Humans are creatures of habit. By nature, few of us relish change. We enjoy the comfort and familiarity of what we know. Sometimes we prefer to stay with what we know even when presented with evidence of a better, even more comfortable path forward.
This inherent human tendency to resist change is one of the biggest threats to the success of any new software implementation. During our twenty years of experience working with agencies, we’ve witnessed many successful new software implementations and some spectacular disasters.
Based on those observations, here are five foundational steps we recommend every agency to explore when a new software implementation is on the horizon.
From the outset, it’s critical to engage your team and secure their buy-in to go along with the coming changes. This means communicate, communicate, communicate. Communicate the reasons for the new software implementation and communicate the benefits each part of the team can expect to experience with the new solution.
Make plans to communicate regularly and often. Nothing spooks a team more than having big changes swirling about which they know nothing. This kicks the gossip mill into operation and before you know it, you’ll find yourself on the back foot unravelling all sorts of unfounded rumours.
As people learn in different ways, it’s also important to communicate in different formats. That might include team meetings, email updates, videos, or using your intranet or centralized agency management solution.
It’s not unusual for teams to feel threatened by a new software implementation. Some may fear their own job will become redundant. Others may fear they won’t be able to learn a new system or process. Some of those fears may be valid, while others may not. Part of an agency owner’s job in introducing a new software implementation is to address team fears and be crystal clear on the path forward. Once teams genuinely understand the future direction and their personal role in it, they tend to be more comfortable aligning to the new solution.
There are two resource considerations that can make or break the success of any new software implementation.
The first is the technology partner you choose to implement the software. No agency wants to be the technology partner’s first implementation. When reviewing providers of the software your agency needs, look for technology partners who have a proven track record of delivering the solution you need. Check their team are experienced with the software they’re implementing, that they understand your industry and are fluent in agency best practices. Ask for customer references so you can directly explore what is it like to work with this partner from other agencies who have already had the experience. Explore their support model so you can have peace of mind that if you need help in the future, it will be available. Review the strategic plans the technology partner has for their software. After all, as your agency grows, you need a software solution that can grow with you.
The second resource consideration is internal. Many agencies, particularly smaller agencies, are tempted to keep their best team members away from a new software implementation. While it might feel counter-intuitive, involving your best employees in designing the future solution can actually lead to the implementation of a stronger result. Generally, your A-team understands the good, the bad and the ugly realities of how work moves across the agency. Their perspectives will be invaluable to optimizing the new software implementation. Those same team members will also become advocates for the change among their peers, which will help strengthen adoption.
Every agency business is unique and internal processes tend to build up over time that reflect each agency’s unique profile. Sometimes a new software implementation will need adjustments to match how your agency works in practice. And sometimes agencies will decide to change the ways in which they work in order to better fit the solution provided by the new software. Either way, including team members in discussions about the new solution and the needed future processes will help inform the decisions that need to be made to create the best path forward.
Training is a critical phase of every new software implementation. This is when your team will learn how to use the new solution and where to establish a standard for expected use. Many software providers train one or two people in a business, who then become ‘power users’. Power users are tasked with helping train the rest of the team and usually become a default internal contact to trouble-shoot problems. A secondary, but equally important, part of training is to provide documentation to the team on how the new solution works.
There’s nothing like giving your team a quick win to create optimism and excitement around a new software implementation. When the team personally experiences improvements in how quickly, effectively or easily they can do their jobs each day, support for the new software will rapidly amplify.
As you’re planning the new software implementation, look for opportunities to deliver quick wins to the team. Where possible, focus on solving pain points that touch the entire team. For example, moving your client database out of spreadsheets and into a cloud-based CRM system. If that’s not possible, focus on maximising improvements to one or two areas that are big time sinks or profitability taxes to your agency. For example, integrating your financial system to your agency solution to remove the need for double-data entry to generate invoices each month.
The more an agency can plan for change, the more likely that the new software implementation will be an outstanding success. Of course, the very first step in preparing for a new software implementation is deciding on the solution you want to rollout.
Explore whether Function Point’s all-in-one centralized agency solution is right for you by requesting a demo.