In the era of digitalization, regardless of the industry you are working in, you will likely have to switch from analog to digital at one point or another. New software is often a key element to digitalization, and software adoption is more important than ever.
Or, if you’ve already made that switch, you’ll need to improve existing digital processes and solutions in order to keep up with the competition, continue to satisfy your customer needs, or even just facilitate your team members’ everyday lives.
When developing and deploying a new digital solution, clients will inevitably face a number of risks and challenges; two of the most significant ones being:
- their internal teams showing resistance to change
- unexpected additional cost due to required changes in the development
There is a way to manage both of those risks by changing your approach to software development at the very beginning of your project.
Involve your end users (whether customers or employees) in the solution design from the start to boost software adoption. As simple as that.
It may sound rather unusual, and maybe irritating at first.
We became so used to conducting our software development or acquisition projects with a ‘top-down’ approach, i.e., an executive team or decision-maker defines the future solution and expresses a certain expected outcome, including a list of functionalities that they think will improve business processes.
The result of this approach? Development teams are bound by the resulting solution design and ultimately, so are the end-users. What’s worse is that those sets of functionalities defined by top management do not always match the expectations and needs of its end users.
When that happens, projects take longer than expected. Budgets need to be extended and worst of all, software developers need to redesign what they already delivered.
This can cause frustration at all levels and incur additional costs that are often underestimated. In some cases, it may bring the entire project to a halt and cause both the client and software provider to accept failure.
How to avoid such worst-case scenarios?
To preface this, bear in mind that every client’s needs and context are unique and that there is no such thing as a ‘one fits all’ solution for many. However, more and more clients across all industries are now adopting an alternative “bottom-up” approach to software adoption, development and acquisition.
This means that the people who will ultimately use the solution are the ones who are designing the user requirements before acquiring the software.
Let’s say you are planning to deploy a new internal software (ERP, CRM) that the company’s employees need to adapt to.
A common misconception is that the teams on the ground floor lack the necessary skills to successfully contribute to the solution design. On the contrary, they often have a very clear understanding of what their needs and daily struggles are, what can be improved and how. Now translating those vague ideas into a concrete solution will be the job of your project management team.
You may perform a short period of ‘shadowing’, which means observing end-users (in this case employees) in their daily operations with the current solution. From that, you draw valuable insights regarding the way they use the solution today and what improvements can/should be made so any software adoption efforts are improved.
This short period of observation is an investment of course, as it means no deliverables are being produced yet. But compared to the cost of a failed software implementation, it’s a small sacrifice to make.
After that ‘shadowing’ period you may present end users with your conclusions and together you draft a set of user requirements. You keep on continuously reviewing this functional document, which is why we call it “agile” project management. Changes and feedback arise and are considered as you go.
End-user feedback is noted at every step of the project, integrated at every stage of the purchase and implementation.
What organizations often discover is that users are curious to see how their feedback is being taken into account, they are excited and reassured the new solution will address their specific needs and problems in an adequate way. They start to take pride in their contribution, and this eventually leads to engagement and ownership.
Your employees will become ambassadors of change.
They will start talking about the project and their contribution to the teams around them and spark curiosity.
This occurs naturally as a result of the early involvement and will save you a considerable amount of time and ultimately budget that you would otherwise need to invest in software adoption and change management initiatives and internal communication to ensure your new digital solution will be (adequately) used and adopted by end-users tomorrow.
At the end of the day, this is also a wonderful way to make sure you retain the talent you invest in.
According to the PwC’s 23rd & 24th Annual CEO surveys, a lack of availability of key skills remains one of the biggest threats to CEOs across the globe. Recruiting new talent is increasingly difficult and costly.
As Richard Branson said, “Train your people well enough so they can leave. Treat them well enough so they don’t want to.”
Software adoption from the bottom-up
The way I see it and from my experience with previous client engagements, running software purchases, development, and implementation projects with a ‘bottom-up’ approach is a win-win on all levels.
You are giving your people a chance to help shape the future of your business, and what better way to make them feel valued and appreciated.
Alina is a Senior Consultant and expert on all things digital transformation. Born in Germany, Alina has travelled across Europe and helped organizations in different industries realize their digital transformation goals.