What to Consider When Changing Software Systems
In this article, I’m going to show you how and why we gained buy-in from leadership, built the best team to work through the project and worked through some key exercises to ensure we picked the best solution for our needs.
Recently, our team switched CRM systems. After several other software changes in the past, we wanted to do things differently this time around. Here’s core things you’ll need to know if you are switching from any existing software system:
Commitment and Trust from Leadership
When we started the decision-making process, we wanted to make sure our leadership team fully understood why we wanted to make these changes and gain their full support. I will say, with this software switch, it wasn’t hard to make that case.
They completely agreed that changes needed to take place, but of course we know that’s not always the case. In that event, you need to have key points as to why your current solution is not supporting your firm as a whole.
You need to be able to articulate how it is negatively affecting your team, your processes, your clients, etc. Once you have their buy-in and understanding, the second part is getting their trust.
They need to fully trust and support the team that will be doing the due diligence to choose software that is the best solution for the firm. Once you have both of these, then you move into the next phase.
Establish a Cross-Functional Team
The next phase is fleshing out the project team. You need individuals from all areas of your firm involved to ensure the system will meet the needs of the whole firm – not just one department. Even if you are choosing a new tax software, you want to make sure that you have representation from audit, administrative, leadership, etc. For our CRM team, we had people from our business development team, project managers, admin, billing and a shareholder.
With this cross-functional team, we discussed functionality and heard from all areas of our firm to ensure everyone’s needs would be addressed. If we had only the business development team working on this, it would have been solely focused on what we needed from a sales and marketing perspective.
We wouldn’t have captured what our project managers needed to deliver the best client service, what our consultants required to ensure they could keep up with their clients or how our administrative and accounting team members were going to access relevant information. Once the cross-functional team was set, we moved to the final step before searching for the solution.
Define Your Firm Needs
With that cross-functional team, we worked through three distinct exercises that contributed to this being the most successful software switch in our history. These exercises helped wrap our minds around what exactly we were looking for in a CRM solution and what the needs of our firm were.
1. We started with a Project Charter to define:
- The purpose
- The problem we are trying to solve (our “Why?”)
- How we will solve that problem
- Measures of success
- The scope: where the project starts and ends
2. After the Project Charter, we moved into working through our 10x Value Creator. This is where we really started to flush out what resources would be needed to complete the project and what other projects might use some of the same resources.
By working through these, we were able to navigate internal conflicts that might arise before they even started. The 10x Value Creator also had us start working through our success criteria and our limits to achieving those criteria.
What results did we want to see to know that the project had been successful? What would keep us from reaching them?
3. The final exercise was the Solution Evaluator. This was the most important document and would not have been as useful without a cross-functional team working through the first two exercises.
We filled out this document with our final thoughts and results and used it to determine which solution providers we wanted to move forward with. We even gave them a copy of our Solutions Evaluator so they could customize their demo’s/presentations to our hot button issues. This Solutions Evaluator let them know what our purposes was, what we wanted to keep doing, stop doing and start doing with this new system.
Perhaps most importantly, it told them what our success criteria were and who the key audiences on our team were (i.e., consultants, project managers, sales, etc.). We let the solution providers know what each audience wanted, what success looked like for them and what information or measurements we were expecting to see.
Throughout the demos, the solutions providers were able to speak on each and show us how their solution supported those needs and measurements. While this process might seem to take longer than you would hope, the due diligence was really what made this the most successful software switch in our firm’s history.
By the time we made our final selection, our entire team was asking when it would roll out and when they could start training. We’d been keeping them updated throughout the project, and there was so much excitement and relief when the solution was chosen that they were ready to go.
Again, make sure that you have the leadership team on board from the very beginning. Ensure that you have representatives from all areas on your team while you start going through the process and utilize key tools that will really help your team focus on the highest priorities/needs for the software.
Once you have those identified, communicate them to the solution providers beforehand so you can discover how they plan to meet your needs. This will streamline your software decision making and prevent you from selecting a solution that ultimately misses the mark.
The original appeared on the Boomer Consulting blog.