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Implementing New Project Management Software, Minus the Headaches

To many people, adopting new software is like having a tooth pulled. It’s painful, but in the end, you’re better off.

But system implementation doesn’t have to be painful. Taking the right steps can make it a smooth process.

The key to successful software adoption is taking the time and energy to plan well. From project charters to rollout strategies, let’s take a look at the important steps that make implementation a painless process.

Set the Right Goals

Setting goals is important. Poor requirement management—failing to anticipate what you need your software to do—is a project killer. 32% of software project failures are due to poor requirement management. Scope creep, or expanding project goals along the way, is a similar problem. According to a 2021 report from the Project Management Institute, scope creep impacts 34% of projects globally. 

implementing new software, minus the headachesYou can avoid these issues with a project charter—a document that outlines potential problems and makes sure your software can handle them before you start the implementation process. 

The project charter needs to contain a clear picture of the goals you are setting. In a recent ProjectSight webinar, A Trimble business development director puts it this way:

“If you can’t identify what you're doing in the future, you should take a step back and understand how to get that defined before you move forward.”

But how do you get that future vision? Chris Wetmore, principal at RMS Technology Advisory Practice, says that gathering stakeholders and surveying the crowd are integral to understanding what successful implementation looks like. He gives the example of a CEO who told him his goal “was quite simply to free up his project managers so that they would have more time with their customers as opposed to being behind a computer or pushing paper.” With this as the basis for the charter, the company could check in with PMs, refine goals, and use the results as a basis for decision-making going forward.

Dave Anderskow, president of Palmer Consulting Group, says you don’t have to start from scratch in making a project charter.

“Most vendors and technology partners you are working with will likely have a good template. Even Google or ChatGPT can help you create something to build off of so you don’t have to write the entire thing yourself.”

Find the Right People

Determine Your Implementation Team

The first bullet point on a project charter should be deciding who will be on your implementation team, Anderskow says. He finds that often, rather than leaning on team members who are front and center, it's better to recruit those who “rely on sound practices and processes to get their job done…because they know the process even better than [most].” 

Almost counterintuitively, Wetmore suggests inviting people who are critical of change onto the implementation team as well. He argues that it’s better to resolve issues they might have with the software before it rolls out—and in fact, the most critical people are often the most thorough.

Get the Right Resources 

Finding people with the right resources is also important. Anderskow says you need to treat implementation as a main job function rather than an extra. He points out that you can’t tell employees, “We already know that you have a heavy workload, but in your spare time, can you implement the system?” In his experience, “That is usually a disaster right there.” Statistics back this up. 55% of IT professionals surveyed indicated that they had a project fail due to lack of time, staff, resources, budget, and planning. 

Determine the Right Team Size & Roles

Team size is also essential. Too many people involved leads to chaos, but you also want large-scale buy-in for the change. Trimble says that even while not everyone can attend every meeting, regular communication with all stakeholders about the project and openness to their opinions leads to widespread acceptance of changes as they come. 

Ultimately, when it comes to an implementation team, “Inexperience can cost you.” Most project managers and IT professionals lack the system and teaching experience needed to troubleshoot and implement a new system. That’s why it can be a big advantage to bring in outside contractors dedicated to implementing software.

Use the Right Process 

Once you have the project charter and the implementation team in place, it's time to look at the final step—the rollout itself. “Eating the elephant in one bite” is not the best approach when it comes to implementing new software. Instead, breaking down the process into smaller chunks tends to work a lot better. In other words, “Don't have people leave on Friday and say, ‘Hey, have a great weekend.’ And then Monday, they come in and, ‘What's this new system?’” 

implementing new software, minus the headachesAnderskow talks about the importance of adaptability on the implementation team, suggesting that there needs to be a “project sponsor at the top responsible for removing roadblocks and making final decisions” and a “sub-committee underneath them steering the project.”

Another key part of a successful implementation is shifting the organizational culture and making the project feel like a team effort. Mastering a new technology can be disruptive and frustrating for a lot of people, so they need motivation. The same is true for a company. If people feel they are part of a team learning together, that goes a long way toward a smooth implementation.

Listen to the full webinar.