5 typical mistakes in software implementations

21. March 2022

1. Neither goal nor clear concept

Often the reason for introducing a new software is that companies feel a certain “pain” in their processes. Usually business is going well, otherwise the money for new software would not be there, but there are one or two places where things are simply stuck.

First optimize processes, then digitize them

The idea of making a few improvements here and there when looking for new software is often a bad idea. In doing so, those responsible misjudge two aspects:

  • Existing processes are often not the most efficient solution to the fundamental problem, but in many cases have simply grown historically and have simply not been questioned so far.
  • No software in the world will be able to map all processes exactly 1:1 as they are handled in company X, because company Y is guaranteed to do things differently.

There are two possible solutions: Option A is to spend a lot of money to customize the software so that it fits the existing processes as well as possible. With this approach, you will probably make your employees happy, but you will miss the opportunity to improve your business processes. In variant B, you first work with the software provider and your employees to develop an optimal solution for your processes. This approach costs time and requires the active participation of your team, but it usually produces significantly better results.

Establish objectives and develop a rough concept

To be optimally prepared for this, you should first think about the main goal you want to achieve with the new enterprise software. The more specific, the better. Write down the goal and, if possible, tie it to a specific number, e.g.

With the new enterprise software, we create and send invoices completely digitally. The monthly time spent on invoicing should be reduced by at least 50%.

In the second step, you can think about the concept you want to use to achieve this goal. Roughly speaking, this could look like this:

Ms. Mustermann generates new invoices online, which she can also do in her home office. She uses predefined layouts, articles and prices. The addressee of the invoice is automatically taken from the CRM database. She sends finished invoices directly from the software by e-mail. She can also make and send corrections and cancellations in the system.

In your initial concept, don’t get lost in technical details, but instead focus on benefits and process. Free yourself from the existing processes in the company and imagine how you would ideally like the process to work.

  • Determine a concrete goal that you would like to achieve with a new enterprise software.
  • Develop a rough (!) concept of how you can achieve this goal with an enterprise software.

2. False expectations during software implementation

Good communication is also extremely important for the success of a customer relationship in the business-to-business (B2B) sector. This is especially true in the project business, because projects often fail not because of the solution itself, but because of a lack of communication and false expectations.

Expectations are one-sided contracts that the other party knows nothing about.

– Karlheinz Wolfgang

This quote from Karlheinz Wolfgang sums up two very important mistakes:

  • Clients do not fully communicate their expectations.
  • Contractors do not track expectations concretely enough.

Regardless of whether the fault lies more on the side of the contractor or the client, this miscommunication leads to problems sooner or later. This is particularly annoying when it comes to the costly introduction of new enterprise or ERP software.

Of silent mail and black peters

Often, however, expectations only arise in the interaction between offer and demand:

  • A prospective customer wants a software tool for a specific task or a concrete problem and describes his requirements.
  • The software provider presents a solution which, in his opinion, is suitable for solving the task or problem.
  • The prospective customer processes the proposed solution and in turn adjusts his expectations.

The more people and the more intermediate steps there are in this process, the greater the risk that completely different expectations will emerge. Every communication is fraught with vagueness, because what the provider understands does not have to correspond exactly to what the demander means, and vice versa. It is often the case that the contractor and the client have a different understanding at the beginning and only find each other in the course of the project.

A certain degree of blurring cannot be avoided. Therefore, the following points are important for a software implementation, just as they are for projects in general:

  • Express and record expectations as clearly as possible.
  • Always check against expectations and make sure that everything has been understood correctly.
  • Regularly and transparently compare the current work status with expectations.

3. Unclear framework conditions and responsibilities

The introduction of new software often affects many areas within a company. This leads to the fact that many want to have a say, but no one is responsible. This is a very unfortunate starting position for the software introduction, because it usually leads to the introduction being aborted or not being completed properly.

IT department vs. lead user

Another pitfall often lies in the question of who defines the requirements for the software. Typically, there are two departments to choose from: the IT department and the department that is likely to use the software most intensively. We call this the lead user.

Since both departments have their own perspective and interests in the software rollout, you quickly run the risk of missing out on each other’s concerns. If the IT department takes the lead, you can be reasonably sure that the new software will integrate well with your existing system landscape. However, whether it will also help users in their daily application is another question. If, on the other hand, only the lead user takes care of his or her needs, you may find that there are problems with the interfaces to other systems. For this reason, you should always include responsible persons from both departments in the decision-making process.

  • Appoint a suitable project manager to oversee the entire system implementation.
  • Set a clear and realistic timeframe and budget.
  • Involve both the IT department and the lead user in the decision and introduction.

Determine project manager, set time and cost frame

Therefore, you should clearly designate the project manager from the very beginning. He should have the time and the necessary resources to accompany the project from start to finish. At least as important is a clear time and budget specification. If no budget is set, the project could turn out to be very expensive. If there is no time schedule, the project is likely to take longer than desired. Be sure to be realistic in both specifications. No software project is free and finished after two weeks.

4. Resistance to the software introduction

The introduction of new software requires systematic change management. This will inevitably cause resistance within the company, because people do not like change. This is especially true for software implementations, because a new business system brings fundamental changes. Two different forms of resistance can be distinguished.

Open resistance

In this form of resistance, employees openly voice their concerns. Constructive criticism focuses on addressing and improving weaknesses in the software or during implementation. However, some employees also use the opportunity to make one-sided negative comments in order to dismiss the entire project (“It won’t do any good anyway”).

Covert resistance

In covert resistance, employees do not show their disapproval openly to superiors, but only among colleagues or in their behavior. Employees then try to slow down the awarding of contracts by repeatedly creating new requirements or insisting on secondary requirements. If the new system is already in use, they do not adhere to new process specifications or criticize a lack of training or user-friendliness.

Fear is a bad advisor

Resistance to new software is often rooted in various employee fears. Depending on their role and personality, the causes can vary widely:

  • Fear of losing power: New software usually makes information available to departments or the entire company. As a result, it seemingly deprives individual employees of their “knowledge sovereignty”.
  • Fear of being overwhelmed: New software usually requires rethinking and getting used to new processes and operating concepts. Long-time employees, however, have usually become comfortable with existing business practices. They are afraid of not being able to cope with the innovations and perhaps even having to admit this.
  • Fear of losing control: New software usually introduces new processes and responsibilities. Employees fear that their performance will become more transparent and that they will be measured against new standards.

However, it is important to understand that resistance can never be ruled out from the outset. The secret to success is to be aware of them and to deal with them properly. The following tips will help:

  • Be aware of what resistance is occurring, identify its causes, and develop counterarguments.
  • Give the entire team the opportunity to express ideas, criticism and feedback.
  • Talk calmly, objectively and appreciatively with employees about their fears and concerns.
  • Always accompany the introduction of new company software with sufficient training that focuses entirely on individual departments.

5. The dilemma of shared resources

Based on a series of expert interviews, Stefan Tretter and Sarah Diefenbach1 from LMU Munich come across an interesting effect of new software, which they call the “dilemma of shared resources”. We present this effect below:

Share information and rule

New enterprise software is often used to handle internal company processes more easily and efficiently. For this to work, data usually has to be imported and maintained. Only then will all users benefit and workflows actually become simpler. However, data maintenance in particular often appears to be a nuisance and does not bring any direct benefits for the user. The example of a CRM system is a good illustration of this effect.

One of the main advantages of CRM software is the digital customer history. In it, all interactions with the customer can be tracked and retraced later. After a lengthy customer phone call, however, it is not very tempting for a support employee to reflect on the conversation again and record the content digitally, especially since the customer appears to have been helped.

However, further contacts often follow, in which other employees are also involved. Ideally, they should have the same level of knowledge when the customer contacts them again. The support employee who previously assisted the customer may know about the underlying problem and the proposed solution, but his colleague does not. If the customer has to explain the problem to him or her, this is highly unprofessional.

Setting the right incentives

Unfortunately, the employee who would have to share a piece of information is usually not also the one who benefits most from it. Each individual is therefore tempted to invest little work in the documentation, but to derive the greatest possible benefit from it. If too much of the team follows this tendency, the whole system ends up being useless.

This leads Tretter and Diefenbach to a simple conclusion:

“The system is not used because the system is not used.”

A system that is not maintained does not help employees, which is why they do not continue to maintain it. However, the same spiral can be turned into a positive. If individual users perceive information in the system as helpful, they are also more likely to enter data themselves. To take advantage of this effect, the introduction of new software should always be accompanied by incentives to maintain it actively and conscientiously. Various mechanisms are suitable for this purpose:

  • Reward employees for their documentation in a playful way, e.g., with a points system for free drinks (gamification).
  • Make it as easy as possible to enter information, e.g., through intuitive operation and automatically pre-filled data.
  • Ensure that employees have quick and easy access to information they need, e.g., through bookmarks or a search function.
  • Restricting access to important information, e.g., through a rights system that makes information available only to those user groups for which the data is relevant.

Advice on the introduction of new business software

As a digital consultancy and software provider with over 20 years of experience, we are well aware of the challenges involved in introducing a new software solution. Feel free to contact our consulting team. We can help you plan and implement your digitization project.

You would like to get an impression of our software projectfacts first? The following link will take you to a free trial version, which you can try out for 14 days without obligation.

Header image: © ijeab – freepik.com (2022)

1 Tretter, S. & Diefenbach, S., (2016). Von der Datenverwaltung zur erfolgreichen Kommunikation – UX-Design für Customer-Relationship-Management (CRM) Systeme aus psychologischer Perspektive. In: Hess, S. & Fischer, H. (Hrsg.), UP 2016. Aachen: Gesellschaft für Informatik e.V. und die German UPA e.V. DOI: 10.18420/muc2016-up-0045