Setting up new government software can be frustrating and time-consuming. Training employees, migrating data, and changing systems take time. There’s no way around it.
The good news is you can make it go faster.
After over 20 years of working with local governments, we have learned the steps governments can take to speed up the transition.
If your community is getting new software, here are 6 things you should do to set it up efficiently and ensure future success with the product.
1. Communicate early about upcoming changes
Change is hard, especially if you’ve been doing something the same way for a long time. Give people time to mentally prepare by letting them know when new changes are coming.
In Innovating Government Workplaces, Lessons From Google, we learned that people are more invested in a project’s or organization’s success when they are part of the decision-making process. We also know that people on the front lines (i.e. those who’ll be using the software on a daily basis) will have important insights and questions.
Provide opportunities to ask questions, air frustrations, and give valuable feedback. Hold a small meeting with these people and explain the purpose behind the new software. Share your enthusiasm! Their commitment to the software could make or break it’s effectiveness.
2. Audit your current processes
Software is typically designed to perform tasks already being done in a different way. Maybe that’s automating manual data entry or creating reports that were previously done with Excel spreadsheets.
Whatever they may be, assessing your workflows will help you transition them to your new software.
Our customers who set up the fastest are those who come into the implementation process having already reviewed their current processes. They know, for example, which forms need to be digitized, what steps can be consolidated, and who needs to be involved.
So, before diving in, create a map of how you’re doing things right now. Figure out which people are involved with which tasks, how steps are ordered, and how long each process takes on average.
Not only will this give you benchmarks to gauge efficiency, it will also help you take full advantage of the software. You’ll identify your top priorities and have a better idea of how to restructure your workflow using the software.
3. Envision your ideal outcome
You’ll find it much easier to transition to a new software system if you come to the table with an end product in mind. You don’t have to have all the details worked out, but ask yourself, what are our goals in buying this software?
Make a list of goals and ideas around how this software will increase your department’s efficiency. Keep these in mind throughout the process to help you stay motivated and focused. Bringing these goals and ideas to your vendor will make you a more active partner in the implementation.
Our customers find the most success when they’re excited about how they envision using ViewPoint Cloud. While they might not know how to use all the features right off the bat, they’ve taken the time to think about how our software will help them improve. This helps us help them turn that vision into reality.
4. Choose a project champion
Projects without a clear leader often suffer from bystander syndrome. No one really owns the initiative, so no one feels accountable for a timely implementation. Having a dedicated project leader(s) means someone will take responsibility for getting things off the ground. Choose a champion who:
- Can build in work time for the project
- Understands or can quickly learn department functions
- Has the ability to train others
Our communities who have a person (even an intern) who can devote part of their workday to implementing our software often go live in a matter of weeks rather than months. It’s best if this person already knows the department functions, but if they don’t, they should start by interviewing department members and learning the basics. Once that’s done, they can focus their time on learning the software and teaching others.
Have the project champion play around with the product, becoming comfortable with it’s features and interface. They should keep close contact with the vendor and ask for help when they need it. Once they have a good grasp, they should train department members in small groups. Start with an overview of basic functions, then let trainees play around with the software and answer questions as they go.
5. Learn from your peers
It’s likely there are other governments just like yours who have implemented the same software. Use them as resources by reaching out and learning what did and didn’t work for them. A little outreach on the front end can save you from making costly mistakes or provide tips to speed up the process.
Additionally, search for an online community of people who discuss and problem-solve a software product. Ask your vendor for additional support resources or to suggest peer clients to connect with. A project provides the opportunity to grow your network and potentially pave the way for future collaboration or resource-sharing.
6. Stagger implementation for large-scale projects
Don’t try to spread yourself too thin. If you plan to set up the software across multiple departments or municipalities, break them up into phases. Start with the department that will benefit the most from the new software.
Our customers are more efficient when they concentrate their resources on one department, train employees, deploy the software, and then move on to the next one.
Staggering implementation this way means the trainers get better at explaining the software and anticipating areas of confusion. The implementation speed will actually increase as you move from department to department.
It also gives you the chance to work out kinks and learn from your mistakes before repeating them. Make sure project leaders write down common questions or areas of confusions so trainers can come prepared with answers for future groups.
Good software has the capacity to dramatically improve your processes. But software is just a tool. The people using it are the most important part of the equation.
Doing some prep work and being smart about how you dedicate your resources means less time until you can actually use the product and see the results.
Remember these 6 steps for faster software implementation:
- Communicate early about upcoming changes
- Audit your current processes
- Envision your ideal outcome
- Choose a project champion
- Learn from your peers
- Stagger implementation for large-scale projects
While transitions are hard, a little forethought and planning will make them much easier. A quality software product is well worth the effort, because it has the power to exponentially increase your effectiveness down the line. Your future self will thank you.