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3 key factors for successful software adoption


michael-garrett2.jpgIn my last post, I wrote about how IT often wants to implement new solutions, but then undermines the potential benefits by not adequately driving user acceptance and adoption.


In many cases software projects fail because they don’t get adopted in the end, and so the value isn’t returned. Or they continuously slip as the project is changed more and more and more through implementation.


So how do you drive adoption? Based on my experience as head of HP Software Professional Services, these are the three key factors.


1. Business engagement must begin early and continue throughout the project

Every project has a business sponsor. And yet we often see that the amount of engagement, the consistency of it and the breadth of it is often not to the right level. In fact, it’s common to have projects with sponsors who have very little day-to-day engagement. When you have a disengaged sponsor, they’re not dealing with enough of the details to give the project the direction it needs. What’s more, sponsors have to own the responsibility for driving the management of change and communication through their organisation. It can’t be a push all from IT; there has to be a pull from the business. And that person on the business side needs to understand the implications of that change on their business. For example, if you’re going for out of the box implementation, you know that business change is going to be much higher than with a tool configured to meet the exact requirements of the business as it currently is.


How can IT leaders ensure that the engagement of the business is sufficient to ensure success? An insurance company I work with does so by requiring that IT projects are jointly staffed by the IT function and the business unit sponsoring the effort. Providing funding is one thing, but in today’s lean organizations providing resources is a much higher bar in terms of commitment. In addition, who is better to foster adoption in a business unit than a ‘native’ of that unit?


2. Governance must have structure, speed and commitment

You have to be all in on governance for a successful project. Typically a governance structure has tiers of boards that review different areas of the program. At each board level we like to see something we call two in a box. Essentially that’s having two people at the same level, for example, an IT project manager and a business project manager. At each level you try to get good agreement and alignment so that you don’t go up to the next level misaligned. Getting the structure right is only part of it, however. You really need engagement and commitment to board activities. You can’t have people turn up without really having read the documentation. You’re also looking for speed of governance. It’s important to have regular meetings. Some boards will meet weekly, some monthly, another quarterly. But you have to have speed of escalation outside of the standard cadence. Otherwise projects can go off track very quickly.


3. The business case must be understood from beginning to end

You’re always driving back to the business case and making decisions based on the business case, rather than the situation that you necessarily have in front of you. If you’re making a decision about a change to the program you have to ask, ‘What does that mean in terms of the business case?’ ‘How does it impact adoption?’ ‘How do we make sure we get the outcome we need?’ Don’t make decisions based on your current context rather than the context of the business case. Good projects and good organisations steer the business case with the project. You need to be careful you don’t bend the business case to meet the project delivered. Instead, you’ve got to bend the project to deliver the business case.


I’ll write more about this last point—ensuring that you’ve delivered the business case—in my next post.


Learn more about HP Software Professional Services.


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