What do people do wrong after buying a new software product?
The answer is simple.
They don’t implement it properly.
A lot of people think the entire buying-new-software process begins and ends with selecting the software, purchasing it, and installing it on their computers. When that’s done, they think the software’s ready to go, and then a few days or weeks later, they wonder why it isn’t working as well as they’d hoped and why it isn’t delivering the value they had anticipated.
When you buy new software for your legal firm, there are a lot of points to consider.
Have a checklist of what success looks like
Why did you buy the software?
What are you hoping to achieve by using it?
You knew the answer to those questions before you even purchased the software – or you should have done; otherwise, how could you be sure that the software you’ve bought is the right software for your needs? – so don’t lose sight of those answers now that it’s time to use it.
Make a plan of how you’re going to implement the software properly
Commit the time you need to make the plan work.
Appoint a project manager, somebody who will be in charge of rolling the new software out across the company and ensuring that the people who will use the software are trained and up-to-speed with the reasons they’re using it and the advantages it will bring. They should also fully understand the business processes so that those processes can either be debated and changed or followed to get the best out of the new software. The project manager doesn’t necessarily need to be an IT expert, but they do need to be proficient in what the new software does, how it works, and be able to field any questions or concerns. Preferably, it should also be someone who’s going to use the new software themselves. There are few things worse than a ‘hands off’ project manager who isn’t using the new software they’re telling everyone else they’ve got to use. It tends to bring out the cynic in people.
Just as crucially, your project manager should be joined at the hip with the software provider’s implementation team. A fully aligned project team made up of the customer and the software provider is key to achieving a successful implementation.
Don’t skimp on training
When a new software product fails to meet your expectations, that’s often not the fault of the software product. It’s more likely because the people who are using the software product haven’t been appropriately trained.
It’s tempting to install the software, hand the person the user manual, and leave them to get on with it. Or give them a quick half-hour demo that only tells them as much as they need to know and trust that the information will sink in over time.
That isn’t the solution. Instead, think about it this way.
When you buy a new software product for your company, it’s an investment.
Investments only work when they are given time to grow.
Training each user thoroughly so they’re comfortable and confident with the new software and completely understand the in’s and out’s of how it works is growing your investment.
Spend to Save
‘Spend to Save’ is an expression it’s important to bear in mind, especially if you’re feeling tempted to cut corners on software implementation to save your business some money.
What ‘Spend to Save’ means is, ‘Invest in the present to save in the future.’ In my experience, the businesses that don’t invest in the present are much more likely to fall back on the old, fallible, manual processes of the past. Before they know it, their new software will become an expensive paperweight, and it wouldn’t be the software’s fault.
Spending to Save might feel like it’s hurting the bank account right now, but it will pay dividends before you realise it.
Don’t restrict training to a single session
Instead, If the software is particularly intricate, break up the training into several short sessions so that the user has a chance to familiarise themselves with it over time, build up their knowledge, and ask questions. In training and coaching, this is sometimes called ‘The Slight Edge’ approach.
Even if the software is simple and straightforward, don’t make the training rushed. We all learn in different ways. Some people learn better in a ‘classroom situation’ when they’re shown step-by-step what to do and have the trainer sitting beside them watching them do it. Other people learn better when they’re shown what to do, given the manual or some brief written instructions, and then allowed time ‘outside the classroom’ to work it out for themselves.
No matter how the initial training is arranged, it’s essential to follow it up a few days and weeks later with a ‘refresher’ session. That won’t just reinforce the previous training; it will also allow people to ask questions, talk about their experience of using the software so far, and share what they’ve learned with other users.
Even before the first training session, make sure your people are adequately prepared
Don’t spring the new software on them at the last moment by sitting them down at the desk and breaking the news, “Here’s the new software you’ll be using now.” Prepare them beforehand by giving them some background on why you’re implementing the new software and what the company (and they) will gain from using it. If there’s any documentation to read, give it to them before the first session, so they’ve got a chance to acquaint themselves with it in advance.
If possible, test the new software before making it live
a) take the pressure off users by giving them the chance to make mistakes and practice day-to-day scenarios.
b) give your IT team a window to make adjustments before the software goes live and find a solution with your provider if a problem is more complicated.
Engage your team
It doesn’t matter how good your new software is. The rest of your people need to be as invested in it as you are; otherwise, they’ll avoid using it or only use it when they have to (so it’s unlikely that what they learned during their training will stick.)
Ensure your team understands the benefits and features of the new software and how it will impact their work. Clearly communicate how the new software will be rolled out, what the timescales are, and what the specific goals will be for achieving results. Let them see that the management team is as engaged in implementing and using the new software as they are. If you’re holding a ‘classroom style’ group training session, try to mix it up a little bit so that managers/supervisors/team leaders are also part of the class, and the other trainees can see that they’re learning too.
Take full advantage of the training provided by the software provider
A reputable software provider will always provide comprehensive training on the new software.
Make sure that most, if not all, of the people who’ll be using the new software participate in the software provider’s training.
It’s tempting to try and save time and resources by limiting the number of people the software provider trains, so that those people can train the rest of their colleagues later. But when you do that, you’re diluting the expertise that the software provider’s training gives you. As far as possible, ensure that all users are trained by the software provider so that there’s no misunderstanding about what to do and no questions are left unasked and unanswered.
And if your software provider doesn’t provide software training, that’s a big red flag you’d be wise to investigate before you make your software purchase.
Also, give feedback to the software vendor so that they can make changes, improvements, and develop new features for future releases. You should expect to receive a number of releases and software changes throughout the year, possibly with new functionality, so make sure your software provider gives you adequate training on those too, otherwise the efficacy of the software will soon diminish.
Don’t forget that adopting new technology is essential if you’re going to streamline your business and stay ahead of your competition, but only if you do it properly.
Buying and installing the software is never enough.
Making a clear plan, engaging your team, and ensuring each user has comprehensive and supportive training is the way to make it happen.