How businesses can ensure new software initiatives are well-received by target audiences
We’ve all heard anecdotes about how even well-intentioned software projects have gone bad. Because the success of new systems and software programs depends very much on the positive outlook (of stakeholders that will use and interact with the tools) towards them, it’s important to motivate stakeholders long before implementation date. Without such motivation, a new technology launch is bound to fail.
In fact, in a 2016 online survey of software projects conducted by CIO magazine (a resource widely subscribed to by Chief Information Officers (CIOs) and business technology executives), statistics showed that 55% of technology projects failed – up from 32% two years earlier. One of the biggest reasons for these failures is lack of commitment and excitement about the new initiatives. And sadly, that often translates to project failure.
Better Engagement Promises Greater Success
New software, like Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP), Learning Management Systems (LMS) or Customer Relationship Management (CRM) tools, often create a great deal of apprehension among their target audiences. And, given how connected today’s organizations are, these audiences span beyond the corporate office, and can include:
- Employees (at local, regional, national and global levels)
- External Partners (such as Sub-contractors, Suppliers, Franchises and Dealers)
- Investors and other stakeholders
There’s no doubt that, as is the case for any new initiative, a lot of that apprehension stems from lack of information and poor outreach. So, the challenge that most executives face is: How do you ensure that there’s excitement and enthusiasm among your target audience when new technology is introduced within the organization?
The answer is better engagement!
Here are a few tips for generating positive vibes and excitement around your technology launch:
Engage Early: Whether it’s a tool to deliver online learning across the organization, such as a new LMS, or a system to streamline internal billing, the secret to building up excitement about the project is to engage stakeholders early in the process.
In this context, “engagement” doesn’t just mean “to contact”, it also includes consulting and collaborating. Early engagement is one of the best ways to sow the seeds of excitement about the project even before the first major decisions are made. Stakeholders who are thus engaged can then be used as “ambassadors” to up-sell the new software to other audiences with whom they have leverage.
Engage Efficiently: In the old days, CEOs or CIOs sent out an info bulletin or memo about the new software launch a few weeks prior to cut-over, and everyone was expected to be excited about it. Well, that’s no longer the case! In today’s information age, to generate positive buzz around your new software tools, you need to:
- Continually reach out to impacted audiences throughout the life of the project – from inception to final launch
- Use internal websites and blogs to drum up support for the software
- Hold town-hall meetings and info-sessions to communicate with those impacted
- Use social media (Facebook, Twitter and Instagram) to connect with remote stakeholders – whether internal to the company or external
Educate Effectively: While engagement is a great way to generate excitement about new technology or software tools being implemented across your organization, it’s not a substitute for effective education about the tool or system being adopted. Here are some of the ways to effectively educate people about your new software:
- Create targeted education programs to prepare specific audiences to receive the tools
- Make information resources available – both online and in-person – so that the new software is well understood by everyone who will either use it or interact with it once implemented
- Hold Lunch-and-Learn sessions regularly to educate participants about specific features of the programs being introduced
- Schedule a series of Town Hall meetings where senior executives meet – either via technology (Skype or Facebook) or in-person – with impacted stakeholders to “talk up” the new software
- Feature regular FAQ updates, using the company’s internal email distribution list, as well as Facebook (and other social media platform) presences if your target audiences are on social media
Listen Attentively: The one mistake that’s often repeated is engaging and educating without being responsive to your audience:
- Monitor social media feeds to judge how announcements of the impending software launch is being accepted
- Implement a process through which all questions and concerns – whether generated online, at company town-hall meetings or impromptu learning events, are filtered to the highest levels within the organization
- Build a uniform strategy to review and address those concerns, and then communicate them to the audience
Because new software and systems often create apprehension among employees and users, they (the stakeholders) need to feel that someone higher up in the organization is listening to their concerns and providing answers to their questions. In the absence of such a dialogue, generating excitement about new software tools is almost impossible.
Two Pillars to Generating Excitement for a Technology Launch
Ultimately, if the constituents (Users, Employees, Suppliers, Customers, Sales Reps) who will interact with and use a new system aren’t too excited about it, the money, time and effort expended in acquiring and implementing the software will have been wasted. There are two pillars on which a strategy to promote and generate excitement for software initiatives rests:
- Communication: This includes timely and meaningful dissemination of key information about the launching of the new software. It also involves implementing a 2-way communication channel, whereby stakeholder concerns are not just heard and acknowledged, but can also be quickly and effectively addressed.
- Education: This includes investing in both on-line and on-premises, formal, informal and impromptu training and learning for various constituents.
As humans, we are naturally reluctant to adopting change. Since new systems are often disruptive to the way we have been doing things, we are even more resistant to embracing them. And since generating excitement is all about “selling” new ideas, project managers must create a targeted strategy to spark stakeholder enthusiasm about the new software or program being introduced.
Such excitement can be generated with every communication touch-point, and through each educational initiative. The more stakeholders learn about the new program, the less likely they will resist its implementation. When employees and corporate partners feel excited about the new system or software, the chances of successful implementation are extremely high.