Implementing any new software into a company is not something to be underestimated. Regardless of the scope, most software development projects can seem relatively simple yet become quite complex and carry fairly high levels of risk.
The risks involved in software implementation vary depending on the specifics of a particular projectand can range from overspending against your budget to having a significant impact on your company’s ability to deliver ‘business as usual’ functions.
With such business-critical projects, it is therefore important to ensure you have covered all the areas required to support a successful rollout. If you’re completely new to this type of project, by selecting an experienced and reliable software development company, you won’t necessarily need any IT knowledge to achieve your project aims. However, to ensure the most beneficial outcome, you will do well to have someone with general project management experience and the time to dedicate to keeping the project on track.
These key areas of focus tend to pose the most potential risk in a software development project timeline and can easily be overlooked in terms of their significance.
Software developers will tell you what is possible in terms of the technical side of things, they will deliver what you ask from them. Now this is where the onus is on you to know what it is you want to achieve with your new software! For example, if you’re implementing a bespoke CRM do you know what you’re looking to achieve with it? What or who will benefit from its implementation? How will they benefit?
An example of a poor project objective might be – to have a CRM to store customer data in one place. Why is this poor? With this objective you could literally end up with a piece of software which stores your customer data but takes double the resource to maintain!
Therefore, setting very clear, very specific objectives is an important area to get right before you’ve even begun your project.
This is an area which is commonly disregarded yet can have substantial negative consequences when it is! One of the most important stakeholders in a project are the ‘end user’ – the person or people who will have to use the piece of software.
Taking CRM software as an example again – if you don’t use the current system on a day to day basis then what you think is required in terms of functionality for the new software, may be very different from what is vital in reality.
All too often ‘end users’ are kept out of the loop until the time of rollout. Then suddenly companies find themselves having to make major – and let’s not forget expensive! – changes to the design due to an important aspect being overlooked.
Where people are affected by a change, they need to be involved to some degree in it. If this is one person, a whole team or many departments, they all need to be management carefully throughout the process.
Any ‘stakeholder’ who is impacted in some way by the rollout of the software needs to be on board. Change can be stressful at the best of times and implementing new software will inevitability bring with it some change and whilst it may be beneficial for the company as a whole, this doesn’t mean certain stakeholders or end users will agree.
However, having all stakeholders prepared and accepting of this change will avoid unnecessary disruption to your software rollout.
The best way to achieve this is to ensure each individual involved is ‘heard’ and their thoughts, ideas, concerns etc are acknowledged.
Testing – one, two, three
Prior to your businesses new software going live, you will need to allow a considerable amount of time for testing the system, which will need to be undertaken by end users.
Whist testing may seem like an obvious area to pay attention to, its really about being as thorough as possible and allowing for more than just one test. The most effective approach is to test throughout the development and then test for several weeks after completion.
In order for testing to be most effective, time needs to be spent creating a realistic test environment which closely mirrors ‘real world’ scenarios.
To go alongside your change management plan, it’s also wise to, where possible, phase your rollout from old system to new. Doing so will help ease disruption to daily business and avoid adding undue stress and pressure to end users.
It could be for example, that both systems are used simultaneously for a short period until all functionality is completely bug free.