When planning a software platform implementation, it’s standard for IT leaders to consider the ramifications of this project on their existing systems and infrastructure. Much of this process is devoted to ensuring that any migration of data occurs seamlessly, and that the new software is customized to meet IT system requirements. All of these are important elements of a platform implementation, but the most successful projects also take into account the user side of the equation.
In addition to focusing on technical considerations and engaging all relevant stakeholders within IT to make sure they’re on board, IT leaders and project managers must develop a parallel, user-centric strategy. This approach can increase buy-in from end-users and provide a pathway to meaningful adoption of the new platform. By focusing on user adoption, user training, and the integration of the new platform with existing tools, a foundation for success can be built. Here’s a more detailed look at three frequently overlooked areas of software platform implementation.
Getting users on board with the idea of new software and building support for effective use of the platform are essential to seeing a faster ROI from the implementation. IT leaders and project managers should approach the process as a marketing challenge and act accordingly.
Communication is an important foundation for this strategy. Keeping users in the dark creates an environment in which changes appear to be forced upon them. To prevent such a situation, some businesses even engage users during the process of selecting a platform in order to create a dialogue around the process.
If you’re past this stage, work to communicate the reasons for the software platform implementation and how it will help users directly with new features, simplified workflows, or better integration. This messaging should be periodic and consistent. It’s also essential to be honest about any setbacks or disruptions this transition may cause. Downplaying any problems will break trust with users and undermine the implementation process. Another important part of this process is to identify champions or power users who will actively support the platform rollout and evangelize to colleagues about its benefits. These champions should be well respected by their peers. By engaging with these individuals early and making them feel like a part of the implementation process, you create goodwill that they will then pass on to other users.
Designing an effective training program can help improve the speed of user adoption. Training should be comprehensive, convenient, and customized to the needs of each team. In order to develop the right kind of program, it’s important to engage with key stakeholders from across the potential user base.
Observe team leaders and everyday users to predict their perceptions of the new software and better understand how the platform will be integrated into their existing workflows. This will give you a stronger sense of how detailed the training must be as well as which areas may need more attention. If the software is replacing a key element of business operations that directly affects revenues, training in this area should be thorough in order to prevent any negative business impacts.
Training is also a disruption to employees’ typical workdays. Businesses should work with managers to determine an effective scheduling strategy to bring users up to speed while not adversely affecting their productivity or lowering their morale. People can only handle so much new information in a single sitting. Scheduling day-long training sessions for complicated software is typically counterproductive.
To make the training program itself more effective, organizations should ensure that these sessions are tailored to the ways each team will use the platform. A one-size-fits-all approach may seem easier and more cost-effective, but it can lead to employee frustration that hampers adoption and effective use of the software. Managed service firms can often help with a needs assessment that serves to customize these sessions.
Integration with Existing Tools
IT departments often choose software platforms with a focus on solving technology-based problems. A certain platform may run more efficiently on cloud servers or may scale better over time. These are essential considerations, but the concerns of everyday users must also be considered.
An important part of this is how any new software integrates with existing software or related workflows. If a new platform makes existing processes more difficult, it’s very likely the IT department will hear about it. As part of the implementation process, project managers should engage key stakeholders and representative users throughout the organization to understand the user-based changes that this new platform will cause.
From here, IT should develop a strategy for making the integrations necessary to ensure a more seamless transition for users. Customizations or other interoperability work may be required to ensure that software integrates well with other tools that are used widely throughout the organization. While such integrations may add to the project’s cost, they can potentially protect against the significant problems caused by wide-scale workflow changes, from employee frustration to lagging productivity.
Prioritization is paramount. If certain tools are used by large segments of your organization, those should be the ones to integrate with the software platform. Integrations can also be a valuable part of the transition process. Even if new software replicates existing tools, keeping this older software connected with the new system can help ease the transition and prevent disruptions. All of these overlooked aspects of platform implementation relate to how users ultimately adopt new software. Transparency, marketing, and the cultivation of advocates within the user base lay the groundwork for faster adoption and more effective use. User-focused training helps make it a reality, and the better integration with existing tools helps ease the transition for users and prevents major issues following go-live. By taking these things into consideration, you can drive a software platform implementation toward success while getting a faster return on your investment.