If you're planning to make an investment into a new Workforce Management Solution or you've already taken the plunge, you've taken a first step to better managing your most important resource – your people. As exciting as this is, however, we know system deployments can be a lot of work and sometimes even a little bit stressful – your company has decided to invest time and money, and expectations are high! We wanted to go over some best practices to help you ensure that your next project is a success!
1. I'm implementing software, but I've never done this before! Where do I get started?
This is a big topic with a lot of written and internet resources available, but I'll cover off on a few key things.
The first step is always to do some research. Your vendor should have a clear deployment methodology which they can share with you, going over what will happen when. For a configurable product like WorkLinx™, this starts with requirements gathering where we understand the specific requirements of your business so we can tailor a solution to your needs.
The next step is aligning the right project team. You need key users from the key departments who will be using the system – like HR, Payroll, or your Schedulers – and if you're deploying across many facilities you'll need representation from individual regions or even sites in your extended team. This project team will be participatory in key phases of the deployment, such as testing, to ensure that the solution being delivered meets everyone's needs.
And while this isn't a step, one thing that needs to be done carefully is to plan, plan, plan! Software deployments are hard work. Engage with your management team to ensure that they're sensitive to the time commitment you're making. Work with the project team to make sure that they are all aligned on the project goals and timelines. Some vendors, like SmartLinx, will actually help you develop a joint project plan and timeline that includes the activities and timelines of your own project team.
One last thing – a good vendor works flexibly around the needs of you and your business, but they often also have their own timeline goals – after your project is completed, there's another customer ready to get started! They'll appreciate it if you can help manage your project team to the shared timeline, and it'll help build partnership.
2. How do I make sure that my deployment is successful?
It might sound obvious, but start with the end in mind. If your goal is to improve employee engagement, what are you expecting to happen? Are you hoping employee turnover will be reduced by 20%? Do you have a target for how much you'd like to reduce unplanned overtime? Work with the project team and your management to make sure everyone is level-set on exactly what you're trying to accomplish.
And don't just stop there – your entire project team should be made aware of the deployment goals. Your project team should be composed of, at the very least, key users within your company who will be responsible for using the system, and explaining it to members of the user community who don't participate in the deployment. It's important for everyone to understand what you're trying to accomplish, otherwise the goal becomes, “to finish the deployment,” sometimes without regard for the underlying business objectives.
Once you've started implementing the system, it's important to sync up with your project team and ensure that they agree that they feel they can accomplish the project goals with the new system. In a well-structured deployment, the project team will be hands-on with the system during prototyping and development to do testing and provide their feedback. Be cautious about deployment approaches where you're expected to provide all your requirements upfront, or worse, accept a cookie cutter configuration. The downside risk here is that you'll get a delivered system that doesn't meet your needs, or forces you to adapt your business processes to an unnatural standard.
Once you're live, go back to the goals that you wrote down and communicated. Are you achieving those goals yet? It may take time for everyone to be using your new software platform to the fullest extent, so plan to follow-up on goal achievement at some set intervals after your Go-Live date.
3. What's one of the most common mistakes you see companies make in deploying new software?
Whether you're replacing a paper system or an existing legacy system, there will be changes to how you do your job in the new application. One of the most common mistakes I see is trying to find ways to force-fit a new system to old processes. If you've chosen the right vendor, they have solid awareness of what makes customers just like you successful, and they will have a prescriptive approach to how to use their application to achieve your business results to maximum effect. Take a moment to ask, “How do other customers do this?” and be open to aligning your processes to known best practices.
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