For Software Success, Create a Solid Implementation Plan

It's All About Taking the Right Steps Forward

Several signs point to the need for new software. The manufacturer may stop supporting it, meaning you risk a security breach if you continue to use it. Or maybe it’s something more subtle. Employees don’t use it as intended, complain about it, or develop time-consuming workarounds for features that don’t operate properly. Some staff may even quit due to user frustration. Another sign is a new application on the market that works better for the same purposes. 

No matter the reason, when it’s time for new software, you and your staff may get excited thinking about how it will benefit the company and each individual personally. And it undoubtedly will, especially if you hire custom software developers to create a custom solution. But you must also take steps to ensure your business and your employees are ready for it. 

For example, even if everyone who works in production is on board with a new application, management may not be, meaning it will be hard to get buy-in when it comes time to sign a contract with a software vendor. To avoid missteps like this one and many others, you need to create an implementation plan for any new software development project. Here are some steps you can take to make sure your new software is as effective as possible. 

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Develop a Business Case

Just like everything in business, a new software project must be completed based on facts, otherwise known as a business case. Start with the basics:

  • What’s wrong with the current application, and how much time or money is being lost due to its use?
  • Who needs the software and why?
  • Do specific departments need the new software or is it enterprise-wide?
  • What problems need to be solved and will the new software truly address them? 
  • How much time and money can we save with the proposed software? Is it worth the cost? How long will it take to get the return on investment (ROI)?
  • How much time can pass before the new software is needed?
  • What processes will need to change when the new software is installed? What training will be needed? 

Get input from all members of your team and anyone else the new software would impact. Be sure to back up all your assumptions with real numbers. Use the business case as a starting point to get buy-in from management and to develop a list of needs and wants that you can take to potential software vendors. 

Get Executive Buy-In

This step may be the most important in making sure your implementation plan is fulfilled. You must have at least one supporter in high places within the company, preferably at the C-level, to champion this project. 

That’s especially true if the implementation will be expensive, or take up valuable company resources for installation, training, and change management. You must have very good reasons to spend these resources. Make sure your champion is well aware of the potential benefits so they can communicate that information to others in the company. 

Find a Reliable Partner

As suggested above, you can use your business case to create a list of needs and wants. For example, the new software must decrease the time it takes to perform Process X by 25%. Or it must be able to integrate with another existing application or platform. Once you have a good list in place, you can research partners to help.

You can start by looking for commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) products that might suit your purposes. If so, you’ll want to check that the manufacturer offers needed support, such as training and service if something goes wrong. 

If a COTS product won’t do the trick, look for a reliable custom software developer to design software specific to your needs. While a custom application may cost more upfront, you’re likely to see greater ROI over time because:

  • The software is built to suit your processes, rather than the other way around.
  • You won’t have features you don’t need bogging down the performance.
  • Software users can have a say in how the program is designed.
  • The software will be built to integrate with existing applications and platforms, so you won’t waste time with compatibility issues.
  • The software will be built to scale, so you won’t be burdened with the cost of a new application every few years as your business grows.

Get Employees on Board

It’s best to get employees involved in the process of purchasing new software from the beginning. They can tell you what’s not working with the current software, the benefits of applications they might have used in previous jobs, and what they would like to see in a new program. 

They can be involved again in the testing phase. When your developer is ready with an initial version of the software, your employees can test it to see if it resolves the issues they initially brought up. They can then offer suggestions that the developer can then implement in a new version. 

This process of getting employees involved helps the software be the best possible match for the processes you need it to perform. And it gets workers on board with using it to its full potential. 

After the roll-out, it’s time for training and any change management that should be implemented. For example:

  • Have employee leaders who will learn the application and teach others. 
  • Alter processes as needed. 
  • Offer rewards for user adoption.

Reiterate

If your new software was custom-built, you can continue to work with the developer even after it’s been deployed. You can make suggestions for changes when you find the need for them. You can also call in the developer if something in your business changes so they can make appropriate adjustments to the application. 

To create true software success, make this process part of a larger effort to ensure all software at your company is the best it can be. Plan an annual review and get each department to perform an analysis of the applications they’re using. Any that aren’t serving the company’s goals should be reviewed. If new applications are needed, start again at the beginning with a fresh business case. 

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