Why Software Implementations Fail

Have you ever been forced to use a piece of software at work that you absolutely hated, but — for some reason — consumer reviews made it sound great?  It can be frustrating to read reviews or watch testimonial videos claiming that CMMS 123 is a godsend that’s doubled maintenance productivity when wrestling data into CMMS 123 has actually doubled your workload.  In these instances, CMMS 123 is probably a perfectly fine piece of software, but there is a systemic problem that started when CMMS 123 was brought on board at your company.

There are two major factors that lead to this type of poor implementation that prevent software from shining: data integrity and training.

The Data Needs to Match the Reality

Generally speaking, software for business captures data from which management can run reports and inform decision-making.  It should offer other value to the organization by increasing profits or lowering costs, but I challenge you to find an enterprise software that doesn’t have back-end reporting as part of its value statement.

The people who are looking at those reports are the change-makers within your organization, be them the C-Suite, people managers, or Finance.  If people in these positions aren’t happy with the software, you better believe that software is hitting the bricks, and the software’s champion who brought it to them won’t look too good.

To prove your decision to buy a particular software is the right one, you need to give the change-makers what they’re looking for.  So, once you’ve decided to buy, why not walk into your CFO’s office and ask her what she needs to be successful?  Better yet, why not ask before you’ve made the decision, so you can make sure the software can meet that need?  Make sure all of the appropriate stakeholders have had a proactive voice because if they have requirements that aren’t established upfront, there’s a serious risk the system won’t be configured to meet those requirements.  If you find out about that come year-end review time, you could be looking at a costly data migration or, worse yet, having to start the whole buying process over again.

Be sure to connect with these decision makers early and often, then document their requirements in writing so nothing gets missed.  Not only will this ensure clear communication between all parties, but it also creates an audit trail that can be used for future reference or, at the very least, covers your backside if mistakes are discovered down the road.  I think we can all agree butt coverage is a good thing.

The Importance of Training

Training, regardless of the modality or the source, is an invaluable asset whenever you’re introducing new systems into an organization for the first time.  In the case of software specifically, training is often offered by the vendor and it is well worth any additional costs they charge.

Consider a tool like Microsoft Excel.  It’s been on the market for decades and millions of people use it every day.  Some organizations simply need Excel to record basic information, such as the number of orders shipped. Others, however, need to leverage a number of complex formulae and graphing algorithms to be truly efficient at their jobs – and that level of knowledge is never free.  Even if you spend the time looking up reference documents and how-to videos on YouTube, you are still spending your time.

Now, in the case of Excel, there is a wealth of information out there, but for other systems, it may not be as readily available.  The time spent searching for answers in a complex software system will, at the very least, cost you and your organization many hours that could be better spent producing. 

Also, if you’re entering data into software without proper training, it’s very possible you will enter that data incorrectly.  This compromises the whole database and, depending on the severity of the inaccuracy, can cost thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours to repair, potentially offsetting the value of the software entirely. Whenever you’re implementing new software – or change of any kind for that matter – be sure to find the most efficient ways to empower your workforce.

Here’s one personal example when I was given a piece of technology without training: I worked at a local dispatch center for a worldwide truck rental company.  We were given iPhones in a rugged case to check in trucks that were returning from rentals.  The method I was shown for pulling up contracts on the iPhone took 9 clicks, which was often performed while the customer was waiting in the rain or snow. 

After I had been there for nearly a year, I found that the large cases on the phones contained a scanner, and each truck had a barcode sticker right next to the driver’s door.  What had been a time-consuming 9-click process turned into a point-and-shoot that took one second.  Had I been properly trained on that equipment from the start, the check-in process could have been shortened by about a minute per truck, and we often received two dozen trucks on busy days.  If someone had taken a mere two minutes to properly train me, I could have saved the company hundreds of dollars over the course of the year, even at the hourly rate I was being paid.

In Conclusion

Not all software companies are created equally, but the ones worth your time will push to make sure the right people within your organization are involved in the implementation, and that your team has the proper supports in place after go-live.  Don’t simply look for who will check a box for the lowest dollar amount.  Even if you’re under pressure to make a purchasing decision, don’t lose sight of the bigger picture.  Do what you need to do to ensure your software implementation is successful.

About the Author

Graham Bennett is an Account Executive at Ashcom Technologies.  To learn more about Ashcom Technologies, MaintiMizer, or how to better support software within your organization, he can be reached at 1-800-366-0793 ext. 112 or gbennett@ashcomtech.com.

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