A Legacy of Long and Costly Software Implementations has Caused Businesses to Re-Think how they Buy Business Critical Solutions

A few days ago I had an interesting lunch conversation with some friends who were talking about disaster software implementations they’d experienced in past companies. Each had their own horror story about the never-ending struggles and disruptions and the years of fruitless effort that went into them. We all mused about how common it is to hear stories like that, and the crazy amounts of money that companies blow on the implementation.  That legacy has caused modern businesses to re-think their approach to enterprise software.

Modern businesses that are looking for software solutions are increasingly seeking out products that can provide immediate value to an immediate need. Companies today are much less likely to look at the large enterprise behemoths like Oracle and SAP that are out to reinvent their business. There just isn’t the appetite anymore for the high costs, uncertain results and painfully long & expensive implementations. Today’s businesses want to solve a specific need and get up and seeing results quickly; and at a minimum cost. This doesn’t always mean however; that the decisions around adopting new technology are necessarily easy – even when that new system looks to be a perfect fit.

Easy or not, those decisions have to be made; because as businesses grow, they start to feel the pinch of old technology slowing them down or causing unnecessary errors and failures. The decision process typically works a bit like this.  Once they accept that they need to improve things, companies start looking around for what software is out there that can help fix their burning issues.  Then after checking out a few demos, they’ll shortlist one or two packages that appear to be a likely fit.
Construction project management software
Then of course, the uncertainty kicks in. They start wondering about things like: how long is this going to take, how much is it going to cost, will my team actually use it, will there be disruptions and downtime, etc.  They’ll often hesitate on their decision because of the panicky fear of a long and painful implementation that ends up crashing into a disaster. No-one wants to be responsible for a decision that causes negative ripple effects around the company or department.

My lunch partners and I talked about that decision-paralysis moment that can immobilize their ability to reach an outcome.  Those waves of doubt can freeze people into rationalizing that, “I won’t get in trouble if I do nothing.”  So they hesitate and just deal with the status quo – for a while. Then they realize that the status quo just isn’t an option because it’s killing them to come to work every day.  No decision is still a decision – just not a very good one.

As a technology provider, we’re well aware of how this plays out. It’s our job to provide our clients with all the necessary tools to make those decisions – in addition to providing the peace of mind about making the technology transition both smooth and successful. To succeed as a technology provider, today’s software companies need to not only react to the highly targeted needs of businesses that require specific solutions, they also need to address these last-minute uncertainties that can muddle and delay decisions. Delaying a critical decision is not healthy for ether company.  To pacify that uncertainty, we as technology providers must enable fast & painless implementations; in addition to providing quick turnaround of immediate value so that clients can feel an early sense of success. These are just a couple of tools, I’ll go over a few more further below.

Now as a client, how would you know if a software vendor can truly achieve an efficient implementation? One of the reactions we regularly hear from new client prospects after they’ve seen our software, is this feeling of, “That looks amazing, but how in the world am I going to there from the chaotic environment I’m in now?”  Being able to transform your current solution into a more consolidated and well organized software system that’s targeted for your business is a big part of what a software vendor should be able to do for you. But we also need to do that efficiently and with minimum disruption. To get into the nuts and bolts of it, following are 8 key trigger points that any client should be looking for to make sure they’re not diving into a painful and expensive software implementation.

  1. Can they import your data? Providing flexible and robust data imports is a vital part of an efficient implementation. Both for initial and ongoing use of any new software system. Data migration can be one of the most time-consuming and challenging part of adopting new software. Here is a list of the types of content that the vendor should be able to import:
    • Import your work breakdown structure
    • Import your cost breakdown structure
    • Import your construction estimates. Detail estimates including take-off quantities & rates for materials, equipment, services, labor, expenses, etc.
    • Import your procurement contracts: i.e. purchase orders and requests for quote (RFQ)
    • Import your Labor, equipment and materials resources into a resource database
    • Import your vendor lists
    • Import your client list
    • Import your change orders
    • Import cost tracking data for actual costs & revenues: for example LEMS tracking and timesheet data
    • Import vendor receiving data and vendor invoices for actual costs and cash flow
    • Import schedule
  2. Can you continue to use some of your current tools while transitioning?  For example, if your estimators don’t want to transition right away, can they still use their favorite construction estimation software?
  3. Can they provide consulting to help map your current tools and processes to the new system?
  4. Is the software easy to use?
  5. Is the software Cloud-Based?  Software in the cloud provides numerous advantages for a quick and cost-effective implementation. Check out this article for more on the implementation advantages of cloud software.
  6. Can they provide you a training environment?  Does the software vendor provide you with a personalized sandbox environment where you can learn, play, teach and test out the software?
  7. Can you trial the software before buying it?  Moreover, can you trial the software using your own data?
  8. Do they provide training?

I hope these can be helpful to you. I’d love to hear your experiences and any suggestions you might have to add to that list of tips in software implementation strategy.