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Pitfalls of Software Implementations

by Scott Lewis

The purchase of new software: It sounds exciting, and you go into it with the hopes that it is going to solve your business-related problems. You could be purchasing it to solve a very specific issue or to create more cohesive processes throughout the company. Regardless, you have identified issues within your business and decided you are going to solve them with software.

I’ve heard it a thousand times, and I’ve seen it in action many times: Someone volunteers, or is voluntold, to be the point person, and they pick up the phone and start calling software vendors. The goal is to start interviewing and setting up demonstrations while putting the vendor in the power position of selling their software.

Unfortunately, you are already on a downhill slide with this approach because you have not done the legwork and research to document your business needs and requirements, including putting them down in writing. The needs and features analysis are critical to success; you are going to require it in order to go through the selection process, measure vendors and measure the software in comparison to your business needs to increase the likelihood of selecting the right software for the right reason.

The selection of new software can be the most exciting and impactful process for your organization to go through. It can be enlightening, as you may learn a lot about your actual business operations. As owners, we always think we know how our business operates; however, it has been my experience over 35 years that when you get down to the people who actually do it, that process can change dramatically.

Software implementations can also be very stressful and can bring out many dynamics — both business and human — that will need to be dealt with. We all want software that fixes our issues but allows us to work the way we are accustomed to. However, that is not always the reality, and change can be challenging for organizations.

Positive evaluation and process change are essential to the long-term sustainability of any organization, but this requires you to take a long, hard and honest look at what you are doing and the way you are doing it. The whole purpose of the software is to fix, streamline, improve or change the identified areas within your business. For owners this is always difficult; we all think we are doing things right and we have the best business in the world. However, there is always room for improvement, and that can involve conflict.

Here are some of the pitfalls you should look out for once you have selected new software:

- Fear of change. Oddly enough, in many cases the fear of change comes from the ownership, usually as buyer’s remorse. Remember, we thought we knew how our business ran; now we are having to face the fact that might not be true. The ownership must be fully committed to the process and the new path created by software. I have seen it many times: If the ownership provides a path for people not to work within the software — good or bad — then they have already started down a path of software implementation failure. Stick to your guns, maximize your return on investment and have the fortitude to push aside those who want to stick to the old way. Remember it’s the long-term value you are after; stay focused in order to get there.

- Benefits of the software being left unexplained.
This really goes back to the first thing you should do when selecting new software, which is to know your business. Do this by being inclusive throughout a cross section of your business. It is critical that you understand specifically how your business operates — the good, bad and ugly. Document those work processes, identify the specific areas of improvement you are focusing on and then prioritize those issues. This leads to picking the right individuals to be on the selection team, and then they can get their team members excited about the change. You have to make it public; don’t assume people are just simply going to buy into the new ways and abandon the old. Ensure you convey all of the benefits of the software and how they will assist the workflow.

- The naysayers and slackers. There are always those who are more resistant to change, those who are comfortable with a process, and road blockers who are slow to perform tasks as assigned or to learn the tips and tricks of the new software. These are the team members who are going to need some additional attention and support to learn and adopt the new software and encouragement that doing so is about improving the overall business. To overcome this, it is important that both the ownership and the management are feeding positive information regarding the changes, relaying the need for the changes and their benefits.

- Circling back around. Feedback is key to the overall long-term success of any software implementation. Circling back around internally to make sure the team has not fallen back into old habits is important. This also allows your team to better identify areas of improvement that are needed within the software. The software vendors are always going to be motivated to improve their product, so work with the vendor in order to better enhance the software to meet your specific needs. This also applies to validation of software usage; the human factor dictates that if you don’t like the way something is working, you will find a work-around. This is good and bad, and it may be a necessary evil based on the limitations of the software. However, if it is simply that team members don’t like the way it works so they are refusing to use it, then they are inhibiting your business from reaching the level of success you intended. This is where ownership must have the fortitude to require team members to use the software for the overall benefit of the company and its mission — easy to say, tough to do.

There are lots of reasons why software implementations fail. Sometimes it is hard to not blame the software; however, I will concede that some software just simply falls short of the expectations regardless of how well you have worked the process and made your selection. If you do your homework on your business, document your work processes and work flow, and clearly identify why you need new software and what features you require, you are far less likely to select bad software. You still have to consider training as a key factor — not just the initial implementation training but also ongoing training for all employees.

I always coach our customers that it is worthy of their time to focus on their business first and to know why they want to buy software before even talking to a software vendor. Don’t fall in love with the first thing you see or the pretty salesperson, be open-minded and remember the big picture, but understand that you are not going to make everyone happy. Software can drive a business to incredible heights, but the impact of a bad selection can be felt for years.

Scott Lewis is the president and CEO of Winning Technologies Group of Companies, which includes Liberty One Software. Scott has more than 30 years of experience in the technology industry and is a nationally recognized speaker and author. He has worked with businesses to empower them to use technology to improve work processes, increase productivity and reduce costs. Winning Technologies’ goal is to work with companies on the selection, implementation, management and support of technology resources. Learn more about Winning Technologies at or by calling 877-379-8279.
Submitted 4 years 123 days ago
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