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5 of the Most Common Reasons Software Implementations Fail

By Alex Volpi, Technology Advisory Practice Leader

Your organization just selected a new software application to deploy to the business, now what?

As humans, we are hardwired to resist change. This is particularly true when it comes to software implementations. Employees throughout the organization are going to be impacted by this change, some more than others, and communicating that change is coming early can make all the difference.

According to a survey of more than 1,500 executives who had undertaken a significant change management effort, only 37% of respondents reported successful implementations. The reasons can be anything from poor system selection, miscommunication, and confusion, lack of a deployment plan, poor participation from key employees to office politics.

Here are 5 reasons why software implementations fail, and how to avoid them.

1. Deficient Features and Functionality

Selecting the right software application to deploy to your business is just as important as selecting the right professional services team to implement it.

One of the most frustrating and expensive reasons why software implementations fail is because the selected software application cannot support the key business requirements of your organization. The main reason this issue occurs is that the lack of preparation and strategic assessment of the offerings in the market that are potential fits.

The Solution: Document your requirements

To properly assess the number of offerings in the market, requirements need to be documented.  To significantly increase the chances of a successful implementation, your organization needs to verify your requirements can be supported by your vendor of choice. This should be a collaborative activity across departments to identify technology and process deficiencies. Everyone who will be a user of the new system should be involved in this process, and this is usually a larger number of employees than initially anticipated.

2. Undefined Roles and Responsibilities

The organizational structure of the project and the organization structure of your day-to-day operations is going to vary, and reporting hierarchies will be different.  Without defined roles and responsibilities, miscommunication and confusion can occur causing delays.

The Solution: Identify your Key Employees

Defining the roles and responsibilities of your key employees is paramount. Who is the Driver, Approver, Contributor, and Informed within a particular task? Using a DACI framework from the start to clearly define who has authority on what can help avoid delays in the project due to miscommunication.

The organization should look to identify the individuals with a fundamental understanding of how processes are currently executed and how they need to be improved. These selected employees are typically the department leaders of different functional areas.

It is also important to keep in mind that these software implementation projects will take time away from the integral roles these department leads already hold while they work with the implementation team to design the new solution. Identifying potential backfills for these employees is critical and should be completed prior to the project’s kickoff so the day-to-day operations do not suffer due to employee bandwidth issues.

3. Lack of Execution Strategy

Has your organization and software vendor-defined which functionality to turn on 1st, 2nd, 3rd and last? Which systems to integrate with your new application and when? Does the functionality support your company initiatives and goals over the next 5 years?

Organizations are often hurt by the false belief that a silver bullet exists to solve a given problem. Proper solutions are a blend of methodology, strategy, and team support, and not the result of a single action.

The Solution: Create a deployment plan

Working with your vendor of choice and consulting team, you should be able to create a deployment plan that supports your company initiatives, goals, and budget. It is also important to be flexible and agile with your plan as business requirements can and will change after the project begins.

Sample Deployment Plan:

4. Lack of Change Management Plan

Have you let your organization know that change is coming and to prepare? Do you plan on backfilling your key staff to support the project? Keeping in mind the key components of what ‘Change Management’ is can help your organization better prepare for the upcoming project.

Employees are facing new challenges, and new ways to approach their work. Software applications inherently re-engineer business processes, so employees may not be able to do their job like they are used to. This can be daunting and threaten user adoption of the new software application altogether

The Solution: Embrace the change

Here is how Change Management breaks down:

  1. Communications
  2. Project Management
  3. Employee Bandwidth
  4. User Adoption

Before kickoff, software implementations require executive-level leaders to step up and participate in the communication of this new initiative. Employees throughout the organization are going to be impacted by this change, some more than others, and communicating that change is coming early can make all the difference. This should be a positive event as leaders will be sharing how this change will improve the business processes and day-to-day operations.

Once the project is in-flight, consistent status updates and celebrating the small wins can keep morale up and motivation high. Reasonable expectations should be established as well, with the understanding that tasks may take longer to complete than initially expected.

5. Failure to adequately train end users

Employees will always feel more confident about using the new software application if they’ve been involved in training before go-live. Too often, organizations go-live with their newly configured software application without properly training end users. Once it is time to start transacting in the new system, employees should understand and know how to execute the processes relevant to their job. If they do not, it is going to be difficult to use the new application effectively.

The Solution: Develop a tailored training program 

Software training is most effective when it is focused with the end user in mind. The role of a Controller, and the role of a procurement agent in the new application is going to vary, and tailored training should be developed for each role.

Some organizations opt for a ‘train-the-trainer’ approach in which your project team and ‘super users’ train the other users, or end users may rely on documentation provided to them by the software vendor, or some combination. Whichever option your organization chooses, the timing of the training, content, amount of time, and audience are all key factors that need to be considered when developing a successful training program.

Need assistance implementing new software? We can help.

Alex Volpi, CRM, software, strategy

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