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5 Change Management Tips to Guarantee a Smooth SaaS Rollout

Do you still have the same dance moves you had in high school? Do you wait to download the newest software updates on your iPhone until the prompts become unbearable? Do you have a dusty VCR sitting underneath your TV?

If any of these describe you, I’d strongly suggest you don’t tell anyone.

Just kidding.

But let’s consider what causes us not to add the Whip and Nae to our dance repertoire. Why do we suffer through 347 phone upgrade prompts per day? How come we choose to continually explain what the clunky box on the media shelf is to the pesky neighborhood kids, instead of just getting with the 21st century?

Is it because we’re old? Well, that might be the answer for some of us. But for the rest, the issue probably has more to do with our resistance to change.

It’s likely that humans have resisted change since, well, since we humans have existed.  And as technology has rapidly progressed over the years, our desire to quickly adopt it hasn’t quite kept up. This has never been more true than in today’s age of cloud-based computing. Take SaaS (Software as a Service) applications, for example, which can be particularly challenging to roll out to an already-busy team.

So what’s the rub with SaaS? Does implementing a new, cloud-based software system somehow strike us differently than other types of change?

Yes, it does.

SaaS implementations tend to be more far-reaching than other types of technology projects. The point of a SaaS implementation is to achieve goals like a better customer experience, reduced administrative costs, and improved staff and resource allocation. So it’s no big surprise that its implementation will involve some impactful transitions.

Implementing a SaaS application at your organization? Not to worry. Here are five tips that can help you successfully introduce the change.

 

TIP #1: EXPLAIN YOUR “WHY”

As the “why” guy Simon Sinek says, “People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.”

Nowhere is this concept better illustrated than in corporate change management. Busy employees will naturally resist change unless there is a compelling reason to embrace it. So, by clearly explaining the reasons for the adjustment, you’ll go a long way toward gaining their buy-in.

But be careful when talking about your rationale. If you use high-level corporate-speak filled with buzzwords, you’ll only reinforce the resistance. Because peoples’ BS-ometers are more sensitive than ever these days, anything that smacks of insincerity is not going to go over well. Be sure to always use words and phrases that people understand, and be honest in conveying why a change is being made (even if it’s not what people want to hear). In the end, they’ll appreciate knowing the truth—even if they don’t like it.

TIP #2: ASSEMBLE YOUR CHANGE MANAGEMENT TEAM

Building a change management team with clearly defined roles is imperative to effectively and efficiently implementing your change. Whether done in a more informal manner or via a traditional project management process, it’s critical that the following individuals are involved. Keep in mind that these roles can be staffed by separate people, or team members could take on multiple roles.

The Driver

Whereas a lot of employees might take an “It’s not broken, why fix it?” position, it’s the Driver who understands that technological innovation is key to maintaining your company’s competitive advantage. And they won’t let anything derail progress. They’ve been there before and understand the benefits of moving forward.

It’s up to the Driver to continually provide real-world examples of how SaaS implementations have helped companies improve, maybe even citing examples within their own company. It’s also their responsibility to reinforce the dangers of inaction, especially in today’s fast-paced and highly competitive world.

 

members of change management team

The Enforcer

Also known as your “buck stops here” person, this individual holds the gavel when decision-by-committee threatens to get out of hand. As IT consultant Michael Schiff tells us, “Giving a committee (rather than a single person) ultimate responsibility is likely to lead to conflicts among committee members when there is a problem. If at all possible, a ‘the buck stops here’ person should bear ultimate responsibility for a given decision.”

In smaller companies, the Enforcer is often the CEO, but it doesn’t have to be set up this way. The key to success is making sure that the Enforcer is designated as having the final say. Inevitably there will be internal disagreements, but the Enforcer makes sure that decisions are made, obstacles are overcome, and work on the project progresses forward.

The Communicator

The Communicator is responsible for understanding all aspects of the project, from the highest-level objectives all the way down to the status of the current sprint. Their job is to continually keep all parties abreast of what’s happening with the implementation. In doing so, they also should continually reinforce why the adjustment is happening. When being asked to make a significant change, people need to hear the reasons why over and over again. The Communicator makes sure this happens.

The Communicator doesn’t just pass along information. They also must be skilled in being a good listener and displaying compassion during challenging situations. This individual must show people that their thoughts, frustrations, and opinions are being heard. Foisting change upon team members without giving them an outlet for expressing their feelings is a recipe for disaster, so the Communicator makes sure voices are heard, while also supporting the motivation behind the change.

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TIP#3: COMMUNICATE EARLY AND OFTEN

During SaaS implementations, there are often several groups impacted. Obviously, direct internal users of the system will be one of the contingents, but in many cases, so will customers, partners, or even vendors.

When it comes to change management, making sure everyone is on the same page is challenging. Each constituent will experience the adjustment in a different way based on their distinct needs and relationships. For example, an implementation of a new CRM will clearly change the way a sales team works with lead information. But it also may adjust the way the company uses their marketing automation platform. The marketing automation vendor may be impacted in a positive way through expanded usage, or it might be rendered obsolete once the company learns that the new CRM has sufficient nurturing functionality on its own.

So be sure you are communicating clearly and abundantly to all stakeholders involved in the implementation, throughout its lifecycle.

TIP #4: PLAN FOR TRAINING

Part of dealing with a major change is overcoming the perceived aggravation involved. The thought of trying to learn a new system is inherently fraught with pain, and with good reason. We’ve all lived through attempts to use different applications, and struggled to figure out how they work. Answers aren’t always easy to come by, so productivity often takes a dive. It can be a very frustrating experience.

The best way to overcome this pain is through training, which can reduce the fear of change and turn an exasperating experience into a pleasant one. But the training has to be done right. A quick and dirty data dump, while initially “easier,” isn’t going to pay off in the long run. People learn through repetition, so the most effective training programs are done over time, in a series of sessions. The best training programs also utilize a variety of senses and respect different learning styles.

Finally, if you do nothing else in planning your training, make sure you let users get into the system and play with it themselves. No amount of reading a manual or looking at a PowerPoint presentation can take the place of a hands-on experience.

TIP #5: THE VENDOR MATTERS

Let’s face it: The SaaS vendor you select can make-or-break the success of your implementation. They can also either pave the way for future projects or add to the resistance. So, select well.

The problem in finding the right software partner, however, is that you never really know what they or their product is like to work with until you’re well into an implementation. We live in a world in which a great website can make any company and product look legitimate. That’s why doing your due diligence and asking the right questions is imperative.

Even if it’s not your style, when choosing software, it’s important to be a critical thinker and ask really tough questions. When you receive vague answers, keep pressing until you get specifics. Sales people aren’t going to tell you the problems with their products or their services, but the reality is that all of them have challenges. It’s your job to find out what they are and decide if you can live with them.

 

Dealing with change is never easy for people. That’s why if you are looking to introduce a new SaaS application to your organization, managing change effectively from the start is critical. Be sure to follow these five tips for your next SaaS rollout. I can’t guarantee success, but I can confidently say that giving change management the attention it deserves will significantly increase the likelihood of a smooth implementation.