Today, technology drives the success of your organization. Firms of all sizes add new technology to improve operations, from investing in security measures like a password manager and adding tools to better segment customers to implementing new HR platforms to streamline hiring, on-boarding, and payroll processes. However, for technology to be effective and adopted by your users, it needs to be implemented correctly. It’s not always easy; a 2013 McKinsey study suggests that 70% of digital transformations fail.
An oft-cited cautionary tale is that of FoxMeyer, a massive U.S. pharmaceutical company. In the early 90s, the company implemented an ERP system to increase efficiencies. The project was intended to cost between $35 and $65 million. Three years later, the company had spent $100 million on it and eventually went bankrupt. FoxMeyer, which was reportedly worth $5 billion at one point, was sold to a competitor for $80 million.
Given the risks and failures, why would a business invest in these complex launches? Because the right technology can save you time and money, deliver a better customer experience, improve internal and external relationships, and help your business grow and thrive. The key is to launch it the right way. In this post, we share six “ready to launch” best practices to successfully implement technology in your organization this year.
6 Steps to Successfully Implement Firm-Wide Technology
1) What is your goal?
Before you do anything, articulate your goals. Create a technology project plan with clear and consistent information on your objectives for the launch. The plan should answer the question: Why am I introducing this new solution and what do I and my team hope to achieve with it? How exactly will the implementation help you meet your goals? For example, are you trying to streamline an existing process to improve productivity, enhance a service or feature for more sales, enable internal communication for better company culture, or engage your network to meet business development goals?
The next component of a solid project plan is to chart out how you’ll do it. For example, if you’re implementing a new CRM at your organization, how exactly will you get there? Will you need a hardware or software solution? Which one? What is your budget for the launch and who will be involved?
Depending on the complexity of the implementation, you may also want to develop a calendar and timeline for the launch. This should include a list of all necessary tasks and needs such as equipment, resources, and staff. Establishing a more detailed project plan can help you avoid delays or unexpected costs. It will also help your team, and your entire organization, stay up to date on the bigger picture, which could generate excitement and bolster support around the launch.
While you’re doing this deep thinking and putting your plan together, don’t ignore any risks that pop up. The strongest implementation project plan will mitigate risk by identifying it upfront and in a realistic manner. For example, what legacy platforms or tools could cause a problem once a new solution is implemented? What regulatory hurdles might you have to plan for? What data security risks might the launch introduce?
2) Understand All of your Users
Heading in to your implementation, know this: Some of your staff will be excited about it, others will be reluctant or even averse to it. Take the time to understand how different areas or practices within your organization will benefit from the technology and communicate these advantages early and often. Another tip is to identify a set of users to be involved in a sort of “pilot launch” to provide feedback throughout the project. By including users early in the process, you can gain valuable feedback and address any looming issues before the big launch.
In the FoxMeyer example, one of the explanations for the failure is that the warehouse workers – those whose jobs were most likely to be affected by the new automated solution – were not supportive of the project. A ComputerWorld article reported that one of the warehouses that was automated was sabotaged by employees, leaving orders unfilled. One can’t help but wonder if the project team had involved and assured the workers earlier, that the implementation might have been less of a failure (and less costly).
If the tech solution has an external component, plan to ask the same questions of your customers. How do you anticipate they will react to the launch? Will they require further instructions or support to use it, or will the solution and their experience be seamless?
3) Technology of Champions
This next tip is also about your users. To ensure a successful adoption, find an internal champion who can promote the solution to the rest of the team or organization. A post from HireVue describes an internal champion as someone who is, “…not just a strong adopter but is an active believer in the technology and its potential, and someone who’s willing to go the extra mile to promote its usage internally.” This could be a few well-respected individuals within the organization or an entire department that's seen as innovative and influential.
HireVue recalls a recent experience with two “instrumental” internal champions at a large retail company. They were from two different teams, and each brought relevant expertise from their functions to act as specialists on the new tool and encourage adoption. The champions acted as internal change-agents, created monthly newsletters, joined weekly calls over the course of nine months, and trained other “super-users” below them.
With any tech implementation, your leadership team has an opportunity to help it succeed. In addition to supporting the project via budget and resources, your executive team and board can set the right framework and mind-set from the very beginning. A Forbes article posits that the majority of launches fail because of a poor mind-set. Leaders must shift from thinking of the launch as a stand-alone “event” to that of a “journey” that will evolve over time and may require agility and ongoing support.
4) Market your Solution
Ideally, the project map you put together includes an internal communication plan to keep your team up to date on the progress of the launch. Good venues in which to share these updates include: at monthly or quarterly staff meetings, in a staff newsletter, as the focus of an internal webinar, at a town hall-style meeting, or via periodic announcements on your company’s intranet. Keeping your organization in the loop is also a great way to build excitement over the long term and to quell concerns now versus after the launch.
If your implementation was particularly innovative, or if it was intended to improve customer experience or enhance security, let this be known! Consider sending a press release, placing a special temporary banner on your website, scheduling a Twitter chat for your customers to test the tool and ask questions, or even hosting a contest or giveaway campaign around the launch to engage your network.
5) Provide Ample Training
Tip five is obvious but important: To embrace and use your new tool, users need to understand how it works! Spend the needed time and resources to properly train your staff on the new technology. Depending on your organization, you may need to create multiple versions of the training to ensure that it’s relevant and at the right level for a particular department or function.
The side-benefit of training is that it gives you an opportunity to secure buy-in as you can showcase the tangible benefits of the new tool to individuals or groups. There’s a natural tendency to resist change, especially if the implementation is replacing a legacy system that has been used for years or even decades. Make the training meaningful, positive, and provide leave-behind resources or tip sheets. Another best practice is to provide a forum for feedback. A short time after launch, send a survey to staff to see how the adoption is going. For more, see this previous post on cybersecurity training tips; it includes a few helpful pointers about making training content relevant and fun.
6) You did it! Now Measure Your Progress
In our scenario, you’ve launched your new solution and trained your team. Congratulations! A final step is to measure the success of the overall project by referring back to the goals you identified at the beginning. Ask yourself and the project team: Did we meet our objective? What challenges arose and how did we overcome them? What wins did we encounter? Continually track, measure, and make improvements to ensure the highest level of adoption and benefit for users, both now and over the long-term. Be sure to clearly document your findings to inform your next successful technology implementation.
Get the Help you Need, when you Need It
While the right tech can grow your business, implementing it can be complex. No one intends to fail at implementation (recall the harsh lesson of FoxMeyer), and there will be challenges at every stage before and after launch. Start with these six best practices and approach your project with a focus on planning, people (your users), and a positive, agile mind-set. Look for opportunities for buy-in throughout the project and roll-out robust training and resources to ensure adoption.
Another tip is to turn to the experts. Numerous firms specialize in technology implementations to help you deliver on your business vision. We’re one of them! At N8 Solutions, we understand that your business is unique, which is why your technology should be, too. We can advise to help you see the big picture and make sense of the ever-evolving maze of available technologies. We’re also experts on navigating complex projects and can provide you with support for the duration of or at key points of your implementation project. Partnering with the right vendor can help you get ready for a successful launch that ensures adoption and mitigates risk.
We wish you the best on your implementation journey!