When doing or trying something new, there always comes the time when you need to look back and check whether what you did was successful or not. Let's say you are planning to implement a new (innovation management) software, and three months is the timeframe after which you would like to draw first conclusions. If this is the scenario you find yourself in, then we have nine tips that support checking the first three months for successes.
1. Set a goal and establish milestones
When you have decided to shake things up with a new innovation management software, be very clear about the specific outcomes and objectives you desire. At best, you have them fully formulated before you enter into the research phase, which helps you to sort out the supplier you want to get in contact with. Really knowing what you want to get out of it or what you want in place post-implementation not only shortens and improves the selection and sales process, it also lays the foundation of the software implementation and provides a guideline for everyone involved.
On the one hand, a clear goal gives you an overall perspective and, on the other hand, is what helps you define your every step. From the overall desired outcome, you derive your milestones, which in turn help you analyze if you are still on the right track towards your goal. To say it very bluntly, implementing software successfully without defining what you want to get out of it is, is something you rather want to avoid.
2. Be realistic about your expectations
Another very important thing is to be realistic about your expectations. You might think, “well obviously, but that is already covered when I have defined my goal.” And yes, that is true in some parts: your overall goal should cover your expectations. But expectations are something that arises within you without even knowing you have them, and they have to be met rather on a daily basis. Not meeting them can have major impacts on the motivation and overall perception of – in this case – the implemented software. That does not mean to start with low expectations because then the chances are good you do meet them, but to be realistic about them.
Start with the question of what you hope to achieve within your set timeframe of three months and what is actually possible within this given timeframe. Then stop there (for now, at least), rather than adding more and more other features to the project that risks spiraling out of control. So now you are aware of your expectations, and you have them in check. The next thing you want to do is to communicate them. First of all, to the onboarding team of the software supplier, as they are of most support, when they know, what you want to achieve. They also can give you feedback if some aspects may be less realistic or need more time than you anticipate. And second of all to your implementation and project team.
3. Invest enough time in planning
The first two tips are mostly about what to think about before the software is implemented. And here again, we cover the Pre-Implementation-Phase. True to the saying, good planning is half the battle, be sure to block time for the planning itself. A huge part of a successful implementation is the beforehand planning – it is the time you need to identify your specific goals, map out and test your processes and tie all your thoughts and considerations together in a unified plan.
The planning phase is really about distinguishing between project objectives and business objectives. After defining your objectives and milestone, we tend to feel adequately prepared and forget to fully consider deeper details and smaller steps. It is easy to focus on the “big goal” instead of investing time in looking at the process as a whole. Far too often, complications arise because secondary considerations are uncovered late into the process. Give the process a play-by-play in your head, you might stumble over things you haven’t thought of yet. Please don’t do it alone, better yet talk to your implementation team about it or the contact person on the supplier side.
4. Involve all relevant project stakeholders and define roles
Project management is essential. Therefore, having one key contact person supervising the process and managing all communication is a very good idea. This person will not only be responsible for the internal coordination but will also act as the contact person for the software supplier. This supports a simplified and cohesive implementation process, ensures a proper information flow, and results in reduced errors and miscommunication.
This does not mean not involving other team members in the project. Successful implementation needs to be viewed as a joint project with one team. But within that team, there needs to be clarity around individual roles. Together with the key contact person, roles within the team should be assigned respectively to their different expertise, knowledge, and motivation. Software implementations require change, and some people respond better to change than others. So, pick the ones who show themselves eager to be on board, and the implementation has a good chance to finish as a success.
5. Communication is key
And this is equally true for internal as well as external communication.
Internally a good communication flow makes sure that everyone is aware of the implementation process, sees the value in it, and knows how to ensure a successful and smooth project progression as well as what to do later on in the daily usage of the software. Being transparent about what happens (and why) not only helps to coordinate necessary actions but also has an impact on the motivation within the team.
Externally you want your user group to know about the software implementation and the platform you are building. What is true for your team is also true for your user group: they need to see the platform's value. They need to know the why and wherefore. Otherwise, why should they get themselves involved? Use whatever you have to make your platform visible and easily understandable as well as accessible. Ask yourself: Which channels suit my user group the best and which channels are available to me? Social media, e-mail, intranet, events, meetings between doorways…? Take what you get! Also, do not underestimate the power of word of mouth. Identify ambassadors or advocates and support them in their actions.
Another communication flow you definitely want to ensure is the one with your supplier contact person. Communication needs to start on day one, with both sides clear about what is expected, who is responsible for which tasks, and both sides keeping the communications channel open.
6. Ensure training and knowledge build-up
Encourage knowledge gaining and sharing from the start. First, you need trained and experienced team members that are familiar with the software. Otherwise, you have no one operating the platform properly. Second, your team will be more likely to be enthusiastic about the change when being sufficiently equipped. With kick-offs and onboarding, most software suppliers offer a way to get to know the software in a learning setting. These are great opportunities to get all your uncertainties removed and questions answered. It is always a good idea to collect all questions which arise within the team and send them before each meeting to the onboarding contact person. This gives structure to the meetings and ensures that no question is left unanswered. Also, use the time between the onboarding sessions to become more and more at home in the platform settings.
Another thing you do not want to ignore is the knowledge share within the team. Very likely, you have assigned two to four team members who take part in the onboarding meetings. Think about how you can assure that what they learn is passed on to other team members.
The knowledge gain does not stop when the onboarding is done, especially when it comes to successful user group management and engagement; there is always more to learn.
7. Have your platform ready before launch
This one might be kind of obvious, but it is easily underestimated what it takes to have an innovation platform truly ready for your users to interact with it. As mentioned before, the most important part is that everyone fully understands what the platform is about. So, be sure to have the overall vision and mission of the platform clearly communicated and easily accessible.
Additionally, keep the following in mind:
- Do the users have to register? If so, where and how can they do it?
- Does your platform have a header and footer? (If yes, they should be filled with some content.)
- Which project will be the first one available for participation? Choose an easy one in line with the overall vision of the platform.
- Have the project ready for participation. That means be sure to include an introduction and guideline on how to participate.
- Think about additional content that supports your first project: blog posts, mailings, social media? And use these to make the project visible.
- Do a test run before the final launch.
8. Keep your user group engaged
When it comes to user engagement, the best tactic is to take them along with you every step of the way. Be transparent about what you do and why you do it at any moment and they will pay you back with their motivation and engagement.
Do they participate with their ideas and project suggestions? Encourage and interact with them in comments and show them your appreciation by being transparent about what happens with their submissions.
There are new projects, blog posts, or challenges available on the platform? Tell your participants about them by using email updates and notifications. By constantly sharing the news on what is happing on the platform, users have a reason to come back to it.
9. Use the support your software supplier offers
Your software supplier has been through the implementation process countless times before. And while every customer is different, this simply means your supplier has the expertise to support you throughout the whole process and advise you on the best course of action. So ask for help if you need it.
And that was it
These are nine tips we want to give you to take along. Maybe you already experienced three (or hopefully more) successful months with a new innovation management software and you have tips for us we did not think about? Then please feel free to tell us about them, we would love to hear from you.