I have worked with many agencies that have implemented agency management software and found that it doesn't work…for them. Often, rather than an issue with the software, they experienced implementation fail.
You invested time and money into fantastic technology. But it can be really expensive if you don’t do your homework beforehand, and don’t implement properly. So read on – there may be some familiar sounding reasons things didn't work out like you planned…
Now I’m all about an integrated solution because – get this – everyone collaborates on the input, and it is compiled in one place. Then everyone has access to the same information. And if you enforce just a little compliance – like requiring that they use the system, information will be real-time. Return on investment.
Failed implementations usually come down to these often-overlooked issues:
Didn't really define what problem you were trying to solve. Usually agencies look to software because there’s something wrong. I know what it is but I can’t define it. Well you need to do this first step and it takes asking a lot of questions.
There is a lot of single-purpose software, to do schedules, or estimates or manage assets. Give it plenty of thought, and pull colleagues into the evaluation - before you make your investment. Because going back and undoing something creates a lot of unhappy employees. And a lot of extra work. And skepticism for any ‘new’ solution you bring to the table later on.
Management didn’t support the software – and the change that goes along with it – 100%. Staff will complain because routines are different and they may be asked to do something – like timesheets – every day. They will go to the big bosses who must push-back and re-direct issues to The Implementation Team. Without management’s full support change will not stick.
Thinking that software will fix everything. Nope, it takes process and people too - who actively use the software. That means a big slice of change management pie. Be prepared.
Everyone else in the agency is unaware that change is coming. If ever there is a way to completely alienate your staff, it is blind-siding them with the introduction of a New System – which usually includes software.
The entire agency uses software every day to create Cannes Winners. But put in agency management software and all of a sudden they hate you. And the software too. “It’s too hard and doesn't make sense.”
So to get buy-in and include at least one individual from each department to take part in evaluation, customization and implementation. And then they will take their insight to their colleagues, and spread the good word. While you’re at it, give them some sort of perk for managing these duties – it’s out of their creative sphere.
You didn’t plan who would manage, or how you would implement the software. You need someone to drive the bus of change management. It isn’t automatic and it takes time away from other duties. Someone in your agency who really knows the ins-and-outs of the program will be able to close the communication gap and make it more relevant. As for timing for a comprehensive system, expect three months minimum. Really.
You thought you were buying a ‘plug ‘n play’ system. Pay attention here: Nothing is out-of-the-box and ready to use. You will have some set up to do prior to roll-out so that it operates – the way you want it to. Shame on your sales person if that is what they told you.
There’s a second part to that as well – decide which features you really need to get started, then test out and add new features as staff gets comfortable. Trust me on this – your lovely colleagues will cease to be kind and gentle if you throw too much at them at once.
You didn’t train – or which is usually the case – you didn’t require staff to attend training, and pay attention (e.g. turn off your iPhone). Further, you didn’t supply documentation, like at least a cheat-sheet on how to get from point A to point B. Uh, where do I click? Something as simple as this will keep people on task.
There was no follow-up. A new system needs follow-up. Because there is a lot of change that goes along with a new system, how people end up using the software can surprise you. I have witnessed work-arounds I didn’t know could be done. Remarkable.
People are resourceful if they don’t like change, or if they don’t understand something. So follow-up is essential to ensure the technology is used – as you meant it to be used. Your data is more useful if entered properly. Additionally, your staff MUST let go of old systems. They do not need to waste valuable time doing everything twice. If you can remove / block / turn-off old systems - do it. Or they may be prone to just keep doing things the old way.
Keep your implementation team together for a few months after going live to check on their respective departments and then report back. Adjustments can be made anywhere along the way if there is something that simply doesn’t work – or if there had been an issue that wasn’t considered.
There are a lot of little things that will surface when you put new systems in place.
A time of change is when you get to see your colleagues in their best temperament. So plan ahead, get buy-in and learn to take (just a little) flak.
And if you need any help, or just someone to talk to, I'm here for you. I've been there.