What I’ve Learned from 100+ Software Implementation Projects

The key to successful software implementation is user adoption.
software implementation

We’re living in the most connected era in human history. A time when self-driving cars, 3D printing, and augmented reality are no longer merely a product of science fiction. New technologies have enabled organizations to automate some of their most labor-intensive processes, paving the way for uncharted levels of efficiency. Sales leaders now have access to more tools than ever, and salespeople expect to have the latest available to them in order to stay competitive.

According to LinkedIn’s State of Sales 2016 survey, 82 percent of top salespeople describe sales tools as “critical” to their ability to close deals. But despite the growing demand for new tools and access to more communication channels than ever, many organizations fall short on ensuring their newly purchased technology is properly adopted by the users it was intended for.

Too often, project teams dedicate the majority of the software implementation life cycle obsessing over the technical viability of the new tool, leaving little to no attention paid to the psychological aspects of such change. The result: organizations don’t experience the uplift they initially anticipated after launch, ROI is delayed, and worst of all, end-users ask to go back to “the old way.”

Referencing a recent survey conducted in partnership with CustomerThink, Kate Leggett of Forrester Research reports that 38 percent of business professionals involved in a CRM technology project attribute their problems to people issues, such as slow user adoption, inadequate attention paid to change management and training, and difficulties in aligning the organizational culture with the new ways to work.

Over the past five years, I’ve been involved in over 100 implementations of sales and marketing software. In my experience, organizations who struggled most with user adoption skipped two or more of the steps below.

5 Proven Steps to Accelerate User Adoption

software implementation

1) Start with Executive Sponsorship

This is critical to several phases of software implementation, user adoption included. Having your initiative backed by senior leadership instills validity and inheritably demands more attention. Early communication from leadership should include why you’ve purchased the new tool, encourage end-users to embrace change, and most importantly, create excitement. The executive sponsor is not required to participate in every step of the implementation, but should have a strong presence during launch week.

2) Design for the End-User, not the Manager

Although it’s expected of business stakeholders to have conceptualized how the new system should operate prior to making the purchase, it’s important to recognize who the actual user will be. During the strategy and design phase of your implementation, collect feedback from various end-users, especially from those with the most seniority within the organization. Evaluate each suggestion and incorporate what’s practical into the design to promote collaboration and shared ownership. Explain why certain requests are not feasible instead of simply dismissing them.

Once you’re ready to test, commission a small group of end-users to validate the design and configuration of your solution. Users participating in these earlier stages of the software implementation life cycle can serve as additional SMEs (Subject Matter Experts) post-launch.

3) Assemble a Change Management Team

It’s never too early to communicate change in process or technology and your change management team should lead this effort. The size of the team will vary based on the number of users impacted and complexity of the new product, but should always include SMEs (e.g., system admins and users involved in testing) and advocates (e.g., managers and executive sponsor). Your change management team is responsible for identifying if your current rules of engagement need to be updated as a result of the software implementation, communicating to end-users any changes to existing policies, as well as timelines and what to expect. This team will also establish your post-launch escalation path for questions, issues, and suggestions for improvements.

4) Make Your Training Stick

If at all possible, avoid pre-recorded or self-paced trainings. What I’ve seen work best is a Tell-Show-Do approach to training delivery, with the “Tell” and “Show” conducted in a live classroom environment. The “Tell” is your presentation which needs to clearly establish your end-users’ WIFM (“What’s in it for me?”). When crafting your WIFM, remember that corporate initiatives don’t always motivate your end-user.

Instead, try to explain how the new tool will make your users’ jobs easier or how it will help them make more money. During the “Show” portion of your training, incorporate screenshots and a live demo of the new system. Walk through features and functionality with an emphasis on simplicity. Launch immediately after training, allowing your users to get hands-on and “Do” what they’ve just learned. Refrain from training or going live on a Friday or right before a holiday break, no matter how conveniently it fits into your calendar. You want to provide your users with a few consecutive days of system repetition to internalize the workings of the new tool.

Training shouldn’t end in the classroom. Reinforce your training by distributing clear and concise user guides and provide additional, on-the-floor coaching. Look for distressed users and help them tackle the challenges they’re having with the new tool or process. Acknowledge that not all users will pick things up at the same rate and spend additional time with the laggards in your organization.

5) Conquer the CAP (Critical Adoption Period)

The CAP is what I refer to the first 30 to 60 days after launch. No matter how much effort you’ve invested in the technical design of your new solution, failing to execute in this final phase of implementation can significantly hinder user adoption.

During your project’s CAP, be extra responsive. Waiting even one hour to respond to an issue your end-user is experiencing can negatively impact how they feel about the new tool, especially if they rely on it to perform their job. Prepare your support channels to treat each case as a training opportunity and encourage SMEs and early adopters to assist their peers when needed. Create reports and dashboards to monitor system usage and consider incentivizing top performers.

To identify where additional improvements can be made, send out a survey or questionnaire on day 30 to capture what your users like, dislike, and still find confusing. Use the feedback to improve your product configuration, internal processes, and training materials until the newly introduced technology is recognized universally for its success.

software implementation


software implementationAbout the Author: Davood Dashtizad is a Senior Functional Consultant at Velocify with over 15 years of sales and consulting experience in the technology sector. Davood specializes in process reengineering and implementation of enterprise sales software which has helped over 100 clients in more than 30 countries improve contact and conversion rates. Davood holds a degree in International Economics from San Diego State University.

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