The implementation of a new software on a large scale, across multiple divisions, departments, or continents, can generally seem a daunting task for the uninitiated. Even for those with some experience in this area, will know that there will be a significant portion of time, money and effort taken up by this kind of project. They remember the headaches, and the sleepless nights, making sure everything came together in a timely fashion. Depending on the type of software being purchased, there will often be providers willing to take over the realisation of a new tool, and send in a team of “Consultants” to implement the tool across your business in a structured, considered manner. For this service, many companies sometimes spend seven-figure sums, without really looking closely at the software and its features. They rarely ask the question, “Does it really do what we need it to?”, and in turn, “Do the people we’re paying to implement this, understand what we need?”.
There is a significant portion of decision makers who have large monetary budgets, and must be seen to be spending it. Well, at least, there used to be. This group is slowly reducing, as we are all asked to do much more, with much less as the new century progresses. Financial plans are being heavily scrutinised, as shareholders ask for more return for their investment, or the money will soon be moved to another interest. High-ranking employees are being removed from their roles in constant cycles; seen to making the bold changes needed to remain competitive, “spending money to make money”, and yet failing to produce what is actually needed. They may be relying on those below them to research their big-brand choices thoroughly, before making a call on which one to use, and how to move forward. It is easy for them all to think that if you are paying more, you must be getting more. Right? Wrong!
It has been the unfortunate experience of this blogger that this couldn’t be further from the truth. Many solutions out there in the market, with marketing campaign figures that look like telephone numbers, promise something that is usually over-charged, and often underperforms when in place. I come into contact with corporate folk regularly, all with either personal experiences of being burned by software houses, or peers who have a horror story or two to tell. Without fail, someone at some point had become mesmerised with the pretty marketing. They wanted this well-known product on their CV, knowing what this level of solution implementation would do for their career. They have looked at brands who have previously established a reputation for being the best in class, the ones they thought had their head and shoulders above the rest. The type of business everyone aspired to be. However, they mostly recall abandoned projects, or ones that came very close to the edge of the abyss. They will tell you what I am telling you now. Bigger and more expensive is not necessarily better.
I’ll tell you a quick little story, not exactly a fairy-tale. Once upon a time, there was a large UK company, thousands of employees, with a large budget to implement a leading software throughout their business. They weren’t hunting through Google for something that fit their needs, but instead went for a name that rang bells whenever it was mentioned. People at the end of the phone call were impressed, business lunches spoke of nothing else, and it caused a huge buzz amongst those who previously thought their employer had lost touch with the real world. But, not now surely? They were spending the money, so they must mean business? Sadly, this tale did not end happily ever after. Over a year later, the millions of Sterling they had spent on the product was being written off by a Finance team who hadn’t been previously consulted on what they needed. The product was abandoned entirely, and a whole list of clever, skilled and good people were now scouring the job lists with the rest of the unemployed. As the cool kids would say, “Sad face”.
The moral of my story is that big mistakes are easily avoidable, if the time is taken to find a product that meets your requirements, regardless of the price tag. It has also been my experience that large software rollouts can be a huge success story for your business, and your career. It can be the making, and not the breaking of you. It can be the step up you need, and I can assure you now, there’s no quick way of getting there. Just put the effort in, and truly understand what different areas of your organisation really need to get their tasks done, to utilise their time more efficiently, and reinvigorate morale. Software can either create a happier, easier life, or it can add to the misery of a workforce praying for that lottery win. Be the Heroine or Hero of your story, and know what you are getting from your software choice.
If it’s not present, make sure you discuss with your provider some room for development work. Sometimes well-established smaller brands will give you everything you need, and will work tirelessly to deliver. They will take the burden from you, but you need to tell them everything you need, in a detailed manner. Just because they have less employees, doesn’t mean they produce a product any less suitable for yours with more. There are software companies that will go the extra mile to give you a product that works well for you. They will add generic changes that benefit all of their users, whilst fitting a specific role or task that is causing you a headache. They want your success story to be their success. Bigger brands may be much more concerned with the numbers than you losing your job. They will, without exception, offer a trial period, which you will need to evaluate what they offer at no cost at all. This is your opportunity to put their promises to the test, and yet, it is so often undervalued. The stance that the product with a large price tag will do everything you could ever want, is an assumption often adopted, so regularly it beggars belief. And, as the saying goes, we all know what assumptions are.
Before implementing your next software solution, make sure you know exactly what it does do, and more importantly, what it doesn’t do. Build in a reasonable period for testing, by those who will be using the software on a daily basis. “Test to break” should be your new manta. It is a skill to see beyond the grim faces around you, ignore those who hate change, and identify what is truly needed; the items that are critical, and those that are simply nice to have. Watch how quickly their “essential” item becomes completely irrelevant when you tell them how much it will cost to do this, or has the potential to put them out of a job. Work with a development house who are interested in getting to know you and your requirements list. If they say, “Yes!” to all of your feature questions, get them to show you. Then go away and put some real-life scenarios into the software, and speak with those “on the ground” for unusual situations, or incidents that consumed a lot of time, money and resource. Usually, simple things can be done to reduce the impact to operations, or in some cases, eradicate it completely. Whether they charge you large amounts or small, if they don’t care, you will never be truly happy with your choice.
Without wanting to sound like a life-inspiration quote from your Instagram feed, the right software choice really will enhance your life, but please don’t ever assume that money buys you everything, and buys you happiness. I promise you, it rarely ever does.