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Successful System Implementation

A 3-Part Guide

In this guide, TimeForge employee Joey Pfund walks readers through the ins and outs of implementing a new system at the workplace. He describes how to avoid pitfalls and offers tips and tricks to keep employees motivated and on the same page during change. With this guide, you’ll learn how to complete a successful system implementation from start to finish, as painlessly as possible.

Yellow post-it note with a lightbulb draw on it, to symbolize a bright idea, like the ones suggested in this post on system implementation
Keep reading to become an implementations pro!

Part 1: Making a Decision

No matter what business you’re in, your company probably depends on outside services, software programs, and products to succeed. In many cases, the various systems and products your business uses were put in place long before you came along, which inevitably means one or more of them will eventually need to be updated or replaced. If you’ve ever experienced this, you know it’s often a huge endeavor. Luckily, there are more and more people within organizations in the world today who refuse to accept a system that doesn’t actually meet their needs, just because they’re afraid of change. I like to call these people “good idea fairies,” because that’s what they are. Don’t be afraid to be a good idea fairy. Implementing a new system or product doesn’t have to be difficult or scary. This guide will help you on your way to successful system implementation.

Any decision to improve your business by implementing a new system starts with identifying the root of the problem. What is it about the current system that isn’t working for your business? How could this be addressed? Is replacing it the best option? Define your requirements, your wish list, and then your possible future uses list. You’ll probably want something that can grow with your business, and not a temporary solution (or a “duct tape fix,” as I call it). Once you have an idea of what you’re looking for, it’ll be easier to narrow down the possibilities.

The first major step to implementing a new system is picking the right one. Choose wisely.

Don’t forget to involve your team in this decision. Get their opinion. They’ll probably be using it the most, so they’ll need to like it. What do they like or not like about the current system? What features do they want? Involving them gets you buy-in from your team. They’ll be happier and more accepting of a new system, which helps later down the road when you announce the change and actually start implementing it. We’ll get to that in Part 3.

Choosing the right product with the help of your team is the first major step in any new system implementation. The next steps are to communicate the change to everyone affected, train them, work out the details, and get the new system fully integrated into your business operations. These steps will be covered in the next two parts of this series.

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Part 2: Making a Game Plan

After you and your team decide on a new system, product, or service to switch your business over to (which we talked about in Part 1), the next steps are communicating with your staff and working out all the details of the implementation.

The very first thing you should do is make sure you communicate the change to your organization. You’ll need to notify them of what is to come and what to plan for. Whether you host a town hall style meeting, web conference, or ask the managers to inform their staff, any communication will ease the transition. Don’t wait until the last minute – there is nothing employees dislike more than feeling like they are disengaged within their organization. Be transparent and tell them how this change will make life easier. Keep them in the loop as much as possible, every step of the way.

The key to successful system implementation good planning.

To come up with a system implementation “game plan,” gather the key players and develop a training calendar. Make sure you understand the level of training your employees are going to need and how they’re going to be trained. Will training be provided, or will your organization need to take care of it? Will a simple web conference suffice, or will you need to come up with a corporate training regimen?

Confirm and reconfirm what is expected from you and your team, and what is expected from the new product you are purchasing. Start with key corporate staff first before you drop a new product in at a lower level. Figuring out all of these details and creating a training calendar will probably take more than one meeting. The most important thing is to ensure each employee feels confident using the new system once they’ve been trained.

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Part 3: Making it Happen

After everyone is familiar with your training schedule and knows what to expect, it’s time to put the schedule to work. You’ll want to share the calendar with everyone that needs to be trained or otherwise involved. Once the plan is in action, try to avoid making any changes to it or the dates you’ve set. If you must make adjustments, update the calendar immediately and let everyone know. Make sure those affected are aware of the changes and why they’re being made. Remember, making your team feel included is important for securing their buy-in.

During the first few training sessions, you will probably get feedback and questions that you didn’t anticipate. That’s totally normal; it’s impossible to plan for every tiny detail. If you don’t know the answer when a question arises, ensure your staff that you will get back to them with an answer. Then, actually follow up with your staff. That’s the most important part.

Get buy-in from your team by including them in the planning and execution.

As training comes to an end and you are phasing out your prior product or service, you definitely should not terminate the other product or service until your new product is functioning 100%. If things don’t work out as planned, this will save a lot of time, chaos, and loss of data that could be critical to your business. As a good rule of thumb, your organization should participate in two complete pay periods, or four weeks of service with the new system, before terminating the old one.

If I’ve learned one thing during my time leading multiple different implementations with different businesses of every shape and size, it’s this: the alphabet has 25 other letters. Stay cool. If plan A doesn’t work, move on to the next letter, and so on. No implementation is ever 100% flawless, so remain calm. If you freak out, your team will think they need to freak out, too. Have a contingency plan ahead of time for things you predict might be weak areas for you and your team.  When a problem occurs, get a clear definition of the problem, reach out to the support chain, and plan a work-around. Following that, communicate this information to those affected.

Before long, your new system will be fully integrated into your business operations and things will be running smoothly. Once this happens, it’s time to celebrate your success! This is a huge milestone and something to be proud of. Deliver a congratulations to your team for their hard work and commitment. Also, consider what you learned from this endeavor. What was good and bad about the experience? Are there other issues that this implementation brought to light that you previously didn’t know existed? What would you do differently next time?

Implementing new and better systems is a very effective way to improve your business, but it can be a real challenge for many. If you learn from your past experiences, it’s sure to get easier every time.

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What's next?

Thinking about implementing a new employee scheduling or time keeping solution and not sure if TimeForge is right for you?

Read what Steve Collins at Hermosa Cyclery has to say about implementing TimeForge.

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