The Essential Checklist for a Successful Software Implementation

Published On: December 1, 20206.3 min read

You’ve done your research, you’ve completed demos, you’ve compared competitors. Finally, you’ve found the perfect software to solve all your business’s problems.

There’s just one final hurdle: rolling it out to the team.

No matter whether you’re rolling out the simplest tool in existence, human-nature is resistant to change. Beyond changing workflows and behavior, new software can even change your culture, introducing new dynamics to the relationships between coworkers.

The human, not technical, complexities of rolling out a new software most often lead to implementation’s failure.

As with any challenge in business or life, a successful software implementation starts with a good plan of attack. We’ve borrowed this list from serial entrepreneur and EO Accelerator Global Lead Trainer Luis Gonzalez-Aspuru who presented his proven method for our November 2020 Coach Webinar.

Let’s dive into 9 essential steps to rolling out any new software to your team!

1. Gain Leadership Buy-In

The first step in any successful change management program is aligning company leadership and executives behind the plan for change. Leadership must agree on the desired outcomes behind the new software. For an implementation to succeed, leaders need to define the intended impact of the tool, allocate the resources to implement it, and set aside time for their team to be trained.

In his recent webinar for Align, Gonzalez-Aspuru shared that the most common pitfall for implementation is assigning responsibility to middle managers. Sandwiched between pushback from below and pressure from above, middle managers lack the weight of decision making required for seeing the implementation through. Only when a company’s senior decision-makers can be held accountable for a new software’s success will the rest of the organization align behind the change.

2. Create a Cross-Functional Team of Champions

Once you understand the desired cultural impact of new software, you can identify the relevant departments or job functions affected by the new tools. Too often when implementing a new software, says Gonzalez-Aspuru, companies put the full brunt of implementation on IT teams. Luis worked with one hospital who failed to implement a new tool for 50,000 users when they didn’t put a single member of the medical staff on the implementation team. Every impacted job function should be represented in your “team of champions” who will drive adoption for their departments and ensure their specific needs are addressed.

3. A Kick-Off with the Whole team

The next step for your team of champions is to schedule a time to formally introduce the software to all users and set a focus on the desired outcomes. The goal of this introductory session should not only be to introduce the technical aspects of the tool but to establish the why behind the change in your organization. For too many teams, says Gonzalez-Asupru, the technical how-tos are introduced without leading with the “why” behind a software’s implementation. To maximize the likelihood of successful adoption, this introductory meeting should make it clear to every user how the new tools will positively impact their work and contribute to team success.

4. Gather Feedback

Critical in the early going of any implementation is the continuous collection of feedback. Only when users feel safe voicing challenges or roadblocks to using the software can the team of champions adjust the adoption strategy. Luis shares a story about a group of police he worked with in Mexico, who were so vehemently opposed to a new software for records that one officer threatened to draw arms if forced to use it. Luis turned this into an opportunity to gather the officer’s feedback on what features and aspects of the software were so challenging. With that information, the implementation leaders were able to reassess which features to focus on training.

With any software, Luis says, seeking adoption of every feature right away is almost always impossible. By gathering user feedback, leaders can adjust their emphasis to the features most critical to hitting your objectives

5. Set a Follow Up Rhythm

As Scaling Up Author Verne Harnish writes, “routine sets you free”. Developing a rhythm to review progress ensures that you don’t fall behind on plans. Your initial implementation planning should include milestones for adoption and features to implement. These goals should be tied to measurable outcomes and time-based deadlines.

When your team of champions meets to regularly review progress, these goals, along with feedback, will form the basis of their evaluation and help determine where to lean-in. While the frequency of these meetings may depend on the urgency of your implementation, a set cadence during initial implementation and early usage will help evaluate whether an implementation has been successful and adjust when it’s gone off track.

6. Promote a Safe Environment for Mistakes

The ability to “fail fast and learn fast” is crucial for implementing new tools. Leaders should emphasize creating a safe environment for employees to experiment and uncover potential pitfalls. Your champions should seek out honest feedback to determine stumbling blocks before they sink the effort. When mistakes are discussed openly, leaders can develop and promote solutions. Luis recommends setting up a “sandbox” for employees. When implementing Align on his team, Luis utilized our Sand Box to train and experiment with his team.

7. Maintain a Positive Outlook and Open Communication

Even when an implementation hits snags, keeping a positive mindset ensures your team won’t give up on the new tool. Any cultural change is difficult, which is why keeping the “why” behind your new software front of mind is crucial for overcoming initial objections. If you believe a tool will truly solve cultural or performance problems in your organization, then determination and positivity can get you there. By understanding where your team stands and where you’re headed, you’ll always know the path forward. Communicate openly about the progress of the implementation and keep your team focused on pursuing its purpose.

8. Invest in Training

According to Gonzalez-Aspuru, training a new tool should not be thought of as a cost, but rather as an investment. The investment in training and upfront costs should pay dividends over time if you have chosen the right tool. Rather than focusing only on the investment in technical training, which requires mostly time, leaders should focus on training the “why” behind an implementation. Help your team understand how their usage of the software will benefit them, their coworkers, and the company at large. To maximize your ROI from training, be holistic in your approach. The ability to use the tool’s key functions means nothing if users do not understand the tool’s key purpose.

9. Track your Key Outcomes

Finally, ensure your team is hitting milestones that indicate success by transparently tracking your key outcomes. Luis recommends using a goal tracking program like Align while implementing any software, including Align itself. By assigning responsibility for implementation tasks you can create accountability and visibility. Tracking your implementation outcomes ensures you are on track to maximize ROI. When road bumps arise, you will have line of sight into what needs to change and who should be responsible. A team won’t hit their goals if they don’t know what they are, so ensure success by openly tracking the objectives and metrics that drive the implementation’s success.

While there are many factors involved with changing your company’s culture, these steps are proven to be effective when implementing that change with software. At the end of the day, even the simplest, most powerful tools won’t see adoption if the organization doesn’t understand how that tool will make their team more successful.

For more on successfully implementing any software in your organization, talk to an Align Advisor today!

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