It’s like being behind the wheel of a car as it skids along a sheet of ice. The helplessness of having your hands firmly on the wheel and your foot on the brake but not being able to change direction or stop leaves you breathless. The imminent impact approaches in slow-motion. Your mind performs a flawless frame-by-frame recording of the event, a sort of a stop-motion filming for infinite playback after the fact. A million thoughts go through your mind within fractions of a second: many have to do with what you could have done to avoid being in this situation. But you’re not on ice, nor are you even in a car. You’re in a software implementation that’s off the rails. You are out of control, and there will be a definite impact – on the organization, and, perhaps, on your career.
This can all be avoided…the skidding, the feeling of helplessness, the torture of reviewing the what-if’s, and, most notably, the impact. There are best practices that can be followed to help ensure things move according to plan. John Donahoe, CEO of ServiceNow, spoke to a group of over 18,000 ServiceNow users at the Knowledge 18 conference about the best practices for customer success in implementing software. Though Donohoe was speaking specifically to ServiceNow users, the practices are applicable to any type of software implementation. He outlined four specific practices as being directly related to customer success:
Commit to an Out-of-the-Box Implementation
Failure to follow this first practice can doom an implementation before it ever gets started. There are bound to be multiple competing voices clamoring for customizations that are micro-targeted at small facets of the organization and bring little, if any, value to the organization as a whole. Attempting to placate all of the factions within your user community can have devastating long-term effects. Over-customizing can hinder your organization’s ability to take advantage of future enhancements. It may also impede your ability to install upgrades, and it can complicate security and the end-user experience. Look to bring consensus around the implementation. There are times where customization is necessary; however, one-off changes to benefit a small group of users should be dismissed as they do not provide the overall value required to justify the alteration.
Provide Clear Leadership and Governance
There needs to be a guiding force behind the implementation that provides a strategic approach to the roll out that adheres to the long-term vision of the software. The leadership and governance group will ensure that the implementation stays on track toward resolving the issues that the software was purchased to address. Leadership and Governance can also provide a firm hand in reviewing and making final determinations on requested customizations. Proper governance can ensure that the organization is committed to a regular schedule of upgrades and is positioned to receive the optimal return on investment.
Invest in Change Management
Make sure the right team is in place to support the application. Invest in training and certifying staff members, or hire staff that have certification and bring prior experience to the project. Consider creating a Center of Excellence – a pool of capable personnel who can support the user community and will create and model best practices for using the software. Market the implementation and upcoming changes. It will be key to create excitement around the roll-out and to continue to drive interest preceding upgrades and changes.
Drive Business Outcomes
It’s not enough to say that the goal of the implementation is to ‘improve workflows’. Avoid general statements around the aim of the roll-out. Be specific in creating goals. Develop top-down targets that are measurable, and report on your progress. Consider why you chose to procure the system in the first place, and develop the means to quantify if you are achieving those objectives.
These practices are not applicable only to those at the outset of an implementation. It’s important to note that you could steer out of a poor implementation. There are no laws against shifting gears and re-implementing. If you did not follow these best practices on the first attempt, try again. Put the project in park, and develop a plan for success. It is infinitely better to take one step back in order to take two steps forward than it is to continue onward at breakneck speed down the wrong road.
 John Donohoe, ServiceNow, ‘Knowledge 18 Day 1 Keynote, Works for You (Full Recording)’, https://knowledge.servicenow.com/video-library.html, May 8, 2018