Did you know…

  • Only 9 percent of businesses fully realize the benefits of the software they’ve implemented
  • 57 percent of implementation projects go over budget
  • Just 43 percent of projects stay on schedule
  • 80 percent of businesses offer little to no change management during software implementation

When it comes to software implementation, without thorough research, there’s a risk that you’ll purchase a system that’s woefully underpowered and barely suited to your business’ needs. If you get it wrong, at best, you’ll have a training management system that does about half the things you actually need it to do. At worst, you’ll be stuck with a white elephant no one’s using, but you’re still paying for.

Successful software implementation rests on one key factor: strong leadership.

Remember, it starts with you.

We’ve all had to deal with apathetic co-workers who suck the joie de vivre out of anyone within a four-mile radius. Usually, interactions end when you realize, “If they don’t care, why should I?”

Multiply that feeling; that’s how any implementations will come across if you’re not personally involved in the proposal from the beginning. Not only do you have to know the brief inside-out and truly understand what the project means for you, your staff and your business, but it also needs to fire you up.

Did Steve Jobs ever seem unhappy unveiling the latest Apple product? Of course not; he was bounding around the stage, extolling its virtues. That excitement is incredibly infectious – particularly when it comes from the top – and it aids in one of the most crucial pre-implementation stages…

Work with your team to gain internal buy-in.

You want employees on your side, because ultimately, they’ll get the most out of a new system. The alternative is investing in a white elephant (which, to be sure, is a conversation starter, but relatively useless for course management).

While some people will get on board with software implementation, others will be skeptical or put on a show of acceptance because their salaries are on the line. That’s why, according to Panorama Consulting’s 2016 ERP Systems and Enterprise Software Report, resistance to change and internal resistance to changing processes are the top two implementation challenges companies faces.

Success relies on the key weapon in a leader’s arsenal: effective communication. You’ll want to put on your marketing hat and focus on the core benefits, not the system features, directly related to each job role. Make that journey as personalized as possible. Give your team something to believe in, and offer the sort of vision only real leaders can deliver. Your company’s vision is informed by the system capabilities.

Understand what the system can do, can’t do, will do and won’t do

Taking the initiative on a large-scale system implementation involves eliminating ignorance from the top down. As we know from Orwell’s “1984,” ignorance is not strength.

You’ll find plenty of software is often billed as a life-changing, business-defining, catch-all silver bullet. So, it’s not surprising that training companies often have unrealistic expectations of what they can achieve once the new system is in place. (Cue those angry phone calls asking why, if they were promised X, the system only does Y.)

First, corral your departmental heads to discuss system requirements in as much detail as possible to find out precisely what it needs to do. Then, marry those requirements to your chosen system. Remember, you’re looking for the perfect system, with functionalities that complement your business, not simply a “right” system (and definitely not just an “all right” one).

Once you’ve chosen your software, take the time to discuss potential pitfalls with your implementation manager. They’ll be well-versed in common issues and will be able to advise you on how to prevent them from negatively impacting your business.

Monitor your implementation, and mentor your team.

There’s more to an implementation roadmap than simply using it as an “A-to-Z” guide. It may be important to help you reach your final destination, but it’s invaluable to keep your team and the overall project on track throughout the implementation phase.

Too many companies see their implementation plans delay or go over budget; spending that spirals out of control is one of the chief reasons for failure. The course of technology never runs smoothly, and barriers may naturally present themselves. As a leader, you must take command of those barriers, seeking solutions rather than looking for problems (or, worse, succumbing to inertia).

Preventing serious and debilitating issues relies on constant monitoring and, where necessary, mentoring of staff. That doesn’t mean taking an autocratic approach. Measure their performance against the projected timeline, and make clear that by using it, everyone understands expectations and requirements. Schedule regular meetings with both your software supplier and your team to discuss where you are and how to stay on track.

Know your end goal.

You wouldn’t believe how many companies introduce a new system without a clear idea of the whys, hows and whens. They may have a general idea of where they want their training business to be in a year’s time but no clear path to that destination. Often, it’s because they don’t understand what the new system can achieve or because they set unrealistic goals.

After leading discussions with your team and supplier, you’ll know exactly what the system is capable of, how it does it and how it must work for you. Strategic planning is critical to success, so gather your top-level management and system supplier to finalize your end goal and create a focused path to deliver it. That is the flag on your Everest.

Software implementation is one of the biggest challenges a company faces, and it’ll take leadership skills to take your team on an exciting journey and use their expertise to aid you in navigating a path to training system success.