How to Successfully Implement Enterprise Software
Through working with some of the biggest (and best!) companies in the world, we’ve seen just how wonderfully—or how poorly—using a new piece of enterprise software can go, depending on how teams approach implementation. From a third-party provider’s perspective, it’s generally easy to tell which teams will see immediate success and which teams may be slower to start in the beginning, depending primarily on how they approach the Apptentive implementation process.
How you plan, communicate, and use a piece of software will look different for every team, but there’s a standard approach we’ve seen work time and time again which you can use to help set yourself up for success. To help you learn from our experiences, we’ve identified eight main steps to take when implementing a new piece of software from the the time you sign your contract through launch.
Here are our tips for a successful—and fun-filled!—enterprise software rollout:
1. Identify an internal champion
The first step to any successful software implementation is to get your team on board, and this process often starts with one person who serves as an internal champion. This person is responsible for rolling out the software to the rest of their team, and they work as an internal “project manager” to help make implementation smoothe. They should be all about helping their team members learn, and should feel comfortable training others around how to use the software and on best practices to get the best results. Oftentimes, your internal champion will be a person who’s been closely involved throughout the sales process, but that’s not always the case, so be sure you pick the right person for the job without narrowing your options right away.
When working with customers at Apptentive, we find it’s best to identify a main champion who will drive the implementation and upkeep day-to-day, and in working with our main point of contact, we help them identify champions across other teams who can take our tool even further. That way, if our internal champion ever changes roles or teams, is out on leave, or is unavailable for any other reason, more than one person on the team will have a strong sense of how to use Apptentive and why it matters to their goals. Identifying champions early makes for easier implementation and upkeep later, and also helps our primary champion rally future stakeholders who will help them get the most out of our tools.
2. Get your executive team on board
Once you’ve identified a champion, it’s time to rally the big decision makers: your executive team. Executives bring a different perspective around goals to the table, and in order for your new software to be successful, it must help your team reach your company’s overall goals. There’s no better gut-check than to run the plan for your new software by your executive team to ensure it’s hitting the mark.
At Apptentive, we’ve found the best way to help our internal champions gain executive buy-in for our product is to work with them on goal setting early on (long before the sales process is even over for most teams). The more our customers talk with our team around what you want most out of Apptentive’s product suite, the more clearly aligned both parties are when it comes time to start implementation. Having this knowledge ahead of time is a tremendous help in gaining executive buy-in.
3. Create a rollout plan, and lean on your new customer success team
Every successful rollout starts with a plan. Before you move into implementation, work with your new customer success team to create a step-by-step strategy for approaching integration and upkeep to ensure every important piece of the process is captured. Now is also the time to ask questions around the business rules, workflows, and best practices that will occur and/or arise during the integration process. The more you can talk about ahead of time, the more prepared both parties will be for a successful launch.
The Apptentive Customer Success team works closely with our new customers to ensure their questions around process are addressed as soon as possible. The more open the lines of communication are in this relationship, the closer (and more efficiently!) a customer’s goals can be met. Don’t be afraid to lean on your new training team for best practices—they’re experts in their product’s industry and should be able to help guide you every step of the way!
4. Identify data gaps and overlap with existing software
It can be easy to get wrapped up with your new software’s “shiny new object” feel, but it’s imperative you look at your starting point before you get carried away with the new learnings the software will bring. To start, think about how your new software will fill the gaps and/or overlap with existing software.
Begin by considering how your data flow is currently set up, and ask yourself the following questions:
- Who needs access to this data?
- Is this data presented in a way that is meaningful to all parties?
- Do I need to combine this new data with existing data? If so, what’s the best way? Who needs to be involved?
In most instances, your new tool will complement existing data and allow you to gain deep insights into the problem it’s helping you solve. However, it’s always smart to be wary of data overlap; steer clear of reporting on the same metric in multiple places to help your team’s data stay consistent!
5. Identify team members who will implement and manage the software
Selecting stakeholders who will implement or manage the software and involving them early is important to long-term success. As mentioned above, you’ll want to get executive buy-in much earlier in the process, but once you have their go-ahead, it’s time to get the rest of the key players involved. It’s often best to start with your internal champion and then branch out to get a full sense of who needs to be involved with the software on a regular basis.
Software management looks different for every team, but no matter what works for your team, setting crystal clear expectations from the beginning works wonders. Some of the most successful implementations we’ve seen at Apptentive go beyond our internal champion and across members of their teams, but every time, the most successful teams are clear about who(m) is responsible for driving the implementation and upkeep of our product early on.
6. Hold a formal kickoff
Now that you’ve identified your champions and key stakeholders, it’s time to throw a formal kickoff to get things started! Depending on the depth of your new software, schedule ample time for the group to come together to discuss goals, integration steps, dashboard setup, and to answer questions. Use this time as a training session for everyone who needs to be involved, and consider additional training post-kickoff in small groups for stakeholders who have questions around specific features. Also, thank your team for spending their time training with you by bringing some snacks to your kickoff—all meetings go better when nobody’s hungry!
As an aside, your kickoff can be used as an easy way to encourage continued executive buy-in. At Apptentive, we help our customers include their executive team members who are interested in our product by encouraging them to join in the kickoff discussion, or by sending them post-meeting notes for visibility. You can also loop execs in on your weekly progress updates so they don’t have to get up-to-speed on the entire project at its end—especially since you’re all likely crunched for time. Additionally, Apptentive employees often partake in our customers’ kickoff discussions to help with training in real-time. Be sure to ask your new customer success team if they can join you if this is something you think may help.
7. Once the implementation is live, announce it to the rest of your team
Your leadership team shouldn’t be the only ones who see how valuable your new software solution is. Once the implementation is live, seek out ways to show the rest of your team what the tool is doing for the company, why they should get excited about it, and how you’ll continue to drive it overtime to help the company reach its goals. Also, spread the love by giving praise to the stakeholders involved in driving the implementation and upkeep of the software. Giving credit where credit is due offers a great opportunity for building team happiness.
The more you can show your the software’s worth, the more time you’ll have to make progress as you’ll receive more buy-in, more support, and more team interest. At Apptentive, we make it easy for customers to generate reports around what our product has done to help their business. Whatever software you choose, make sure you deliver the results in an easy-to-digest format to help convey the importance of the tool.
8. Set dedicated time aside to check in
You’ve heard it all before, but to reiterate: Implementation is only the beginning! Rolling out a new piece of software times time and careful consideration, but don’t lose your momentum once it’s up and running. The truth is that most software needs a bit of time once it’s live to make sure the new process is right.
The best person to lean on here is—again!—your internal champion, and the key stakeholders who have signed up to dedicate time to make the software a success. Make sure these folks have time regularly set aside in their schedules to check in, ask questions, and communicate their findings with the group. We recommend starting with more regular check-ins (think daily) to start, and depending on the software you’re using, moving to a less frequent model (think every other day, or even once a week) once you’re confident the process you’ve set in place is working correctly. If you lose steam right after launch, it can take weeks or even months to get your team back on track.
Implementing a new piece of enterprise software can be tricky, but with planning, open discussion, and regular data management, it doesn’t have to be. We hope the steps above will help set your team up for success with your new software by streamlining your approach to the integration and upkeep process.
If you want to learn more about how Apptentive’s approach to integration, get in touch with us any time!