How to Succeed with Software Tools – Part 4

In this series of blog articles we examine some of the essential factors required for the successful implementation and use of software tools.

Four: Educate and Communicate

The roll out of a new software tool should be treated like the launch of a new Hollywood movie; if you want to get people interested you have to promote and market what you’re selling. And have no doubt, you are selling a product! Your organization may have been through an exhaustive selection process before committing to this new tool, but there will be people who were not included in this process who may very well feel disenfranchised. Even those who were involved may not agree with the decision or are simply uncomfortable with change. Some will see change as another challenge that will take time and effort to make the new tool or process ‘suck less’ which, of course, adds risk and unknowns to their job and they just don’t want that.

All these conditions leave you with a sales challenge: to create enthusiasm and willingness to see the new tool succeed. Roll-out, especially in larger organizations, becomes an internal marketing exercise involving education and communication.

Involve Other Departments

I have seen successful rollouts of new tools and processes which were helped by involving the marketing department. A marketing team is usually seen as an externally focused group that is intrinsically linked to the sales process, but they have the skills and experience to run a campaign to create awareness, excitement and an overall desire for what you’re promoting, regardless of the target audience. They can be used very successfully to work with project managers and educators to create a positive environment in which skepticism is replaced with a real demand for the new product.

Remember, when replacing an existing tool, not only must users learn new operations, they must unlearn established ones. So, with replacement tools there will always be the temptation to try to use the new software in the same way that the older product was used. This can kill a new product quickly with the common complaint that the new product, “can’t do what the old one could.” Help overcome this idea with conversion guides which show old process procedures translated into new process steps. Offer frequent updates on the status of the roll-out to give individuals a sense of being part of the process rather than subject to it,

For a Steep Learning Curve

For tools with a particularly steep learning curve, here are some other steps that can help:

  • Provide easy to access user training, preferably from mobile devices, tapping in to our cultural desire to consume information on the go,
  • Ensure that tool use is presented in the context of an efficient process, not simply the mechanics of button pushing,
  • If possible, create short, educational offerings such as videos, aimed at a variety of user types to change the belief that each person is just one of the herd, to one in which they are a vital part of the overall picture, and help each person understand how they fit into the overall process.

So many new tools are, paid for and dropped off in the garage but never driven. To avoid this happening to you, don’t wait for problems and then react, be proactive in your preparation for the rollout.

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Software Tools Are Like Football (Soccer)
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