Why Enterprise Software Rollouts Fail

Lose the Legacy

The third problem revolved around our customer keeping the legacy software in place. Forgetting their password to the new software was all the excuse a user needed to fall back on their legacy application.

To avoid this problem, Whitmore firmly believes that the deployment plan must include sun-setting of the old system.

“You must physically unplug it and turn it off or else it will be an easy crutch for users who have the slightest difficulty with the new system,” says Whitmore.

But Whitmore cautions not to pull the plug without risk management.

“Keep the old system in place until certain metrics are met. For example, you can base metrics on the number of support calls. But it is key to make users aware that the end is inevitable,” she says. “I recommend initiating a visible countdown based on the predefined metrics.”

Now that we have identified these three problems, let’s dig one level deeper. All of these problems can be attributed to an overriding issue at the customer’s corporate management level. There was a lack of leadership from the corporate sponsor.

Even if you gain significant user support, ultimately it is not possible to ensure a successful rollout without a strong corporate guiding hand. If corporate is making a major technology investment, then someone has to lay down the law!

Corporate Buy-in a Must

The corporate sponsor must not only be an enforcer, but an enabler. With regards to training, you could not have a certification without enforcement and encouragement from corporate. If someone fails the certification, the consequences must have teeth and there can be no rubber stamping. They must retest until they pass, tying results to their performance reviews. For those users who have a difficult time adjusting to the change, consider providing additional training or hand-holding.

As for the pilot test site, those users must know they have the full backing of the corporate sponsor to push for changes deemed critical to their productivity. They should be rewarded for taking on pilot responsibilities in addition to their daily job tasks. Make sure they recognize the significant exposure to the corporate management team that could lead to career advancement.

Finally, only the corporate powers that be will have the standing to shut down the legacy system. Predefine metrics as suggested by Whitmore and over-communicate to users so they feel confident in the transition.

By closing down the legacy application, vetting out problems during the pilot and ensuring user capabilities through certification, there will be less resistance to moving off of the old application. Taking these steps will show the user community that the corporate project team has taken the necessary measures to make the rollout a success.

If you avoid these shortcomings on your software rollout, the silence you hear in the support center will be golden.