Features Training vs User Training On Software - They Are Not The Same

Let me guess, you just got new software in your agency – to manage your agency. Everything from job forms, SOW, and briefs to project management, collaboration, accounting and billing .You were trained in a two- to five-day session and now you’re LIVE!

Oh, for cripes sakes. More software? Please. Shoot. Me. Now.

Oh, for cripes sakes. More software? Please. Shoot. Me. Now.

Do you remember anything? Was there so much thrown at you that, now that it’s up and running, you don’t even know where to start with that great Agency Management and Productivity Solution?

Maybe you were trained on all the features, but not how you actually should use the software specifically for your workflow.

Way back when, there was someone in your agency who decided it was time to get out of email, Excel, Google Docs, Basecamp, a free timesheet app, and whatever accounting program you were using – and use one comprehensive program – that is more efficient by gathering everything in one database.

But to make the software really work for you, it has to be customized to your needs, and training absolutely must be tailored to your particular workflow.

That’s how training sticks. It needs to be relevant to your needs, the way you do things, and addresses the pain you endured.

In other words, it has to fix stuff. Make life at work better.

Every agency is slightly different, in structure, roles and responsibilities, culture and . . . compliance.

Merely buying, installing, getting an on-site (or online) overview (aka training) of everything the software does is fine – but that brief approach is the path to workarounds, maintaining old systems (just in case), low adoption and worse, software implementation failure.

Change isn’t easy. Giving up old ways is hard if the shiny new thing doesn’t relate in any way to the way you work.

Your workflow may be entirely screwed up, or non-existent – then you need a structured solution to get you on track. But that doesn’t happen via plug ’n play.

The best way to ensure success is to clearly define problems, review roles and responsibilities, map out your current workflow, review current documents, then find a solution that will work for your agency. Some tools are replacements, and some introduce new processes. It’s all designed to get you on track and make you more profitable. At the very least, you should emerge from training with a real sense of which tools to use, and how to use those tools for your specific workflow.

Need help? Contact me. The first call is free.


Failed Implementation Sunk-cost and The Big Game

So yesterday I gave you some reasons why your software implementation failed.

Did anything jump out at you? Nothing?

Well, what if the software wasn’t the right fit? How do you know? Dig-in immediately and find out.

If you purchased an integrated solution, whether it’s cloud-based or you’re hosting it on your own server, you have made an investment. The sunk-cost effect is the biggest reason we stay in a bad relationship.

And since we’re going into Super Bowl® weekend, I can use this lovely analogy found in the New Yorker about Mark Sanchez, who has been retained by the New York Jets for another year at a cool $8.25 million. Yep, played poorly for two seasons, and because there’s so much invested, they keep him – whether he starts – or sits on the bench.

From the article:
Hal Arkes, a psychologist at Ohio State University who has spent much of his career studying the subject, explains, “Abandoning a project that you’ve invested a lot in feels like you’ve wasted everything, and waste is something we’re told to avoid.” This means that we often end up sticking with something when we’d be better off cutting our losses—sitting through a bad movie, say, just because we’ve paid for the ticket.

“Giving up on a project, though, means that somebody has to admit that he shouldn’t have done it in the first place,” Arkes says. “And there are lots of executives who would rather be tortured than admit that they’re wrong.”

So just to be sure the fit is wrong, and before you cut ties with the solution that made you starry-eyed at the beginning, determine if you have a software issue – a bug, or something that was not set-up properly. Call Support and ask for help. If the first person doesn’t answer your questions satisfactorily, go up the chain of command.

If there aren’t issues, but the technology just isn’t working as it was promoted to you, call your sales person. That individual sold you on a product that, if you gave it a thorough evaluation and they answered all your questions, should work for you. At the very least, they should understand your issues and recommend solutions – right away.

Was the software too complicated for your agency? The modules are designed for individuals who have an understanding of their roles. I’ve seen it many times in small agencies where employees wear many hats – and just because they’re managing the day-to-day doesn’t mean they are in the mindset of using a full accounting or project scheduling program.

The programs are designed to make you more efficient and give you data that you can use to grow your business. Maybe it’s time to invest in an employee who has the skill-set to ensure you grow.

This doesn’t mean you have to fire people – they still know your business and will be an asset to the new-hire who brings in advanced skills. 

Maybe you need more training. Either your software provider or a consultant can help you. A ‘fresh pair of eyes’ to double-check your decision before you bail.
But – make sure the support person or your consultant understands your business. Like advertising, creative process, and how you do that thing you do – every day.

Once you have worked with support, sales and / or a consultant and you determined that the software is not the right fit – make the change.

Cut the losses. It is too painful for your staff to slog through something that doesn’t work. They’ll hate you more for keeping it than if you say, “I made a mistake” and find a better fit. They will breathe a collective sigh of relief and appreciate the fact that you are human - and admit it.

Your agency has just gained tons of knowledge about the tools and process for evaluating the technology to make your agency more efficient. Going forward, they will really know what they don't want.

So before you invest another $8.25 million (it can feel that way), venture back out and really grill the next all-encompassing-solution-provider without all that beguiling starry-eyed fascination.

You all have the right to play on a team that wins. (of course I had to get a football metaphor in here.)

Have a great - and safe - weekend!

Implementation Fail

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.

Imagine that.

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.

Getting a start on agency software

I have worked with individuals in many agencies who thought agency software was a plug & play solution, to fix problems ranging from timekeeping to project management and accounting.

You actually need a plan. Never assume plug and play. Train your team.

Do some internal research. What is everyone using right now? Do you want a fully integrated system? If so, is everyone willing (or required) to get on board with a comprehensive solution?

What areas do you need to include – job start, schedule, estimates, briefs, timesheets? Do those individual areas need to be integrated? (They should be!)

What reports do need? What reports would you love to have? What reports do you currently use that you need replicated?

How does your team or agency deal with change? New software = major changes, often in procedure. People hate change. It’s hard – especially when you’re busy. Figure an adoption strategy into the mix because aversion to change is the biggest reason for failure to launch new systems.

Once research and planning are done – and Management has given full support, start working with your software (or software provider).

Plug & Play (doesn't exist)
For a fully-functioning system that works for your agency, you must understand the tools you’re buying and what you need to setup (client or employee codes/names, etc.), or define terminology ahead of time so everyone is using a common language.

Easy-entry, inexpensive (or free), cloud-based solutions are great. But the best solution is where your agency can share that information. So agree upon how the tools are used and again a common terminology. Think collaboration.

Set it up, and test. If your software is used by different areas of the agency (even easy-entry cloud-ware), run a test job through, get input and make adjustments. And a really nice thing to do – document how you use it. Just bullet points will do. A roadmap for new-hires gets them on board faster and frees your time. Plus it serves as a reminder to those who tend to ‘work around’ the system.

This doesn't have to be long, boring and painful. But do set up training that is specific to each group – Account, Creative, Production – whatever the role – based on what they will be using. Make it quick, simple, and painless without distractions (no smart phones).

Check in with everyone to make sure there are no unresolved issues. A workaround, backsliding or moving back to legacy systems spells death to progress. Pull everyone together a few weeks after roll-out to make adjustments. If there is something really sticky, fix it immediately.

One last item: software can have bugs, or there may be a feature you’d love to have. Let your software provider know of both. You don’t have to work around bugs, plus enhancements and new features are the road to software improvement.

Having any issues implementing new software?