After 12 years working in the industry, in the sales, delivery and support side of the business, I have seen too many examples of value added resellers and manufacturers mismanaging customer expectations in order to close a sale. And I’m not sure if this is worse, but often times the mismanagement isn’t done on purpose but due to ignorance on the part of what constitutes a successful implementation.
One of the fundamental elements that is almost always overlooked is the failure to recognize that PSA implementations have very little to do with the software itself. It’s a given that a good software solution is a prerequisite to a successful PSA transformation, but the reality is the business and organizational issues are hands down the most important things to adequately address when deploying successful PSA systems. Key among those business and organizational issues is user adoption.
In my 12 years of dealing with new customers and discussing their past experiences it is obvious that most VARs and their customers know very little about user adoption. At best it is brought up, but it’s not nearly as simple as industry consultants typically suggest, and it’s certainly more complex and risky than most customers expect. While most tend to address the issue with a focus on canned training, user adoption is depending on a variety of prerequisites, with user training being just one relatively minor part of the equation. And further, user training if not done well and within the framework of user adoption being the measure of a successful outcome, it often falls short. Unfortunately for the misinformed end customer, failing at user adoption will absolutely equate to PSA failure, no matter how well the software is “implemented” in the mechanical sense.
So how can one ensure that their Professional Services Automation Software implementation be successful from a user adoption perspective? Here are three keys to ensuring successful user adoption:
1. Ensure clearly defined business processes. When I’m in a competitive situation I hear all too often the time how VARs suggest that their software or technical consulting teams can define business processes for their customers. I have a huge problem with this statement and it’s a big reason why so many companies fail miserably in their PSA implementations (over 80-percent, according to our independent research). Here is the simple fact: PSA software defines transactions and procedures, and transactions mean nothing without bigger-picture end-to-end business processes. The business needs to always be considered holistically when looking at individual transactions. When most software vendors talk about a business map or system design, they are typically referring to designing transactions in the system. We approach the solution as having three layers; define the transactions, find ways to systemize the transactions and then have the people drive the systems to make them work. If you attempt to systemize people you’re going to fail. Without this critical activity and holistic approach in a project, your people will not truly understand the new business processes, what is expected of them, or how to tie together all the pieces of the puzzle in a way that makes your business more efficient and effective. A proper understanding of your business workflow is something that will take some time to complete, especially when re-engineering your business processes before going live with the software, which we always recommend to our clients.
2. Define clear roles and responsibilities. Once the business processes and supporting workflow transactions are defined, you still need to define employee roles and responsibilities in the new processes and systems. Just because they have been trained to create a work order or manage job costing doesn’t necessarily mean that employees understand their roles and place in the overall process. Most PSA implementations involve significant changes to people’s job roles, so it is important that you facilitate a process and structure for defining, documenting, approving, and rolling out those job roles and changes. Your HR department, management team, and other key stakeholders will need to be involved in this process. Again, these are things that a horizontally focused PSA vendor is not in a position or qualified to provide. Years of vertical market focus both on the software and professional services teams are critical for success and to achieve the goals envisioned at the start of the process.
3. User adoption doesn’t stop at go live. Most PSA project teams are relieved when they cross the finish line of a go-live. Many months have been spent getting the project off the ground, so the last thing anyone wants to do is talk about how to extend the project or make it take longer than it needs to. But the reality is that most user adoption issues are identified after go-live, and most of the benefits don’t kick in until sometime after go-live, so defining go-live as the project finish line is a common misguided assumption. An effective user adoption and organizational change management framework will ensure that your people are not only prepared to adopt the system at the time of go-live, but also ensure that they continue to improve their performance in the weeks and months after go-live. This incremental investment in time and money after go-live has returns that exceed the investment multiple times over, but most organizations fail to recognize this need.
The good news is that these three factors are included in any effective organizational change management plan, including the methodology and tools we use at Solutions360. We have a very well-defined and structured way of maximizing user adoption throughout the PSA implementation and after go-live, and the corresponding results are often the difference between implementation success and failure.
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