8 Tips for Successfully Implementing New Software

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Some implementations are urgently needed to maintain operations—like getting everyone on Teams or Zoom as quickly as possible in the early weeks of a global pandemic—while others may not be as pressing but are essential for the long-term success of the business. Whether it's a lightweight tool that only a single team will use or a complex solution for an entire organization, implementing new software can be a daunting process. It’s important to understand that implementing software is like managing any project and making it a success is completely controllable.

Over the years, I've found a few companies, and in that time, I have managed the roll-out of hundreds of software systems across several different industries, including sales, marketing, finance, architecture, engineering, and software development. Here, I’ll share eight tried-and-true strategies to ensure the implementation of any new software is as efficient and convenient as possible.

1. Understand why you need to modernize your software systems

A key part of implementing new software is helping your organization understand why the change is necessary.

"You're only as good as your system."

A digital system to manage data is essential because it provides a repeatable way for your business to manage information. How information is managed is your company’s operating system, and it’s key to growing your business. Every business is only as good as its system. The more your system improves, the ceiling of what can be managed rises with it.  

"What can be measured can be improved."

Most importantly, you can then measure the data from the digital system and understand what's happening to optimize the process further. Younger generations have experienced the benefits of software in all areas of their life and want modern software tools at work to help them manage and improve their performance. They require their software to be fast and intuitive, with the latest technologies like machine learning and AI. Continuing to use legacy software means an organization will lose out on attracting the next generation of talent, which is vital for sustaining a long-term business.

"Modernizing your software systems is no longer a choice."

Nothing highlights the benefits of using software like technology startups. As Paul Graham defines it, a startup is a company designed to grow fast. They manage their incredible growth (Mosaic grew nearly 500% in 2022) by strategically leveraging software. Technology impacts an organization's performance so significantly that modernizing your technology is no longer a choice it's survival and must be a key part of every organization's operational strategy. The world is rapidly changing, and we must move forward or get left behind, like Blockbuster, Barnes & Noble, and countless other businesses that rested on their past successes.

2. Focus on why you're implementing new software

Part of the implementation process must be identifying and sharing reasons for the change with everyone involved consistently throughout the process. Establish this "why" and explain it to your team early and often.

Detail the need for change, the issues the software solves, and the benefits they'll gain. Lean on the software provider for sales collateral that highlights the benefits to share with everyone involved in the implementation. For example, Mosaic highlights that our customers' experience:

  • improved transparency regarding who is working on what,
  • significantly higher utilization and profitability
  • increased billings by capturing additional services,
  • fewer late nights and weekends to complete work.
"The best motivator to change is a clear sense of purpose in creating the change."

Conveying the value of the software implementation to your entire organization is essential. Outline how this solution will positively impact the day-to-day responsibilities of each team member.  The best motivator to change is a clear sense of purpose in creating the change. Gaining buy-in early on will drive the momentum required to change and generate the support needed to overcome later hurdles throughout the change process.

3. Make the decision to change

Getting your employees to embrace new software can be a serious challenge. Speak to salespeople at any software company, and you'll learn that the excuses for not signing up are all generally the same:

  • "It will be more work than our current process."
  • "We don't think we can get people to update the system."
  • "It's too complex."

Keep in mind that the same people proclaiming their challenges are often using incredibly complex software to do their job. Complexity isn't the real issue. All of these excuses are simply them expressing humans’ innate and natural resistance to change. There's nothing unique about it.

"The company that needs a new machine tool and hasn't bought it, is already paying for it." —Charlie Munger

Deciding to use new software is an investment in the future. Results can often be hard to quantify, but study after study shows that introducing the right software into your organization always results in improved productivity and collaboration and typically increases revenue through time savings and improved efficiency.

Despite this, you will still struggle to get everyone in your organization to accept new software—and you shouldn't try. Politics highlights that most decisions in life and business are divisive. Opinions will vary depending on your employees' openness to new technology and willingness to learn a new tool. There must be a top-level decision to make the change, understanding that the long-term benefits will surely outweigh any initial time investment and short-term learning curve.

For example, deciding to implement Mosaic is a commitment to gaining real-time visibility into:

  1. Workload—what projects everyone is working on—to increase your utilization and profitability, and
  2. Project budgets to identify and limit scope creep so you don't lose money.

To ensure a successful implementation, leadership must fully commit to improvement and prepare for the challenges that come with a change process. It is helpful for leaders to employ the same mindset of the pandemic's early days—change is required for your business's survival because, in the long term, it is.

4. Anticipate resistance and focus on slowly changing habits

As highlighted above, people often express concern about implementing the software and failing to get everyone to use it. Change upends what we know and what is familiar at work. Change is hard for everyone, but it's necessary for innovation and progress.

Our behaviors are merely bundles of habits, some genetic but mostly learned. Only by understanding how we establish habits can we begin to change bad habits and create new, more effective patterns. Books like The Power of Habit and Atomic Habits can help us understand how we can use habits to structure a successful implementation plan.

People’s natural instinct is to meet change with resistance, and the level of defiance will differ based on the individual. Knowing this, we must approach this process with a change management plan that anticipates resistance. Everett Rogers's classic model of technology adoption (Diffusion of Innovation Theory) helps us highlight what you'll experience in your implementation.

Five established adopter categories of the Diffusion of Innovation Theory (Everett Rogers)

Only about 16%, of the Innovators and Early Adopters, will adopt new software quickly. When rolling out new software, your initial focus should be on these groups. You must enlist their cooperation and effort to capture the next 34% who make up the Early Majority, for a total of 50%, which will then enable you to convert the Late Majority. Laggards, the last 16%, are often uncomfortable learning and using new tools and tend to use familiar software as long as possible. With this group, the only means to drive change requires completely eliminating legacy options and closely monitoring their progress.

You can efficiently manage and overcome resistance throughout the implementation process by consistently communicating and engaging with all parties involved in the transition. Here are some communication tips from ADP.

5. Manage the implementation like every other project

Treat a new software implementation like any other project—with project leaders and managers. If multiple departments or divisions are involved with the implementation, then each one should have a project manager. Set and follow schedules and milestones. Be sure to assign clear responsibilities to everyone managing the implementation project. Your project leaders must be fully invested in the change to help build momentum around the new software and to convince others to use it.

The project team should closely engage any champions, supporters, and early adopters of the software to be advocates for new technology and drive the transition process. They will be a vital part of the project team as you'll need them to drive change, create accountability, educate other teammates, and gather feedback.

6. Set up a reward system

The promise of a streamlined process and automating tedious work are sure to excite employees, but long-term benefits will not guarantee enthusiastic participation throughout the challenges of the process. Creating other forms of motivation will generate the cooperation and momentum needed to facilitate the change.

If the implementation of the new software isn't part of their normal role, consider giving cash bonuses to employees who help champion the process, with part of the bonus contingent on successfully meeting milestones and goals. The right reward system should provide a range of ways to motivate the team. For some team members, this is a cash bonus; for others, it could be public recognition, a change in status, more challenging projects, or even a promotion. Leaders should be responsible for determining the right types of rewards for their teams. Just remember, rewards for improvement will motivate team members far more than penalization for failure.

7. Hold training sessions

Establish a training schedule and meet with teams to demonstrate the software's everyday practical application in your team's workflow, discuss features, and answer questions. Ideally, an onboarding or customer success representative from the software company will perform this training. In fact, we strongly advise employing the training offered by the software company, even at an additional cost, to streamline implementation and reduce learning curves. Once you have some internal power users, you can leverage them for ongoing or expanded training.

Structure and phase training to address your teams' different needs. Familiarity with technology varies, and it's essential to have training options for different users and learning styles. Some people may find a simple online training session sufficient, while others need in-person instruction and demonstrations. It's best to allow people to choose their training style. Record all training videos so that people can re-watch them. Software like Mosaic will often have videos inside the application in their help sections for on-demand training.

Assign tech-savvy people the responsibility of sharing their experiences and coaching employees who may be struggling. You must invest time to assist struggling users to ensure successful organizational change. Focus on building momentum in the implementation process. During every training event, it's important to reinforce the software's benefits, keeping it as simple as possible. Be sure to provide adequate training and support to avoid frustration, but set hard deadlines to create a sense of urgency.

Make sure leaders are tasked with monitoring team usage and progress. Perform check-ins throughout the process, even after the initial implementation, to gather feedback and make necessary adjustments to training. Eventually, the established processes will become engrained like all other software they've previously used.

As The Power of Habit and Atomic Habits note, insert new processes into your existing routines to ease the change. Remember, when you need to get everyone on the same page, meetings are invaluable. If you already have a weekly meeting with the team on a similar topic or for your legacy software, introduce the training sessions into the existing schedule. Consider introducing more meetings until processes are established. As highlighted above, like everything worth doing, it requires considerable strategy and upfront investment from the team.

8. Push through

Having trouble finding your way around? Understand that's normal; learning is a state of confusion. Frustrated? That's normal, too. Change is hard. Implementing a new software system and driving successful adoption will always hold challenges. Know that it's all part of growth, and it’s imperative to push through all obstacles. Controlling the chaos and focusing on the ultimate value the implementation will deliver are key to staying on track.

"Anything worth doing in life takes time."

Keep everyone accountable by creating daily or weekly check-ins, milestones, and goals to measure progress and ensure the organization-wide participation needed for change. Each team and leader should report on progress regularly at implementation meetings.

Lastly, remember to have patience. Rome wasn't built in a day. You don't need to do everything all at once. Take your time and build on each week. Only determination can bring success.

John Meyer

Founder & CEO
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