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What You Really, Really Want: Finding the right software solution

6.16.16 By: Natalee Webb

Regardless of whether you’ve been tasked with finding a mass email, content management, or project management tool, odds are pretty high that somebody in your organization will end up unhappy with the final result. Disappointment can be avoided by following the wise advice of the Spice Girls: “Tell me what you want, what you really, really want.” In the process of determining which solution will best meet your needs, make sure to keep the lines of communication open so that you can distinguish between what you need, what you really, really want, and what you can do without.

Wannabe: Playing the field and finding your footing

I was recently tasked with finding a project management tool for internal use. A quick Google search for “project management software” yielded hundreds of results. So how did I go about finding the right tool for our organization? It started with separating out the wannabes by knowing exactly what our stakeholders really, really want, rather than what they sort of want.

When assessing business requirements in order to determine criteria for an optimal solution, project managers frequently end up with a jumble of priorities. One department’s desired outcomes contradict another’s, or unrealistic wishes have somehow made it to the top of people’s lists. Determining core needs is not only challenging, it can be downright ugly when there are a bunch of wannabes competing for the limelight.

Make sure you do your due diligence and know the difference between types of software, what integrations are available, and the services they offer. Comparison shopping is a great way to learn about multiple solutions. Luckily for me, there are a number of websites, such as GetApp, devoted to informing the customer about Project Management and Professional Services tools. I used this A-B-C scale to help me better understand the general types of solutions on the market. Chances are good that regardless of the type of solution you’re looking for, there are resources dedicated to helping you ignore the noise and hone in on the tools that will really work for you.

Too Much: Differentiating needs from wishes

There are desired outcomes, and then there are wishlists that more closely resemble letters to Santa. How do you tell your adult coworker that their expectations are the thing of make believe? As a project manager you must do your best to manage people’s expectations. One way to accomplish this is by putting a cap on the amount of input any one individual has. Limit the number of requirements each person is allotted and ask them to prioritize their itemized list. This forces stakeholders to whittle down their wish list to a handful of bare necessities.

Once those highest priorities were established, I looked for commonalities across departments. Those things that were indicated as needs across the aisle were identified as the core needs of the organization as a whole. Then, I backward mapped; any priorities that logically fell under those core needs I took into consideration as like-to-haves when it came time to implement.  

Holler: Organizational Change Management with regards to finding a new solution

Organizational Change Management (OCM) can either be a lot of hocus-pocus or a powerful tool for wielding influence. OCM refers to any approach taken to change individuals, teams, companies, or organizations by re-directing or re-allocating resources and tasks. Much depends on the experience, knowledge, and talent of the change agent. OCM delves much more deeply into the culture of an organization and works to cultivate engagement among stakeholders. Rather than simply mitigating the influence of antagonistic stakeholders, a change agent must work to promote consensus from within.

As you work to promote change make sure to not forget the little guy. So often in hierarchical corporate structures, only a handful of managers will be engaged in decision-making, but it’s the employees who have to deal with the repercussions. That doesn’t mean you need to give everybody a say, but rather consider how you can thoughtfully engage all stakeholders while effectively communicating the change taking place. This will create a sense of ownership and belonging at a time when many might be feeling vulnerable.

Viva Forever: Setting up effective testing before a full roll out

Sometimes you have to get technical when you’re testing out a new solution. If you do, make sure your approach to User Acceptance Testing (UAT) has substance. Having done extensive UAT myself, I promise you it is tedious, painful, and absolutely essential. One of the frequent mistakes with UAT is the person chosen to conduct it. If your UAT is being done by a consultant or an executive, you’re probably not going to get the most useful feedback unless the tool was specifically intended for their use. The idea behind UAT is that the end-user is validating the solution, as they’re the ones that will be using it on a daily basis.

There are a number of measures to take in order to ensure successful UAT. One of the most important rules is to make sure your test script speaks to what you established as business requirements. The feedback provided during UAT is only relevant if the criteria is in line with the expectations determined during requirement gathering. If your end-user complains that your tool doesn’t have a smartphone interface when that was never one of the requirements to begin with, it will derail approval and facilitate a time-consuming and useless discussion. 

2 Become 1: All systems go!

When you’re ready to integrate a new software solution, make sure you take the necessary steps to prepare your organization. Give good forewarning, a little background, and a glimpse at what changes may occur without inviting them to make edits or comments. At this point, you’re informing rather that asking for their feedback. For more information on preparing for and steering a technology change, read about it in our whitepaper.

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