage internal stakeholders, keep the project on the rails and help move it forward. The person should possess a diverse background in order to interface easily with operations staff, IT personnel, vendor implementers and software trainers.
- Assign “super” users. Businesses and their processes are complex. Thus, any system implementation will reflect this complexity to some degree. Yet, general end-users need to view things as clearly and simply as possible. For this reason, “super” users are key personnel contributing to an implementation’s success. The ideal “super” user is a management-level individual, and the general rule of thumb is one “super” user for every 10 operators.These individuals receive direct, intensive software training from the vendor, allowing them to serve as the first line of support when other staff members have questions or issues. Their advanced level of knowledge makes them the ideal persons to communicate with the vendor’s help desk personnel should questions rise to that level. Due to their intensive training, they have the ability to converse easily with vendor personnel and “translate” technical answers into vernacular end-users will understand. Further, “super” users play a key role in disseminating systems-related information and assuring that day-to-day users are all on the same page.
- Hold weekly meetings. Set a day and time for weekly meetings and strive to keep these appointments. These meetings should comprise open forums where stakeholders such as “super” users, IT and project leads communicate freely. Matters discussed could include training, setup, quality assurance, milestones and their attainment, and other items.
- Make it fun. Let’s face it, “work” is a four-letter word. Any change will make work a bit harder at first, even if ultimately the job becomes easier. To the extent possible, incorporate ways to make the effort less stressful and more enjoyable.
- Practice, practice, practice. Ten minutes of practice can trump an hour of training. Why? It is like learning to ride a bike. You can read a book or watch a video, but until you climb aboard and fall down a couple of times you really don’t get the “feel” for it. Enter some test clients into the system. Take out a random old file and try to plug it into the system. Click the buttons and see what they do. Ultimately, the system is a tool and the best way to see what the tool can do is to try it yourself.
- Set a realistic “go live” date and communicate it often and widely. Keeping the date in the forefront adds a sense of urgency and lends reality to the impending change. Otherwise, stakeholders run a greater risk of watching their investment in technology collect dust on a shelf.