A big wrench in company productivity these days is a new software implementation. Employees are open to new software if it will serve a function and make their work easier; however, some fear it will be a repackaging of the same old stuff. Worse, yet, is the fear that the new software being implemented will replace them.
An implementation process is one of the best ways to help ease this fear. This requires proper planning leading up to the changeover.
Here’s how you can execute a smooth transition to new software:
1. Identify Key Stakeholders (and their specific needs)
Your first step when putting together a software implementation plan is to identify your stakeholders. A stakeholder is anyone who will be actively involved in the implementation or will be impacted by the new software
Because stakeholders will be impacted by this new software, it is vital that their voices are heard and, their concerns are shared and addressed early on in the implementation. By doing this early on in the implementation, you will be able to maintain focus on these individual goals/needs throughout the project. For instance, if the engineering team has a specific need with the implementation, then it helps you to ensure that you’re meeting these (almost like a checklist as you go).
It also allows you to identify very quickly what is possible and what can be considered out of scope. This refers to a term called “scope creep.” Think of an implementation project like one of those horror movie creatures similar to “the blob.” As the project goes on, it can take on a life of its own and get larger and larger until it becomes an uncontrollable behemoth. By defining your needs early, you can stay within these limits and not have the project grow larger and larger.
There are different types of stakeholders that should be identified and defined in every project. One of the most important stakeholders that should be identified is that of the “Project Sponsor”. This stakeholder is the Champion for the software transition and should be the most enthusiastic person for the new software. The following stakeholders are also vital to the success of a new project:
- Project Managers
- Subject Matter Experts (SMEs)
- Testing Team
- Training Team
- Change Management Team
Each of these team members will have needs specific to your business, industry, and the type of software you’re implementing.
2. Set Target Dates for Different Milestones
The next step is to define milestones and set a target date for their completion. Be as specific as possible. One of the most common mistakes is underestimating the complexity of a project and not being specific on what needs to be accomplished for each milestone. There should be milestones along the way which allow you to see how the work is progressing and adjust as needed.
These are the major milestones you should implement and plan for:
- Kickoff — Don’t underestimate this portion of the process. This isn’t just the beginning of the implementation. It’s your opportunity to get everyone excited and to promote buy-in for the changeover. If you can achieve this early, then later stages will be much smoother.
- Requirements Gathering — Sit down with all of your stakeholders and decide exactly what they expect to gain from the new software. Also, determine what will be needed for them to fully implement the new program.
- Unit and System Testing — This will be your first level of testing to make sure expectations are being met and issues are identified and ironed out as proactively as possible. This is the day, or days, set aside to work out any issues that may arise.
- System Validation — The next step in the testing process. Think of this as quality control to determine the software is working and that it does what it is expected to do.
- Publishing to Live Environment — This is a live test drive of the software before you actually push it out. This is the last stage where you will be able to identify problem areas before the live rollout.
- Go-Live — This is the end result of all your hard work. Be sure to celebrate and allow your hard-working employees to do the same.
3. Identify Potential Risks at the Beginning of a Project and a Mitigation Plan for Those Risks
Finally, you want to anticipate as many potential risks and problems as you possibly can. If you do this, then you’ll be able to mitigate those issues and make sure they’re just hurdles to overcome and not brick walls to block you. Create a team plan that informs who will be responsible for each category to ensure that the risk is handled.
Although each project is different, some of the biggest potential risks include:
- Resource Availability (due to competing priorities, significant life events already planned, etc)
- Schedule Risk
- Scope Creep
- Change Management Risks
- IT Architecture
Moving forward with a software upgrade can be a daunting task and it is necessary to plan ahead and be as technologically nimble as possible. Change is the one certainty in life. Needing to compete in business is the other. Keep your company vital and relevant to your clients and the industry you serve by planning your next implementation.