There are two parts to any enterprise technology solution: software and service. What a software product can do is important, of course, and you should look carefully at its functionality before buying. But software only gets you partway to an improved operation. The services provided along with the software, such as training and support, often prove to be more important than the products they accompany. If you’re not set up for success by these services, your team won’t be able to get the maximum value out of your software.
Today I want to specifically talk about why it’s important for technology to come with the best possible implementation services. This is something we feel strongly about at Tyler Technologies, which is part of why we hire so many professionals from the K-12 transportation industry, including Solutions Consultant Kim Rentner and Implementation Consultant Amy Cook. Before they helped Tyler clients successfully implement our solutions, they both used transportation software from various vendors at their own districts and experienced different styles of implementation. I asked them to provide you with some advice for an effective implementation:
Empower your staff
- “The most important piece of implementing any new software product is communication,” says Amy. “People can’t embrace what they don’t know.” Develop and implement an internal process for sharing information with staff. A lot of the success of a product will be based on the comfort level of the daily user.
- Ask for feedback from your staff throughout the process. This should include everything from the pace of implementation to the difficulties of change. People are more likely to embrace something new if they know their voices are being heard.
- Kim also recommends finding a vendor who is willing to sit down with your frontline employees while developing an implementation schedule. Staff who have a hand in the planning process will have more buy-in.
Develop a strong relationship with your vendor
- The sales team should be lining up a solution that fits your needs, not theirs. They should want to know all about your operation, including the quirks. They should also want to see you be successful during and after implementation. After all, a happy client only helps their efforts going forward.
- Both the client and the vendor’s implementation team have responsibilities. As a client, you need to incorporate the vendor’s proven path to a successful implementation, and the vendor needs to honor your knowledge about your district and what it takes to get through a work day.
Understand your limitations
- New software can be a huge undertaking, so make sure your initial timeline is realistic. There are a lot of decisions to be made, and you need to make the time to work through them before going live. If you’re looking at multiple products, compare implementation timelines. A vendor with a short implementation period may not be ready to provide you with real support for complex issues.
- Experienced staff doesn’t necessarily equal a smooth implementation. A fear of change is natural, so addressing it honestly is crucial. Staff may need to be encouraged frequently throughout the project, but again, your vendor shares some of this burden. Ask them what kind of training their implementation staff receive for cultural change management.
- Tyler Implementation Director Julie Smithson recommends dedicating training time for your staff without interruptions. Try to commit a number of hours per day or week to working in the software.
Build on your experience and knowledge
- If you’re replacing software, consider running your old system in parallel with the new. This will allow you to compare what’s working and what isn’t.
- Evaluate which of your operational processes are necessary and which are simply tradition. New processes are an inevitable part of any new software implementation, so knowing what can and should be modified is a cornerstone of success.
- What happens to the product after it’s implemented? Your vendor should have a very deliberate and transparent approach to product development. Make sure you understand it, and that you know how much attention is paid to client feedback. References are a great early resource for this information.
- Don’t forget support. How responsive are they? To what kind of standards and Key Performance Indicators does the vendor hold its personnel? Again, these are questions you can ask ahead of time to make sure you’re partnering with the best vendor for your operation.
Like most organizational undertakings, the key to success boils down to one word: communication. If you’re not talking positively about the change you’re making, then who will? Everyone from parents to school officials to your own routers could be skeptical of technology. Don’t add to their fear by being secretive. Engage media outlets and send out email blasts to keep people informed. Shock and please the public with proactive communication!
Content contributions by Tyler Technologies’ Kim Rentner, Julie Smithson, and Amy Cook.