Is there anything more fun than rolling out new software at work? We can think of a few things: 4:30 meetings on Friday afternoons and root canals immediately come to mind.
Let's face it: people love getting new tools that make their jobs easier, but transitioning from one program to another can be stressful at best and disastrous at worst. This is why it’s absolutely necessary to have a solid software implementation plan that can help everyone get on board with your latest software changes.
We don’t mean to brag (well…maybe a little), but we know a thing or two about the right and wrong ways to introduce a new software program at work. Aside from teaching our clients the best ways to roll out Guru at their companies, we have plenty of our own in-house software needs to manage.
We can’t guarantee that everyone will love your new software, we can help you write a decent software implementation plan that can make your life easier. Here’s what you need to know to create a solid implementation plan of your own.
Why software implementation matters
Has anyone ever just installed new software onto company computers and let people just run with it? If they have, we doubt they've lived to tell the tale. Going with the flow is great for jam bands and first dates, but it’s really not the right mindset for getting an entire department or company up to speed on new software.
Apathy and software implementation don't mix
Unleashing new software to an unprepared company won’t just be stressful, it’s also shockingly ineffective. You’ll spend too much time fixing problems, answering questions, and putting out fires that all could have been avoided with a little planning. A well throughout software implementation plan lets you come up with a reasonable timeline to follow and helps you set milestones you can use to measure success.
Unexpected problems and software rollouts tend to go hand in hand. Luckily, your implementation plan can be a significant help when it comes to troubleshooting. We can’t promise you that your implementation plan will protect you from slow internet, a stressful week at work, or someone who hates learning new tech. Despite that, we can say that creating an implementation plan allows you to think critically about what problems could arise and troubleshoot issues before they happen.
Above all else, your implementation plan helps set everyone up for success. The training modules, milestones, and FAQs you create are designed to help users get the most out of their new software. It also saves you a massive headache and helps you keep a bit more of your sanity. All things considered, we’d call that a clear win-win scenario.
Tips for software implementation
We’ve made our case for why software implementation plans are an important part of any rollout. Now let’s switch gears and focus on how you can create a solid implementation plan on your own.
Define success early on
Have you had a chance to sit down and think about why you’re making a thorough implementation plan in the first place? Sorry, but “My manager said so” isn’t a good answer here.
Solid attitude/diet plan
If you want to make an implementation plan that works, consider how you can measure success. Unless your workplace likes to buy new software just for the sheer thrill of it, we’re betting that you’re looking into new software because there’s a problem that needs to be solved.
Think about what problems the new software was supposed to solve and set metrics so you can measure how well it’s going about solving them. Going through this exercise can help you determine if you picked the right software and if you need to go back to the drawing board.
Create your implementation process
Now we’re getting into the meat and potatoes of why you’re here: the actual implementation plan.
The software implementation plan you come up with should be able to manage expectations for both management and employees as well as clearly outline when each step should take place. This section is important because it doesn’t just lay out your entire process. A well-thought-out plan can help eliminate scope creep and make it easier to keep everyone on track and hitting deadlines.
Your implementation plan is unique and will differ depending on what you’re doing; despite this, there are some things that every complete plan should have:
Consider this the 5W’s and 1H of your plan that you can show any decision maker so they’ll nod their head and say “okay cool”. Outline what software you’re using, the reasoning behind why you’re making the switch, and any associated costs.
Maybe it’s just you, maybe it’s the entire IT team, maybe there’s someone on the software company’s side that’s going to help with the transition. Regardless of who is involved, make sure you outline who they are and their responsibilities here.
How long is everything going to take and when are you expected to meet certain milestones? Remember, the best plans always have a big of wiggle room in the timeline to account for any adjustments to your plans.
What needs to be done to get your current systems ready for new software? Some people may need to do a few OS updates, others may need to consider a complete system upgrade. Regardless of what you need, now is the time to lay everything out.
Will this new software increase sales by 15% over the next 3 quarters? Is this new program going to take the place of two other programs you’ve relied on? This section can play a key role in aligning stakeholders and setting expectations for work.
In a perfect world every software rollout will go easily, but you know we don’t live in a perfect world. Think about what may need to be fixed or adjusted once your new software is deployed.
Is your new program going to be used by the entire company, or only a team or two? Outline who will be affected the most by your change in this section.
How is everyone going to get up to speed on the new software? Mention any training modules and other resources you’ll be using, along with how you plan to measure the success of the training.
Clean up data
It’s very easy for businesses to accumulate things they don’t need. Old software that’s taking up precious memory and data that hasn’t been relevant for years are just a few things that come to mind. Luckily for you, a new software implementation plan is the perfect opportunity to address some of these issues.
This is a Tanner-Level cleaning event
It’s possible that implementing your new software means that some old things will be left behind. Take a little time to do some spring cleaning and get rid of some of that old junk data and programs before you move to your new system. This has the bonus of potentially creating new opportunities for organizing important information.
Create individual rollout plans
The engineering team and UX team are using the same new software program, but they’re using them for very different reasons. HR can wait a few weeks or even a month or two before they get trained in the new program, but sales needed to be trained yesterday.
We know you don’t want to create more work for yourself, but creating different rollout plans for different teams and scenarios can make the overall implementation easier. Think about everyone who has to use this new program and how you can adapt your plan to their needs. Feel free to reach out to management to see how the needs differ across each team.
Find your software champions
One of the most important things to keep in mind during this process is that software is just a tool. Simply existing and being available to users doesn’t mean that it’s going to get used. It’s pretty well known that people tend to be naturally resistant to change, so starting with a few advocates in your corner can be a big help during the implementation process.
Anyone can be an advocate for new software. Identify people who support the change and understand the software to help get your office culture onboard.
We’re not saying that you need to find someone to go around the office and randomly start telling people how much they love your new HR software (although that would be kind of funny). Simply having people that naturally bring up software tips and sing the praises of the new program can do a lot to help the process.
Prepare for the future
Despite some bumps in the road, it looks like everyone is onboarded and easily using the latest addition to your tech stack. Your feelings of immense satisfaction and accomplishment know no bounds, and you can rest easy knowing that you brought something new and helpful to your team.
We feel your pain
It’s always important to think about the future when you’re working on your implementation plan. Since it’s incredibly easy for most of the work and decision-making to fall on one person, it’s equally easy for the successful continued use of a program to depend on one employee.
There’s nothing worse than software that falls to the wayside because someone leaves their role or takes on new responsibilities. Make it easy for anyone in IT to learn about the program and make decisions and changes as they’re needed.
You think that you put together a pretty solid implementation plan, but would the rest of the team agree?
We understand that everyone has their own way of measuring success, but an implementation process that reaches its end goal but also managed to drive everyone else crazy isn’t our definition of success. This is where the power of opinion can come into play.
Everyone who participated in the implementation process can help give you actionable feedback. Ask about their opinions on the process, their likes and dislikes, and whether or not they have any suggestions that can make things smoother.
It can be easy to look at things through your IT brain. Hearing about things from other people’s perspectives can make planning future implementations easier.