So, you and your development partner have finished creating your new custom business software. Awesome! Now comes the exciting part. You get to roll it out so that employees can start using it and your company can start enjoying its benefits.
But successful software rollouts do not happen automatically. They require intention and careful planning. It is critical to develop a step-by-step rollout game plan. Define each stage of the rollout in detail. Then stick to it regardless of other work that demands time and resources. Issues like turnover, a busy sales season, or new business initiatives can easily draw attention away from custom software rollouts. They can keep your plan from being executed.
It is important to develop a thoughtful communications plan. You want your team to understand the “what,” “where,” “when,” and “how” of the rollout. It is especially useful to remind the team of the “why” of the rollout. This helps them share the vision of what the new tool aims to achieve.
You will also want to develop a training plan and materials. Your plan should include continual onboarding support for each employee.
Follow these additional guidelines to successfully launch your company's new custom platform:
Carefully consider the timing of your rollout:
As with most things in business, timing can affect the success of a software rollout. For example, you would want to avoid a rollout of custom accounting software at the end of the fiscal year. All rollouts will cause some amount of disruption. So, evaluate times when certain teams are under extra pressure. Be sensitive to their needs.
Have help available in the trenches:
You do not want your employees to feel that they need to learn your new software on their own. Have the right people available on the floor when you first roll out the software. These might include your IT employees, team leaders, and your software development partner. They can help employees learn the software, make a list of any bugs that need to be fixed, and mitigate any larger problems.
One of the great benefits of iterative rollouts is that you can apply the lessons learned in one rollout to the next one. So, it is good to have rollout leaders talking to employees and taking notes as they learn. After each rollout, you will have a list of ideas to improve the next rollout.
Reinforce the “why” of the rollout:
Transitioning to new software and changing workflows takes effort. It can be stressful for employees. This is true even if the new software and workflows are substantially better than the old ones. Even employees who begged for an app or integration to make their jobs easier still face a learning curve. They may occasionally feel frustrated while learning the new system.
So, it helps to remind employees of the purpose of the software. Keep your teams focused on the ultimate benefits at the end of the process. This encourages a positive attitude and helps everyone adopt the software more quickly.
Also, help relieve any pressure your employees might feel about learning the new software. Assure them that the company is aware that full adoption will take some time. Don't let them feel that they are falling behind while they learn to use the new software.
Expect to troubleshoot:
Even well-designed rollouts encounter unexpected challenges. Anticipate having to do some troubleshooting at launch no matter what. Preparing for the unexpected is especially important if you have a large team that will be using the software.
Of course, do your best to prepare for any potential trouble spots beforehand. You can plan your training with these potential trouble spots in mind to reduce problems.
Expect a few “hmm…” moments:
Even the best planned and carefully developed software might not be as perfect as planned at launch. During a rollout you may realize that a feature or two needs to be tweaked. And that’s OK and a normal part of the process!
When budgeting for your project, be sure to include a “contingency budget” so you can address any “hmm….” moments that surface at launch. This will make sure that a “hmm…” moment does not stop you from reaching your goal.
Celebrate the launch and keep the momentum!
Take some time to reflect with your team to compare the state of company operations before and after of your launch. Share any data and stories you have about efficiency gained, improved customer experiences, and a happier workforce.
Then, it’s time to look toward your next opportunities!
In this phase, consider how you can use what your new software is telling you. Leverage its core features and baseline data. This is often where new potential “quick wins” for the business reveal themselves. Plan on hearing your team start peppering you with “What if we…” ideas for added automation, reporting, or other software functions.
Here are some questions to discuss with your team during this exciting phase:
- What is changing or is likely to change in our industry?
- How can custom software help us prepare for those changes so that we can be proactive instead of reactive?
- What are our plans for the future? Do we plan to enter new markets? Offer new product lines? How can we integrate with other existing workflows?
Budgeting for Continuous Improvement:
Just like a home, building, or equipment, custom software is a valuable asset that requires regular attention and maintenance. Many companies retain their development partner after the initial launch. This allows for a proactive Phase 2 (and beyond) effort that continuously improves their software.
A Continuous Improvement budget empowers your front-line product users to approve the development of small improvements and features without going through a PO or approval process each time.
By retaining the development partner to continuously improve your software, you can create more buy-in from employees. Employees can quickly get improvements to the software they use for their daily work without having to wait weeks or months.
Want to learn more about what it takes to successfully launch a new custom business software? Please reach out!