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Keys to Successful Enterprise Software Implementation

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This article is re-posted from User Centric’s blog.

I’ve been thinking recently about a problem that arose with a client’s installation of a new enterprise software system.  I realize these implementations are challenging even under the best of circumstances. But why is it that sometimes a good user interface is put in place by a competent team, yet it results in poor adoption and acceptance from the user population?  The reasons may be many and varied, but whatever the cause, unfavorable user response to a newly launched system can effectively taint all future user perceptions and derail the potential success of the system.  Ultimately, this means significant cost and time spent winning back users’ confidence.

The more I thought about this situation, the more apparent it seems that we have to look at it in multiple layers:

1. Technologies (e.g., desktops, middleware, networks and backend systems) must be responsive.

2. System architecture should be subtly and appropriately exposed at the application level to help users build an accurate mental model of the system.

3. The presentation layer user interface must be well designed.

4. Change management has to be well thought through – a clear rollout plan, ample support, solid training, transparent communication, and ongoing feedback cycles.

Planning well at each layer is vital to avoiding the costs of recovering from a poorly received implementation.

What’s important is comprehending how the four layers fit together in the context of complex enterprise installations.  These systems impact a large population of users, so it’s essential to understand how the rollout will affect individuals at a technology and workflow level to inform the change management process.  (I presented some of these ideas as they relate specifically to contact center systems in the 2009 white paper, “User Experience in the Contact Center”)

Prior to any enterprise system installation, I would recommend starting with a pilot program, observing current workflow processes, and studying how workflow will change with implementation of new software.   Employing these strategies from the beginning can result in smoother implementation and less risk of user resistance, and ensure long-term success of any new enterprise system.

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