[ BEST PRACTICES ]
so f t war e
WHY USERS ARE THE KEY TO SUCCESS
BY FRED J. ODE
The purchase of new software often brings with it a range of
emotions. Excitement about great new features. Promise that
the software will increase efficiency, saving time and money.
And, relief that a final consensus has been reached.
So, with all of the excitement, promise, and hope pinned on
the new product, why is it that software implementations are
more likely to be unsuccessful than successful? 1
Read on to discover the true reasons that determine success
vs. failure, and use them to prevent your next software purchase from ending up as “shelfware.”
Common Reasons Software
First, let’s define what we mean by a failed software implementation. Failure comes in many forms, from a product never
being used to it not being used to its full potential – and a
whole range of in-betweens. Some of the most common reasons include:
• Software did not deliver the expected features and
• Implementation took longer than anticipated;
• Setup was inadequate;
• Total cost exceeded budget;
• Application was difficult to use; and
• Users received only basic training and never learned
to use the product to accomplish the company’s real
You can probably relate to the frustration created by these
situations. Although each one is a legitimate reason for failure,
the number one reason software implementations fail is often
overlooked: Lack of user buy-in!
Starting at the End (User)
Despite a new product’s potential for boosting productivity
and efficiency, it’s often the system’s end users who determine success or failure. Just look at it from their perspective:
They are abandoning what they know and jumping head-first
into a new world. Feelings of discomfort, fear of change, and
a perceived loss of control are all natural reactions.
It doesn’t help that users are often considered last. Decisions
are made to purchase new software without any input from
the people who will ultimately use it. Sometimes they are not
even told until after the software has been purchased!
Obviously this can start the implementation process off on
the wrong foot and make users defensive and resistant.
Instead, communicate the need for a change in concrete
terms that relate to the user, as in: “We need a tool to help us
streamline your data entry while providing more detailed
reports to the PMs.” When you start with a defined goal and
reason for the change, you can then work backward to achieve
Letting users know what’s about to take place and what to
expect during the transition helps everyone prepare for a
successful implementation. Without user buy-in, you might
as well shelve the new product on day one and save yourself
Following are best practices for software implementation
that involve end users from the very beginning to ensure
they are on board before your company spends its first dime
on new software.