Executing a solid software implementation plan doesn’t necessarily need to be a nightmare. But it often turns out being a quite stressful process that requires careful planning, and auditing for quality assurance.
I often compare the process to moving. Only when you start planning your moving day you realize how many dependencies and potential problems are connected to the project.
It seems easy at first. Call a moving company, arrange utilities, and start packing. Then you realize that there are plenty of other things you need to consider, including updating your billing and delivery address for all the services you subscribed to online! Bet you didn’t think about it at first!
The process of new software implementation requires specialists, checklists and quality assurance software, change management tracking solutions, and a robust cooperation with the vendor.
In this article, we’re going to cover some of the most important challenges that need to be taken into account when creating a software implementation plan.
After listing challenges and issues, we’re then going to present some general tips and ideas that will help make sure your next rollout is successful.
Software Implementation: Main Issues and Challenges
One of the main issues companies need to tackle during the software implementation planning phase is system or software legacy.
When was the last time you heard of ISDN (Integrated Services Digital Network)?
Especially in North America, this communication standard has never been popular. So much so that for a while, this standard was known as “It Still Does Nothing” or “Innovations Subscribers Don’t Need.”
In Germany, despite the fact that ADSL is slowly becoming the norm, many households or companies still use ISDN (often offered in combination with standard ADSL by the provider).
Due to legacy issues, when fire starts spreading, the only way to automatically send an emergency call to the fire department is via ISDN. And this obviously helps curb premiums when it comes to fire protection insurance.
In many cases, previously defined constraints in the IT infrastructure signal their presence at different levels and limit the scope of action for innovation and change management.
A solid change management strategy always takes into account all the limitations connected to legacy issues and already addresses the problem by defining implementation rules that guarantee compatibility and software compliance.
In some extreme cases, the company might need to consider going through a massive legacy system modernization to partially or completely solve the issue.
Another important aspect that can’t be neglected and which usually is specifically connected to the negotiation and due diligence phase, is making sure that the software meets all the standards and presents all the certifications necessary for deployment.
Software certificates are important when it comes to both compliance and security.
Compliance and Regulations Connected To Software Rollouts
Implementing new software also means migrating data (see below) and involving a new third party partner into the data management flow.
In many cases, that’s already a source of concern that might trigger red flags as far as compliance is concerned.
Additionally, when it comes to compliance, a new software rollout doesn’t just affect data management.
It depends on the sector you operate in, where your company is located, and on its legal form, but the implementation of new software in the IT infrastructure can be linked to specific requirements and regulatory standards.
Meeting such requirements when it comes to creating an implementation plan is a key component which is discussed during the negotiation stage between the software vendor/provider and the company that implements the software.
However, during the implementation phase, the project lead must verify compliance in conjunction with security, integrations, privacy. and software training.
The scope for regulatory compliance becomes particularly thorny when large enterprise companies adapt to agile processes or outsource the development or customization of proprietary software.
IT Infrastructure and Integrations
Sometimes it’s hard to integrate new services or tools within an existing infrastructure.
Creating a company structure that mirrors a smooth customer experience, however, requires data to be centralized and analyzed across different units to avoid siloed structures and holes in the customer journey.
Imagine implementing marketing automation software that can’t integrate with the main CRM or interact with customer health scoring solution to trigger actions or cross-reference data!
In order to implement a new technology and create the perfect blueprint for a proper software implementation plan, it’s vital to consider existing and future integrations within the entire ecosystem.
Change Management Strategy
The implementation of new software within a pre-configured IT infrastructure often needs to be aligned with the overall change management strategy.
Change management takes into account tools, processes, and resources to define the path that will lead to a successful IT change management policy and implementation.
The entire project can also be monitored by means of different change management software solutions that allow change managers and CIOs to create a consistent software implementation methodology, cooperate, and follow the different deployment stages.
For a successful IT implementation plan it’s crucial that the project leader be someone with the authority to make business and strategic decisions to avoid bottlenecks and quickly react to unexpected logistical problems (see next point).
Changes in the Team Structure
Changes in strategy are often reflected in the team structure and roles, and this also often holds true when it comes to implementing new software.
A new software rollout might need to be followed by small adjustments in roles and responsibilities. This can derive from the necessity of having an administrator or manager that works on the integration of the new solution or new reporting and data analytics figures within the team, for example.
In some cases, especially when it comes to cross-functional solutions that require customization and deep integration, it might even be necessary to hire internal consultants, developers, or platform managers.
Software Portability and Backward Compatibility
There is nothing worse than creating a software implementation plan to roll out a new platform or schedule a major company-wide upgrade just to find out that new system is not working properly across different computing platforms.
This issue might lead to very high costs linked to either software customization (if possible) or hardware updates.
At the same time, we also want to make sure that new upgrades guarantee for interoperability with older legacy systems. The upgrade path could become quite expensive if, due to the lack or downward compatibility, we had to also update add-ons, integrated services, hardware, or files.
And while we’re pointing out portability and compatibility problems, it’s also worth mentioning forward compatibility.
Companies often forget to take this into account, but it’s important to implement new services whose roadmap already takes into account future standards and processes.
Connected to the previous point, data migration relies on backward/downward compatibility.
It’s essential to focus on data migration very early in the implementation process since this is a very time-consuming and risky component of the implementation plan.
Planning a software rollout is also linked to several logistical problems.
Software implementation planning activities need to take into account issues that might derive from a potential downtime.
Service companies that don’t have multiple locations or manufacturers in general might encounter serious problems when rolling out new software primarily because their employees often work in shifts and simply planning a software upgrade or rollout during the night is not a possibility.
In most of the cases, implementing software at nighttime is not a bad idea but the schedule of the team that coordinates and executes the implementation plan needs to be arranged in advance while informing all the departments involved in the process.
The implementation time for different software solutions obviously varies greatly with complex cross-functional platforms such as ERP systems that might require up to a year or even longer.
In this case, the entire process needs to involve a project team, specialists, solution architects, and consultants. All these people need to be coordinated.
In general, every solution that is directly connected to main database systems which encompass different areas (finance, payroll and accounting, resource management, inventory, sales, compliance…) aren’t simple one-size-fits-all, out-of-the-box solutions.
One of the most common logistic issues that leads to failure is being overly optimistic when scheduling the implementation plan.
One of the biggest risks connected to software implementation is the lack of proper software training.
The project lead needs to set clear goals and deadlines. Sometimes, a company-wide software rollout plan can be hindered by the lack of resources for software training. In this case, organizations are often forced to schedule different implementation milestones across different units.
That’s where Userlane can really help, of course. Thanks to our continuous performance support solution, it is possible to roll out software throughout the entire organization and train all the employees simultaneously without any constraints and trade-offs.
Security and Stability
Every software implementation is a potential gate that might lead to security breaches. Rushing into a speedy rollout might soon become an intricate labyrinth of patches and workarounds that can jeopardize the stability of the entire architecture.
In some cases, it is even recommended to carry out vulnerability tests after the implementation to verify that the structure is still robust and secure.
Resistance and Software Adoption
Change management starts from the top and directives are put in place through predefined change management plans.
When companies face digitalization or when moving from stationary to cloud solutions, they often need to redefine the entire software architecture and not only roll out a new solution.
This can lead to resistance to change that starts from the clerical level.
People sometimes prefer to work with familiar albeit inefficient solutions rather than trying something new or even learn a whole set of applications.
This might affect software adoption and company adoption. In this case, it becomes very difficult for managers to justify the costs connected to the implementation plan if, due to limited software adoption, the whole change doesn’t positively affect any KPIs.
The issue is quite hard to deal with, but Userlane is the go-to software solution that companies adopt to make sure that they don’t need to cope with any resilience when it comes to implementing new software.
To find out more about digital transformation and software adoption, I’d recommend downloading our ebook to see how pioneers and innovators in the digital transformation are tackling resilience to change and solving legacy issues.
Defining and Monitoring Specific Metrics for ROI Calculation
Implementing a new software solution is a big commitment.
Within the scope of a change management plan, great attention should go to establishing the main goal for the entire change process.
The goal and the scope of the new rollout can then be connected to specific metrics that need to be monitored and optimized.
Many SaaS providers (including Userlane) can guide their customers through this phase with a well-defined customer success plan.
Strategy and Tips to Create a Solid Software Rollout Plan
So far, we’ve mentioned some of the most common challenges that need to be tackled when introducing a new software solution or upgrading vital components of the IT infrastructure. Such challenges include legacy problems, logistic issues, compliance, training, stability and security, data migration, and software adoption.
After covering these problematic areas that might affect a smooth software implementation process, we can quickly go through some of the best tactics that speed up and simplify the entire software implementation phase while adding some extra layers for quality assurance.
How Do I Guarantee a Smooth Software Implementation Process?
- Constant monitoring is everything. Audit each milestone in coordination with the software provider.
- I’ve attended ground school and had a few training flights. Therefore, I’m obviously a fan of checklists. Checklists allow you to go through processes without neglecting any single tiny detail.
- Change needs to be thoroughly planned using project management suites or change management software but complex subtask-lists can be managed with software like process.st for example.
- Always keep track of tools, processes, and people. Without a proper change management plan the roll out process is often ineffective. As mentioned above, it’s all about setting a goal, assigning proper metrics, and push for maximum software adoption to meet the ROI requirements. Also define specific milestones and criteria for success.
- Create a solid task force and allow innovators and tech enthusiasts in different teams to support the implementation team and motivate the most risk-averse members of their teams by spreading the vision.
- Involve the software vendor in the preparation phases. Appoint a change manager, somebody in charge of operations management who is responsible for the entire rollout. Make sure that all parties involved also carry out a proven risk management analysis and plan. The combination of risk management and change management will lead to a healthy balance of traditionalism and innovation.
- Communicate clearly with your team! Make sure everybody is aware of the main vision and the strategy that hides behind the implementation of the new software. If you want to fight resistance in the first place, make sure that the team is aware of the benefits that will derive from the implementation of the new software. And make sure that such benefits are not just relevant for the company (saving costs, increasing revenue…). Your staff needs to see how their own daily live will be positively affected by the new product implementation.
- Take care of the process management and optimization. Optimize processes by eliminating bottlenecks and carrying out as many parallel activities as possible. I mean…that’s just sensible project management advice!
- Create a plan that shows how processes and tools will be affected by change. Make sure you communicate such changes to the teams impacted by the change and train people on the new processes.
- Don’t forget to involve DevOps and Agile Project Management Experts to optimize the entire strategy.
- Consider the entire ecosystem: the whole IT infrastructure and all the integrations that it entails. Newer software solutions are rarely isolated on their own plane of existence. This will also help speed up data migration while ensuring compliance, compatibility, and stability.
These are some tips on how to create and execute a successful software implementation plan.
The success of the entire operation plan depends on the outcome: software adoption.
If you want to know how you can successfully implement new software and sort out some of the major issues that lead to resistance download our ebook: