It’s not just about functionality.
If you are in the market for any new core business software, a common mistake is to focus just on the software’s functionality alone. Limiting your search criteria to just the product features is common practise in our experience, and often there’s little to no consideration given to who is going to make sure it works properly till afterwards.
Not paying attention to the delivery, or discounting the importance of other practicalities, can increase your chance of being unhappy with the outcome – whether that’s paying for a top end system that nobody knows how to use, or cobbling together a rushed setup that doesn’t benefit your users.
The good news is this can be avoided. In the case of CRM and Business Intelligence software, it comes down to evaluating the implementation consultants you’ll be working with just as much as evaluating the software itself. Or better yet, get the consultants on board first and have them guide you through the evaluation. They’ll know the products in more depth and will have experience in other use cases you can leverage.
The blunt truth about any new software system is it’s useless when you first buy it. It certainly has potential, but on day 1 it doesn’t provide any benefit, it hasn’t made anything easier, it hasn’t replaced your old system or improved a process. It’s important when first making the decision to buy, that unimplemented software is totally useless. Like a car without fuel.
The right implementation consultants turn potential into reality
Because you’re dealing with potential, your search for the right software should not be limited to just the functionality. Turning this potential into reality is the job of any consulting firm that assists your team during the implementation. Together, you bring the vision to life.
Unfortunately not every implementation story is a successful one. Failure is an option. In fact, it’s the start point. Remember that newly purchased software does nothing except provide a potential for managing the business better. If you don’t have someone dedicated to ensuring it’s successful adoption then there’s a good chance it’ll remain that way.
Why do so many DIY implementations fail? We hear a lot of this and the explanations usually focus on the software – “It didn’t work for our needs” – or some variation that is confidently stated as a fact about the capability of the product, rather than about how it was used.
Of course it doesn’t work. With due risk of repetition, any software that isn’t properly implemented is useless!
Success in software implementation is about people, processes, and training
In our view the real reasons behind failed implementation projects fall into one of three categories.
First, there was not an adequate evaluation of the processes and procedures that will actually make a difference. All too often we see evaluation teams put together their list of “must have” requirements and skip out the importance of process improvement. They get distracted by minor details – the things that will save minutes, not hours. The role of an implementation consultant is to work closely with the internal teams to help develop new processes and procedures that meet the company’s goals by taking advantage of the functionality the software provides.
Think about it in this way – the current processes and procedures you have are based on the tools you currently have – different software packages, spreadsheets, whiteboards, post-it notes, etc. If you are looking to change to a new system, then it’s highly likely that the processes and procedures you use need to change too. If they don’t, you will never take advantage of the new software’s potential. It will always be limited to doing things your old way.
The second issue is not testing the new processes properly before rolling them out. The first step is done to prove that any new process/procedures that might be adopted are actually going to provide the desired outcome. Only once that is proven can the end users can be trained. The next stage of testing is done to prove that the users are indeed trained. Great software and great processes still represent nothing more than potential. The implementation consultants turn potential into reality, and get the end users following through on the processes you’ve created. This is what ultimately delivers on the success of the implementation.
The third issue is rooted in human nature. When in doubt we revert to solving problems in ways we understand easily. That’s why spreadsheets are still a common solution. Commonly when a person is dealing with an issue, they’ll understand how a spreadsheet works, so they’ll apply that knowledge to the problem. And truthfully, the spreadsheet probably made the problem easier to deal with.
At many levels it works perfectly well. Incrementally solving small challenges quickly. It’s only when viewed at a wider level where the company doesn’t have an overall process it can rely on. It’s just a bunch of people with a bunch of spreadsheets, individually solving their own problems by themselves. The only way to overcome this is through establishing a single best-practice for your organisation and implementing it through training. The employees need to become as comfortable with the software as they are with spreadsheets. Once they are, they will use it to solve business problems and ditch their old ways.
What this really describes is a change of culture – and that takes time, training and a solid commitment to not slipping back to the old way when the going gets tough. Where does this initial guidance come from? The software consultants.
Is the implementation more important than the software’s functionality?
If this was a school debate team subject, we’d be able to make a strong argument that it is. Implementing complex software without a skilled implementation consultant usually results in leaving a lot of the software’s functionality untapped or incorrectly used. Software functionality will only be beneficial if it is used in the way it was designed to be.
There is one caveat here though that’s hard to argue against. Even the best implementation consultants won’t be able to get great results with software that lacks the critical functionality for your organisation. So selecting the right product with the right functionality is important, it’s just not the only thing you should consider.