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July 11, 2017
Planning & Strategy  |  7 min read

How to Transition Your Company to New Software Platforms

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Sujan Patel

You’ve pulled the trigger on a new software program. You’re excited about its new features and benefits, and you can’t wait to roll it out to your team.

But then, you hit pushback. Employees are reluctant to make a change. Other departments flat-out refuse to go through the onboarding steps you’ve outlined.

What happened?

According to Capterra’s Christopher Smith:

“Oftentimes changes may seem like they are making one’s job more difficult. Having to learn a new software, a change in organizational processes, shifting hierarchical responsibilities- all of these are an adjustment; one most employees can be quite resistant to embrace.”

So how do you get employees on board? While there are no guarantees, the following steps can help make the changeover process as smooth as possible.

Plan ahead

Successful new software onboarding doesn’t start the day you introduce employees to your new tool. It happens months or weeks ahead of time, when you make a plan for how you’ll manage your roll-out.

To start, set a target change-over date and then build your plan around this, leaving enough time for installation, employee training, and more. Shoaib Ahmed reports that 85 percent of all software development projects fail to come in on budget or on time. It isn’t an “if” you’ll run into setbacks and bumps in the road; it’s a “when.”

Leave enough time in your roll-out plan to act as “wiggle room” so that any issues that arise don’t derail your entire launch.

Find your champions

Getting the C-suite on board is a must for any new software roll-out. But as you put your roll-out plan together, you might also find it helpful to identify possible “champions” whose enthusiasm will help bring others on board.

Good champions are those who are:

  • Open to change
  • Tech-savvy
  • Outgoing with others
  • Respected by their peers

Train them first, then make them active participants in the roll-out. The less you can make your changeover seem like a top-down dictate, the more receptive employees at all levels of your company’s hierarchy will be.

Focus on employee benefits

You have your reasons for choosing a new software program. Maybe it’ll save you time. Maybe it’ll decrease your costs. Or maybe it’ll increase the number of deals you close—telecom platform Blueface switched to new proposal software and increased its close rate by double digits.

But those specific benefits might not matter to your employees. An accounting specialist whose day-to-day routines will be fully disrupted by your software transition won’t care that you’re closing more deals—so find a way to frame the change in benefits that matter to them.

Make it fun

“Training” doesn’t have to be a dry presenter standing in front of a bland PowerPoint. And while it might never rival Happy Hour at the local bar, there’s plenty you can do to make the process enjoyable.

Get people hands-on with the software. Feed them. Turn skill evaluations into a Jeopardy-style game, complete with fun prizes.

That said, remember that what’s “fun” for one person might be a waste of time to another. “You don’t want to send people who are tech-savvy on a course because that’s a waste of time. Instead, ask your team members what kind of training they’re most comfortable with,” according to Didier Bonnet, co-author of “Leading Digital” and Global Practice Leader at Capgemini Consulting, as interviewed by Harvard Business Review’s Rebecca Knight.

Recognize positive behaviors

Once your training is over and employees are hands-on with your new software tool, recognize good behavior when you see it (or punish bad behavior, if appropriate within your organization).

“Recognition” doesn’t have to be huge. TechRepublic’s Andy Wolber suggests that “A brief ‘thank you’ or ‘congratulations’ during a meeting may be appropriate. Kind words said during a meeting can go a long way toward encouraging people to change habits.”

Remember, two-thirds of today’s employees already feel overwhelmed. Recognizing that learning new software programs represents an added burden on top of their existing workloads is important to maintaining morale.

Evaluate regularly

Remember that roll-out plan I mentioned earlier? Make sure it doesn’t stop when your new software is live.

After your roll-out, keep the lines of communication open. Be receptive to employee feedback and do your best to resolve actual issues (though you’ll need to learn to differentiate these from complaints about unfamiliar processes). When employees see you respecting their challenges and investing in their success with your new software, they’ll be less resistant to the demands being placed on them.

Finally, make regular evaluation a part of your process. Evaluate the success of your changeover immediately after your roll-out, as well as down the line. Check in with employees in the months and years following your roll-out. Are you seeing the benefits you expected? Are employees feeling comfortable with the new tool? If not, what can you do to improve outcomes over the long-term?

Certainly, you’ll need to scale this process depending on the scope and scale of the software program you’re rolling out. Replacing your marketing automation system requires different resources, for example, than implementing a new supply chain management software program that affects multiple departments.

Think through these considerations, as well as any unique challenges your organization will face. With time and proper planning, you can make the changeover process to a new software program as simple and as painless as possible.

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Sujan Patel is a leading expert in digital marketing. He is a hard working and high energy individual fueled by his passion to help people and solve problems. He is the co-founder of Web Profits, a growth marketing agency, and a partner in a handful of software companies including Mailshake, Narrow.io, Quuu, and Linktexting.com. Between his consulting practice and his software companies, Sujan’s goal is to help entrepreneurs and marketers scale their businesses.


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