So, you’ve purchased new software and need to roll it out to your stakeholders. What are some steps you can take to make your product launch successful?
Whether your software is being rolled out in the Cloud, Private Cloud, or Off-Cloud, you will need a plan to ensure a smooth rollout and successful user adoption. First, come up with a good communication plan. This plan should include all your stakeholders, their roles, the type of information they will need, and how frequently these team members should be updated. For projects involving large numbers of stakeholders, distill your communication plan to cover particular roles or teams and create some well-named email distribution lists. Once the plan is in place, be sure it is followed. Good communication during a large software rollout will:
- help socialize the upcoming software/system changes;
- ensure continued buy-in from key stakeholders; and
- disseminate key information like training schedules, support information, FAQs on the new software, etc.
And don’t forget to include a clear path for your stakeholders to follow so they can submit their questions and concerns about the rollout. This might take the form of a dedicated email address or an internal ticketing system so it can be monitored by multiple people, making it easier to provide timely responses.
Identify Your Support Teams
Enterprise software often requires support from many different teams. You may require Procurement to acquire the hardware necessary to host the software. The hardware then needs to be configured, rolled out, and maintained by IT based on predetermined architecture and software needs. Dedicated staff may be required to support the new software (e.g., generation of new modules, back-end support, customizations, etc.). Another team may be required to port over legacy data from retiring software solutions to the new program. And, a team may be required to provide ongoing end-user training and support.
Once these teams are identified, ensure their involvement is properly scoped and added to your overall project budget. Your vendor may also be able to leverage their expertise by way of offering managed services, operational support, or similar services.
Keeping your rollout on track is important, especially when hard target deadlines are involved. With this in mind, it is just as pivotal to put together a risk assessment that includes a list of things that can potentially go wrong and steps that can be taken to prevent this from becoming an outcome. It should also include steps to follow if the preventative measures weren’t sufficient to avoid the outcome despite best efforts.
Below is an example Risk Assessment chart that includes some of these variables:
Other items that you may consider adding to your Risk Assessment include potential project impact, estimated cost impact, time delays, and resource allocation changes. Your vendor should be able to walk you through opportunities for risk with your overall roll-out plan.
Once your new enterprise software has been launched, there will be a need for training the end user and support teams. Your vendor will likely have some training and certification offerings to meet some of these needs. However, obtaining overall user adoption can sometimes be a bit more of an effort. We want our users to get the most benefit out of their new software. And we want our support teams to take advantage of efficiency opportunities. Here are a few ideas to help with overall user adoption:
- Check to see if your vendor offers support staff on secondment. Having your vendor’s own experienced resources embedded with your staff on a daily basis will further enhance your team’s learning experience and allow them to be more independent further down the road.
- Schedule post-training workshops with your vendor to go over some automation and other efficiency concepts. This will allow your team to explore your new software’s options for automating certain functions, templatizing standard setups, and other process improvement ideas.
- Set up some open ‘office hours’ with your vendor where your vendor’s experienced team members make themselves available for on-the-fly support questions during your business hours on select dates. This can be very valuable in the early days after a product launch as it gives your team immediate resources for assistance when needed.
- As your new software is being put to good use by your teams, you will see that some users have readily adapted to the new application more so than others. Select a few of these individuals and schedule more advanced software training for them. These individuals can then be provisioned as needed as trainers, end-user support, technology evangelists, or to participate in user adoption committees.
User adoption is an ongoing process and keeping your software up to date is important to keeping your users happy, productive, and coming back. Have your vendor demo new feature highlights. And, make time to revisit existing processes to see if improvements can be made based on past experiences as well as new software enhancements.
Standard Operating Procedures and Best Practices
As your team gains more experience in the software, you will need to start carving out SOPs and Best Practices. These guidelines are important to ensure consistency in your team’s work product, ensure the product is being used to its best capabilities, and create overall continuity. Your vendor may also have existing guidelines that can be crafted into your own versions of SOPs and Best Practices – they may be able to help you customize them to fit your particular installation. But don’t let your guidelines go stale – schedule intervals to review and refresh these documents as needed.
One final note – when planning a large enterprise software roll-out, your best bet is to work closely with your vendor. Find out what other services and support they have available to you. In the end, it may be cheaper to leverage their experienced support than to grow these same skills in-house – especially in the beginning stages of integration. Either way, your success is also your vendor’s success. So, take advantage of their support during the process.
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