If you’ve ever suffered through a rough software implementation, you know just how bad it is for team morale, buy-in, and adoption. The effects of a poor rollout can often ripple outward to create frustration and delay in other parts of the business, as well. For today’s post, I asked the TimeForge team for tips on how to ensure that a software implementation goes as smoothly as possible. A software implementation can mean anything from introducing a new web app to your employees, installing a new POS system, or simply rolling out a new tool or feature that you weren’t using before.
Why a smooth software implementation is important
A smooth software implementation is important for any business because it can mean the difference between success and failure. In today’s digital age, businesses rely more than ever on technology to stay competitive. If a company’s software implementation goes poorly, it can lose customers, employees, and even go out of business.
That’s why it’s so important to make sure your software is implemented well. By following some simple tips, you can avoid common pitfalls and ensure that your company reaps all the benefits of new tech.
Software implementation tips and advice
Here at TimeForge, helping customers implement game-changing software is our bread and butter. Below are 7 kernels of advice from team members who have been involved in implementations over the years. These tips span the whole process, from thinking about what software vendor to choose to work through the actual implementation.
1. Pick a service provider with an Implementations Specialist
Mike Hetisimer, our Implementations lead, suggests that before you ever pick a software, you should narrow the list of vendors down to those who have a dedicated implementations specialist on the team – someone who can walk you through all the steps involved in onboarding the product. (He might be a little biased, but it’s still good advice!) “This person should also be able to speak about the rollout to employees and the management team,” he says. “One oversight I’ve seen over the years is that people can underestimate the work involved in getting their staff on board. It helps immensely to have someone on hand whose role is to answer questions and keep things moving forward.”
2. Don’t be afraid to ask for a second or third demo (or video help, or more documentation)
You should always feel comfortable asking for another demo or more documentation, says Daniel Fernandez, our Senior Software Engineer. It never hurts to have more information and a better understanding of what kind of product you’re getting. Plus, the more you know, the easier it will be to ask specific questions of the vendor during your meetings together. This can help you better prepare for your rollout.
Bonus Tip: a good vendor will be happy to help and will have plenty of documentation and resources on hand. If their software product isn’t well documented, or can’t be easily documented, that might be a red flag.
3. Be clear about what you hope to accomplish during implementation
Once you’ve chosen a product, it’s time to set expectations. Diego Gaytan, our Support team lead, has a good software implementation tip. He suggests listing out exactly what you hope to accomplish by the end of implementation. “By laying out your goals and expectations up front, it gives everyone an opportunity to think of ways to accomplish those goals and set reasonable timelines,” he says. For example: By the end of implementation, we want to have the software up and running in X stores. We want all X employees to be fully trained and using the product. This gives a much clearer picture of the end goal and will help you set up milestones to make sure you’re on track for achieving it.
And to keep timelines realistic, it’s probably a good idea to take your initial estimate and multiply it by 2, 3, or even 4.
4. Ask more questions than you think you need to
“Always, always ask more questions than you think you need to,” says Audrey Hogan, our Chief Operating Officer. “You are the expert about your business. Vendors know their product well, and you know your business well, so it will take both you and the vendor putting your heads together to tie it all together.”
She also reiterates some of Daniel’s advice: “Don’t be afraid to bang on the product a bit – ask for another demo, an extra training session, a few more days on your trial,” she says. “The implementation phase is when you get to know your new vendor, and the product you purchased, so be sure you’re happy with the relationship and be sure to speak up early if you want something done differently.”
5. Understand the pros/cons between software configurations
When asking for things to be done differently during your software implementation, Audrey has another tip. “I’d also recommend sussing out any differences in your preferred configuration and what the vendor is recommending,” she says. “If what you want doesn’t align with the recommended configuration, you should take the time to find out why and to understand the pros/cons between the two options.” This is particularly important when it comes to labor compliance.
6. Communicate your software implementation plans early and often
As your implementation moves forward, don’t forget to communicate the changes early and often. “Definitely take the time to talk to your staff,” says Mike. “Make sure they’re aware of the changes, and why the changes happening. If possible, include your managers in the process so they can feel heard and offer feedback that you may not have considered initially.”
Of course, no matter how well you prepare, there’s always the chance that something can go wrong due to external factors your business simply can’t control. Make sure you have a business continuity plan. Then, make sure your plan can account for a delay in your rollout if something goes awry.