Evaluating New Software
I was reflecting on my notes from several different clients and reconciling the many things I have heard from just about anyone in this industry. We all share the same frustrations relating to the purchasing of new software and then deploying it. Of course we could go on forever about how the software company miss-represented the software’s capabilities or what it will do for us once we complete the purchase and deployment of the software. Don’t get me started on the service issues and the time that it takes to hear back from them and then when I consider how much we paid for the software it should be run our complete company including taking out the trash!
Well I can tell you that everyone has a story or complaint about some aspect of their experience and most of the time it typically lays most of the responsibility of failure on the software company. I am not saying they are completely innocent, for when I said those same things, I really believed it to be true. After some time in reflection and as I now have worked with many companies going through this I have come to several conclusions that may help any company prepare themselves to better understand what they should expect as well as the active role required by them to ensure they don’t turn into the victim here.
While it is true that every software company may say their product will transform your company to be something it is not, almost by itself (that is what most people hear and want to believe). Adapting the software requires that most of us are going to have to change how we do things, conform to more of an engineered process or structure and actually be consistent about how we run our business!
WHAT! Wait a second In order to that, well there are so many things I need to figure out! The questions they ask me. If I knew most of those answers I probably wouldn’t need the software now would I? Now they want to transfer my old data but wait! I need to clean it up because there is a bunch of records in there that need to be updated or deleted before you take it.
I think you are beginning to understand where I am going. We perform our due diligence to make a good decision about what to purchase as our best solution and yet we need to prepare ourselves for what we say we want. I recommend that you prepare yourself for any such event by first asking, what are the pre-purchase projects that need to be planned and executed?
1. Leadership – Who will be in charge of this huge undertaking and how will things be communicated through your company? Who will act as the liaison between you and the software company? Who will keep the troops from revolting and claiming MUTINY in the darkest hour keeping the vision moving forward? Is it a single person or do you form a committee?
2. Data – What is the condition of your existing data? So many companies believe new software cleanses the old data and makes it work perfect. Garbage in is still garbage! Have some understanding of what the new software will need and what’s their process for de-duping the data. Identify the strategy with your new software partner as to the importing of the data and how it will be mapped over. This also includes job records and critical accounting numbers. There needs to be checks and balances to ensure the numbers match. Chances are you will have more than one person verifying this from Production, Accounting and Marketing.
3. Training – Typically the software company provides your basic training that is fairly topical and a few layers deep. The better you answered the questions in the beginning the better your training may be. So many people get caught in the belief that they were not trained sufficiently as to how the software will transform their company. Think about it as Crawl, Walk, & Run. Your new software is capable of performing task that you have not even imagined yet, so being trained on it would be wasteful and inappropriate to say the least. Even if you were trained on the advance features of the software you would likely be so overwhelmed by the foundational items. You need to pace yourself and understand the need to learn in stages knowing there will come a day after you have crawled and walked to run.
4. Proper expectations – Get in writing what to expect and also what you are expecting. So many times this serves as the foundation for failure in this relationship for not having it fully clarified. Now you have a he said/ she said back and forth and it causes the project to lose focus and demoralize the beliefs needed to complete the vision and project. Once those are established, communicate them accordingly as timing requires to the parties involved.
5. Patience – This will be required at all levels and so often when your urge is to pick up a phone and tear someone down you need to reverse this into a building up process while communicating the need or frustration. You will be better for it in the long run. Think of it as the ol’ honey and vinegar adage, you are building a long-term partnership with your software company and you need them to appreciate how you work with them.
6. Knowledge of your company – As much as software companies know about your business, they have built software that conforms to most companies, not yours specifically. So many of us allow ourselves to get frustrated and believe that we should get help in how we adapt every aspect of our company’s processes and procedures. It is not their job to do this and the money they have charged you will not accommodate this! If you think that then let me set you straight. This will take years to accomplish and should be built into your plan and expectations. Crawl, Walk, & Run! You can expedite this by enrolling the help of your fellow companies that are with your network or by hiring companies with experience in the adaptation of software. It is very common that software companies build software and then Pro Advisors (experts in the use of the software) assist in adapting and learning how it is that your company will use the tools and features of the software.
7. Perseverance – I equate most people’s growth in using software to that of buying and old car. We buy it, put new tires on it and get it running to where we can drive it without breakdowns and then we get complacent and stop working on it. It is like we bought a race car but we can only use it to go to the track but can’t actually race with it. Crawl, Walk, & Run! Don’t lose sight of running someday and keep your team focused on the continued growth and evolution of your investment and drive your company to your goals of success.
Getting on a new software is never easy and a huge commitment. Generally speaking, we will complain that the software falls short from what we were sold it to be but I believe it is our responsibility to demand from the software what we need and expect, and that generally means we have to demand that of ourselves first.
Chris Hill, President – JCMH Consulting