There is no doubt that providing software implementation as part of your service mix can offer significant value to your clients and also be a great way to generate revenue for your business. At the same time, depending on the software you offer and the requirements of your clients, delivering a successful implementation can be quite challenging.
Over the years, I’ve worked with a number of software implementers and others who offer implementation services as part of their value proposition. During our discussions, I’ve heard a number of themes emerge in terms of the challenges they face most frequently as well as those that have a significant impact on their business.
1. “Scope creep is overtaking my implementation projects”
Scope creep – also called requirement creep or feature creep – is a project management term that refers to uncontrolled changes or continuous growth in a project’s scope. And in the software implementation environment, this happens all too often.
This is likely to happen because the scope of a project is not sufficiently defined, documented, or controlled, or because the processes in place to ensure that these tasks are appropriately completed are also poorly defined.
The trouble with implementing software that is developed externally is that you’re often dependent on the software company to provide the procedures that drive the implementations. Even when they are provided, these developer-provided implementation guides will likely have a number of shortcomings that leave you compromised. Such as:
- Poorly matched to your environment;
- Lack of detail to be truly effective; or
- Devoid of any real support from the software company.
As a result, many software implementations are doomed from the word go, with implementers left to deal with scope creep, unsatisfied clients, and escalating costs.
2. “My sales people are overpromising and that’s setting me up to fail”
Another common reason for scope creep can be salespeople getting ahead of themselves. Whether you sell your own services or have a dedicated salesperson or team, you know that there’s been at least one occasion in which ‘optimistic promises’ were made in order to close a sale.
While this tactic may prove fruitful in the short term, it’s likely to significantly damage your chances of successful project delivery in the long run. Even when a project is completed, if the salesperson has overset the customer’s expectations, referrals can be difficult if not impossible to obtain, further restricting your growth.
3. “We’re struggling to implement software with minimal input from the vendor software company”
Implementing software for a partner business should require the software vendor to actually be a true partner in the process, but often that is just not the case. Such one sided relationships can leave you facing all the risk, but then having to share the rewards.
4. “Our implementation processes can’t compete with alternatives”
Whether your software implementation processes are defined by a developer, or are those that you’ve developed yourself, it can be hard to compete with the best practice implementation practices of larger software alternatives.
As customers become savvier, the importance of well-defined processes are growing and it’s not just to ensure successful project delivery. Many implementers find that an effective and proven implementation process is a key criterion for buyers making software investments, and may be an important factor for closing deals over larger competitors.
5. “Our product training is insufficient to deliver an outstanding implementation”
Trying to struggle through a software implementation without sufficient training really is a nightmare. While your team may consist of especially smart people who can work out a lot on their own, without comprehensive training in the products they’re implementing, your staff may:
- Not be able to deliver against client expectations;
- Embarrass themselves in front of clients; or
- Become disenchanted with the work they are doing.
What a nightmare! Can someone please wake me up?
Helping Channel Partners hit the ground running with their implementation projects gets special focus at Micronet, and here are some of the best practice insights we share with our partners to help them meet and exceed their customers’ expectations (and in the spirit of practicing what you preach, I’ve also included examples of how these specific practices are applied to HARMONiQ).
Develop a detailed implementation roadmap for your software
If the software company has failed to provide sufficient implementation guidelines, it may still be worth an investment of your time to develop the documentation templates and procedures to support your efforts.
I recommend getting your sales and implementation teams together in a group, and collaboratively workshopping the specifics based on your experiences. However, have one person own the task of compiling and documenting the outcome to ensure it is actually completed.
Our HARMONiQ partners receive a comprehensive documentation pack along with detailed templates to capture all of the customer’s current state and requirement information upfront, with room for customisation based on the specific situation.
This proven methodology allows them to minimise risk for themselves and their customers, while also setting expectations for a project they can actually deliver successfully.
Sales people shouldn’t be the only ones who sell
What we’ve found, perhaps unsurprisingly, is that the sales process for a piece of software and its implementation requires a collaborative effort between the sales people and the technical team. While selling skills are essential to closing a deal, having a technical influence involved earlier in the process can help:
- Set realistic customer expectations;
- Accurately answer customer questions; and
- Develop a relationship between the customer and their implementation team early on.
With HARMONiQ, the software implementation roadmap always includes a three-way discussion between customer, sales person and technical resource at a key stage of the buyer’s decision making process to ensure that a business’s own sales tactics don’t get in the way of their delivery.
Partner with software that takes being a ‘partner’ seriously
When you’re looking for software vendor to partner with, ensure you take into consideration their commitment to the partnership from the very beginning. Because of the size disparity between your business and theirs, it is unlikely that this dynamic will change over time.
The HARMONiQ implementation roadmap includes a three-person panel from Micronet Systems consulting on the specifics of each implementation. Each member provides their own unique expertise to complement that of our partners. Our current partners share with us that this is a unique feature of being a HARMONiQ Channel Partner, and one they especially benefit from in the early days of their partnership.
Elevate your implementation processes to best practice
Best practice implementation processes don’t have to be limited to the enterprise-level solutions on the market. In fact, having a high standard of quality in your implementation methodology can be a significant competitive advantage at any level on the software spectrum.
As you may be aware, HARMONiQ is a mid-tier software that offers its users a breadth and depth of functionality at a truly affordable price point. However, when it comes to our implementation processes, we don’t give any excuses. Developed in line with the practices of best of breed implementers, HARMONiQ’s detailed implementation plan is designed to offer our partners with an end-to-end roadmap for delivering successful implementations for their clients.
Partner with a software company that offers comprehensive training
Another important consideration when choosing a software to partner with is the level of training they provide. Talk to your implementation staff to ensure that they feel confident with their knowledge of the software they’re implementing. Should any gaps arise, try reaching out to your software partner for further training opportunities.
At the beginning of a partnership with HARMONiQ, each Channel Partner receives three days of comprehensive training, covering all aspects of the software as well as the recommended implementation process. In addition, they also receive ongoing training and support with particular focus on hands-on assistance during initial implementations.
In fact, our next partner training session is happening in Sydney this August and is open to you as well. If you are considering taking on board a new software product as part of your solution suite, or would simply like to learn more about how HARMONiQ Business Tuning Software can deliver value to both you and your clients, we’d be delighted to have you attend. Please contact me on 02 9542 2000 or email me on firstname.lastname@example.org to find out more.
Drew Arthur is the Managing Director of Micronet Systems, and is focused on working with accountants and professional services providers to help their clients tune their businesses by leveraging cutting-edge technology. If you want to help your clients gain further efficiencies within their business while boosting your own revenue, click here to see how HARMONiQ Business Tuning Software can make a difference to their business and your own, or get in touch.