What is software implementation?

Every year, organizations all over the world implement new software packages and systems. Every year, many of those organizations struggle to realize the benefits of that software implementation.  Having…

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April 19, 20218 minute read

Every year, organizations all over the world implement new software packages and systems. Every year, many of those organizations struggle to realize the benefits of that software implementation. 

Having access to the latest software is vital for business success, but deploying new tools and software can be complex. Success relies on taking a structured approach to software implementation. 

What is software implementation? 

In 1985, the Harvard Business Review wrote: “For all the dollars spent by American companies on R&D, there often remains a persistent and troubling gap between the inherent value of the technology they develop and their ability to put it to work effectively.” 

Fast-forward nearly 40 years and it seems that little has changed. The Standish Group reports that almost 85 percent of IT projects fail partially or completely. That’s very expensive. It’s estimated poor software quality cost companies in the US alone over $2 trillion in 2020

When you stop to think about it, that’s quite strange. Organizations have faced the challenge of software implementation for more than 60 years now, but we seem to be getting worse at it. In 2020, unsuccessful development projects were the largest growth area causing poor software quality. The number of failed projects has risen a stunning 48 percent since 2018.  

So what is software implementation? And why is it so tough? 

The answer to the first part of the question is relatively easy. You can define software implementation as the processes and procedures needed to take software applications and tools from planning and development to the production stage. It’s important, however, to realize that this software implementation definition doesn’t end at go live. It encompasses important areas such as user adoption, education and training, as well as future software enhancements and upgrades. 

Implementing a new software system 

Answering the second part of our question is a bit trickier. You can say that the sheer scale and complexity of modern enterprise software applications dwarf anything that was available even a decade ago. This is, of course true but it can’t be the full story. After all, the software may have changed but what we want from the software implementation program really hasn’t. 

We want great features that help us improve our business operations and customer experience. We want to provide those features to the right users in a way that engages them and gets them working with the new software quickly. We want to ensure that, at the end of the day, we realize the business benefits and returns on investment we sought to achieve at the start. 

Each software implementation program and the business requirements for each organization will be different. But getting there is pretty similar every time. IT professionals with years—even decades—of experience in software implementation project management apply a structured set of steps to build and execute their program. 

There are many moving parts to a software implementation program, and your software implementation plan will include many capabilities and activities. But they are largely repeatable across every IT project you undertake. 

How to ensure successful software implementation 

We’ve created a (very long) list of the key actions to take in any software implementation project: 

  • Secure executive sponsors from the beginning to drive and fund the project. 
  • Build a steering committee from across the organization to monitor and maintain direction. 
  • Build a cross-functional team for the software implementation project, including business users and IT, that are involved from planning and development to deployment and adoption. 
  • Develop a clear statement of requirements for the features and functionality of the new system or tool. 
  • Identify and optimize the underlying business processes that will be affected by the new software. 
  • Plan every detail of development and deployment carefully, and continually assess and amend your plans. 
  • Set realistic project goals from the outset and manage expectations of what each part of the business will receive, including business users, IT, HR and finance. 
  • Put project management and change management in the foundation of your software implementation plans. 
  • Communicate early, communicate often, communicate consistently and communicate with everyone—including partners and customers. 
  • Build champions in the business units where the new software will be delivered. 
  • Make education and training a key element of the project and, where possible, customize training to specific business areas or user groups. 
  • Remember that every dollar and hour spent on user acceptance and adoption will pay back handsomely. 
  • Keep customization of the new software as minimal as possible. 
  • Carefully chart the process through development, testing and production. 
  • Establish KPIs early and ensure an ongoing monitoring and measurement regime. 
  • Install continuous improvement and begin planning for the next set of enhancements and upgrades from the initial go live. 

We’ll look at these program elements in greater detail in our next blog: How to implement a new software system. 

5 steps to software implementation success 

Few organizations have OpenText’s track record of successfully delivering software implementation programs for companies worldwide. OpenText Professional Services promotes the following five best practices to ensure you gain full value when implementing and operating your Enterprise Information Management solutions:  

Plan for success 

When starting software implementation, there are considerable benefits to adopting a business-centric strategy from the outset. This approach identifies and prioritizes goals to support near- and longer-term planning that can form a roadmap of projects. You need to plan for a good cross-functional team to steer and deliver your project. 

Go live faster 

You should always look for opportunities to manage scope and accelerate implementation and adoption. The longer and more complex the project scope, the more risk and cost you’ll accumulate before an opportunity to realize benefits. It’s essential all business stakeholders and key roles are engaged and buy-in to the project’s mission, the solution, and adoption expectations – this is key to establishing the right scope to go faster and achieving business results sooner. 

Maximize adoption 

This begins by identifying the features within the new software that will drive the most business benefit. The next stage of software implementation is to work with business users to fine-tune these features to support the way people work. You can perform a limited pilot release of a few features to a small set of users and build momentum through early adoption. However, your software launch must have real purpose to engage across the organization. Adoption specialists are key: they will advocate for the business and add considerable value throughout planning, solution build and acceptance. 

Operate to delight 

Users are expecting a highly available, high-performing and secure system. Those basics have a large impact on whether business users gain initial trust in the system. However, users today expect more when implementing new software. They want an experience that’s rewarding and engaging. They want the data and content they need for their jobs, when and where they need it. The better the user experience, the quicker and more effective the user adoption. 

Build on success 

After any stage of the software implementation program, promote its success, recognize champions and reflect on business benefits to promote innovation. Objectively assess your initial program outcomes and ensure benefits are being realized. Immediately begin to engage the business to prioritize evolutionary improvements that will foster buy-in and additional business value.  

Why work with OpenText Professional Services? 

For over 20 years, OpenText Professional Services has successfully implemented Enterprise Information Management (EIM) solutions for companies across the globe. Today, we have the world’s largest pool of EIM experts certified on OpenText products and solutions. Our teams have delivered over 40,000 engagements in the past 25 years. Today we help deliver and manage systems for over 2000 companies and have been implementing EIM solutions designed to delight users and drive business. 

Customers benefit from the integrated relationship our Professional Services team has with customer service and product engineering. This allows us to ensure that companies optimize the value of their software implementation investment throughout the entire application lifecycle. 

Learn more about OpenText Professional Services. 

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OpenText, The Information Company, enables organizations to gain insight through market-leading information management solutions, powered by OpenText Cloud Editions.

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