Keeping up with available technology and being able to respond to the rapid changes in the market make it necessary for organizations to adopt “new” planning software including enterprise resource planning (ERP) tools.
Hours of work are put into getting approvals, securing financing, building excitement, and getting support of the organization. Once launched, it’s easy to think we’ve succeeded since we’ve passed the hurdles of approval, selection and launch. Much emotional energy has been spent discussing the frustration and failures of the old software while customizing and launching the new. Users are excited for the new software and the perceived promise it will fix all our issues or at least certain issues.
Practically speaking though, users are excited until they get through the initial honeymoon phase and now realize they must use the new tools and make changes to their daily workflow, habits and schedules.
When processes and tools have been in place for years or even decades, change can be especially challenging. As a result, the new software we’ve just launched could be in danger of being abandoned with unintentional self-sabotaging behaviors. The following details common post-launch behaviors that, if unchecked will limit the ROI of any investment in technology.
Behavior 1: Treating The Software Like A Black Box
Launching new software is both hard work and exciting. Because of this excitement, any time users discuss the results, reports and metrics produced by the new software, it gets both the praise and the blame. Conversations will typically start with “new software says…” as if the new software was to blame for the poor result or is the sole reason for success. The new software may have an issue in calculation, formula or connection, but with post launch support, these are usually quickly resolved and fixed. Unfortunately, this language continues long after any bugs and errors in the software have been corrected.
When used indiscriminately, especially for negative results, our customers distrust the new program and start longing for “the good ole days”, forgetting the issues they had before. We must give our internal stakeholders a reality check—if the software is operating correctly, it’s only providing the results of the data supplied based on the assumptions loaded, and it isn’t a mysterious black box. In other words, if you don’t like the results, there is either a data issue, or an assumption has changed and is no longer applicable.
These assumptions are more than just the forecast (although the forecast or demand plan is important) but may include other factors such as lead times, cycle time, capacity, variability, yields, bills of material, minimum order quantities or even item attributes such as case pack, cost and many others.
New software usually provides expanded capabilities and visibility to the organization. It has better algorithms, calculated assumptions like demand or supply variability and may even have additional fields not available in the primary system of record. The improvements provided by the new software typically provide solutions to the weaknesses of the old planning tools. Forgetting the new features and failing to remember or understand how they work negatively affects perception of both the new software and reputations of planner’s abilities and knowledge.
Rather than constantly saying the “new software says,” try changing terminology to “per data,” or “based on our current plan.” Both of those recognize the power within the organization to control the results rather than the new software seeming to operate independently as a black box.
Behavior 2: Training Just Once On The New Software
Users typically receive extensive training as part of their pre-launch activities. However, that is a lot of information crammed into a very short period, including how to do regular daily activities in the new system and how to use the exciting new features. Unfortunately, there’s so much data even the most tech savvy users will struggle to remember it all, let alone use it in the months post launch.
Post launch, users are busy trying to apply the new tools to their daily jobs and keep the business running. If continued post-launch support and training is offered, it’s either limited to a few super users or isn’t fully taken advantage of by the team. Failing to offer post-launch training and refreshers is a missed opportunity to help users incorporate the new tools into their daily activities and inhibits long term success.
Many a software platform has failed or been abandoned not because users aren’t willing or because it isn’t working, but because it isn’t being used to its full potential. In general, without continued support, users may find it easier to fall into old habits because it’s familiar and using new tools is time-consuming and, initially, difficult. User training including refreshers and enhancements post launch is critical to long term success and organization adoption. Continued training provides the best opportunity to maximize user abilities, process improvement and future enhancements to the new software to meet the evolving needs of the business.
Behavior 3: Failure To Celebrate Wins—Even The Little Ones
An important part of any new system launch is understanding how success is defined. Defining what success will look like pre-launch using goals and desired target results can provide the tools necessary to help change negative perceptions by reminding the organization of where we’ve been, and the improvements made. The desired targets should include a broad spectrum of goals surrounding implementation, such as hitting launch timelines, user acceptance or adoption rate, and business goals, such as KPI improvements pre vs post launch or new metrics available as a result of the new software.
While big celebrations are typically done for big milestones, it’s just as important to celebrate and provide recognition for the small everyday improvements that may not be as easy to measure such as time saved or improved process visibility. Little win celebrations in the months after go-live are big opportunities to continue to sell the new software to casual users.
Behavior 4: Measuring Success In A Vacuum & Ignoring The Complete Picture
Measuring successes—both big and small—is necessary. However, be wary of attributing too much importance to any one measure, especially any measure in isolation. For example, it would be easy to say we have more on hand inventory than last year and therefore the new software isn’t working. However, if holding more inventory meant taking advantage of opportunities with customers and making more sales, fewer stock outs, and improved service levels, then the statement more inventory equates to a failure by the new system is misleading. Yes, inventory is greater than last year, but increased inventory was necessary to meet the other goals set by the organization.
When we make big changes, it takes time to see the long-term impacts on the business. Setting appropriate expectations for what will happen post-launch helps manage expectations. Unfortunately, there will be times members of the organization will get hyper focused on a single metric. “Single metric mindedness” may be normal but making the effort to keep the focus on the broader scope and agreed upon measures of success is necessary to prevent abandonment of the new software.
Hyper focusing on a single measure to define success of new software, especially by those in leadership roles, is dangerous. Instead, refocus efforts by regularly reporting and celebrating results—even the little wins. This maintains focus on how much positive change was brought about by the new software as well as providing a realistic and comprehensive view of performance.
Adding consistent, frequent user support and training post launch gives the organization the best opportunity to not only take advantage of the new software but to identify any future improvements that may be needed due to the natural changes in business.
We must be especially mindful of how we speak about the new software as this positively or negatively shapes user perception. Positive speech has the potential to reap enormous rewards not only regarding longer-term adoption of the software, but also confidence in user expertise and the organization’s planning processes.
Misty will be sharing further insight into forecasting and planning at IBF’s Business Forecasting, Planning & S&OP Conference in Orlando, held from October 19-22 at the Wyndham Orlando Resort. The biggest and best event of it’s kind, it’s your opportunity to learn best practices in S&OP, demand planning and forecasting, and network and socialize in a fantastic setting. See here for details.