There comes a time in most organizations’ lifetimes when it becomes abundantly clear that the existing operations solution just isn’t cutting it any more. Maybe there was never an established platform in place, and everything was cobbled together ad-hoc from a variety of different platforms, each focused on one thing or another. Or maybe, over time, the original solution began showing its age, failing to keep pace with more modern platforms or, even worse, no longer being supported by its developers (who may not even exist any more).
Whatever the reason, it’s something we’ve all got to deal with at one point or another, to varying degrees. How, then, can your organization ensure that it makes the transition to a new operations platform as smooth as possible? We chatted with our Senior Director of Customer Success, John Gurley, about the best ways for a business to prepare for, roll out, and get maximum results from a new operations tool.
1. Understand why you replaced your old platform
As we touched upon earlier, there are many reasons why an organization may choose to replace their existing operations solution. From our experience, it’s usually down to obsolescence, lack of availability of adequate support, or a desire to consolidate disjointed systems into a single dashboard.
“We hear a pretty broad range of reasons for people wanting to change to a new operations tool,” explained John. “I’ve heard everything from modern computers not being compatible with ancient legacy systems any more, to the platform developers going out of business or just plain ignoring support requests, to growing businesses just being sick and tired of using a hundred different tools that don’t talk to each other!”
Regardless of the reason, though, it’s key to keep the reasons for choosing a new tool in the first place in mind during the initial stages of adoption of a new platform. Workflows will change, the interface will be different, and you’ll need to do things in a new way – but these early challenges are typically nothing compared to the pain points that made you switch in the first place!
2. Make sure you have full buy-in from key stakeholders
Getting buy-in from the right people in the right positions within your organization simply cannot be overstated in its importance. The success of a new platform as critical to the business as an operations tool requires widespread buy-in, or you’re fighting a losing battle right from the start.
“The biggest contributing factor to success, in my opinion, is buy-in from the top down,” John tells us. “It can’t just be one stakeholder who really believes in the platform, but hasn’t managed to get anyone else on board, and ends up being the only voice for it – that never works.”
“I’ve seen churn happen because only one person, or a small group of people, are excited about the product, but nobody else cares. It takes a major effort from a lot of people to make a new platform really stick, as well as a true dedication to making it a success. If it’s not managed correctly internally, or certain people don’t have the patience and conviction to really push it through, people will end up reverting to the old ways.”
So what exactly do we mean by stakeholder buy-in? Essentially, there needs to be an unshakable company line that “this is the platform we’re going to use, this is why, and this is what is expected of you when you use it”. When the benefits of switching outweigh the costs of keeping things how they were, a strong front needs to be maintained, with staff and managers being held accountable for the uptake and engagement of the platform.
3. Set realistic goals and expectations
Simply moving to a new platform rarely solves the problems you faced in the past. As much as we would all love to imagine some silver bullet coming to the rescue and turning daily operations around on day one, that’s rarely the case.
“I always tell our new customers that they’ve got to establish a timeline for success, and know what that success looks like,” said John, whose role sees him working closely with clients during Intelocate’s in-depth white glove onboarding, as well as serving as a long-term point of contact and support. “That may mean analyzing your previous KPIs and identifying the major areas for improvement, before working with our team to find ways to deliver the desired results, or it may be something broader – especially if you have no idea what your baseline numbers are from your previous platform.”
“Adopting a new platform without knowing what success looks like can potentially open your eyes to very unfavourable data/KPIs. However, it’s always better to quantify where you currently sit so that you can build and measure your benchmarks as you work to improve your operations.”
4. Understand the strengths of your new platform
Just like your business’ day-to-day operations themselves, operations platforms can be quite complicated at first glance. You might have a wide variety of different modules, customizations options, functionality, pricing tiers, and support packages. Do you need the super duper gold enterprise level with the advanced API capabilities, or is the business standard plus package enough? It can be enough to make your head spin – and that’s before actually getting into the nitty gritty of the platform itself.
“More and more with modern SaaS solutions you’ll see that things can get pretty complicated right from the start. Just knowing that you’ve got the right tool for the job can take weeks, if not months, of research,” said John. “We’re super transparent with Intelocate, but not every platform takes the same approach. That’s not necessarily some sneaky attempt to fool customers either – some platforms are just really complicated from the ground up!”
“Understanding what you’re getting, how it works, and what kind of support is available to you is absolutely essential. In an ideal world, you’ll have a customer success representative whose job it is to help you understand everything about the platform, how it can be used to your advantage, and identify potential areas where usage can be improved, or even adapted to be more beneficial.”
5. Establish “product champions”
“I’ve always found that term pretty funny. When you boil it down it’s pure business jargon, but I genuinely mean it when I say establishing the right product champions within your organization is probably one of the most important steps you can take,” said John.
So what exactly is a “product champion”, then? Basically, it’s a member of your team that will take on a role of responsibility for evangelizing the platform, driving its adoption and engagement, and acting as a go-between of sorts between your team at large, and your customer success representative. Ideally, they should be excited about what the platform can do, reasonably tech-savvy so they can answer teammates’ questions, and eager to help make positive change.
“Ideally, you want more than one champion on your team. I’ve always seen more success when two, three, or sometimes even more, are taking that role. I’ll work super closely with them to understand how everything is going, answer questions they received from team members that they didn’t know the answer to, and identify opportunities where we can work together to deliver even more efficiencies. These are the people who’ll really go to bat for the platform. They understand what it’s capable of, how it can benefit everyone in the organization, and to a certain extent, how to get the most out of it day-to-day. My job would be so much tougher with our incredible product champions, that’s for sure!”
6. Run a small test roll-out before you push the platform organization-wide
While it might be tempting to get a new platform rolled out to the entire organization as quickly as possible, it’s much more prudent to focus on a small-scale roll-out first. Selecting a group of locations, an internal department, or a district that you trust to provide meaningful insights and feedback is pivotal to the success of a new platform long-term.
“You should always have a targeted pilot to start with,” according to John. “From my experience, if you launch a new platform to your entire business in one go, it can be utter chaos. Regardless of whether it’s a B2B or B2C product, you always need to run some small-scale testing first.”
“In Intelocate’s case, we usually recommend a by-district, or by-region, pilot that’s focused on users who’ll deliver valuable feedback that we can work with. Being able to work with a smaller group, and identify areas where workflows can be optimized, and structures can be tweaked, offers a huge amount of value for all parties, and also ensures that the full-scale roll-out is as smooth as possible.”
7. Set up regular contact with your platform provider
It’s incredibly important to understand the level of support that’s actually going to be available to your team from the platform provider. Setting up regular meetings between your internal product champions, key stakeholders, and platform provider is a huge part of ensuring the ongoing success of platform adoption.
“In the past, I’ve worked for companies where we’ve adopted a new platform only to find that the level of support is minimal at best,” John remembers. “I recall one tool where we actually needed to bring on a third party to spend three or four months just setting the thing up for us – and at great expense. That meant we were paying for the platform, as well as this external support, for a third of a year before anyone even had the chance to use it. That’s in no way sustainable for a large business.”
“That’s really where I think Intelocate excels. I know this is something you hear a lot, but we really do view ourselves as partners, rather than just a service provider. If the platform isn’t proving to be successful for your organization then it’s crucial to find out why. This is typically done by pulling reports, analyzing data, discussing findings, offering coaching or additional training opportunities, and more. We’re our own harshest critics and will go to great lengths to provide value to our customers.”
But above all… Stick with it!
Ultimately, there are a lot of moving parts to a successful platform adoption – whether it’s an operations tool, or something else. Change is never easy, but when the benefits are clear to see, it’s worth putting everything in place to ensure as smooth a transition as possible.
There are times when it might look like you’re fighting a losing battle to try to get full-scale adoption, particularly if certain sections of staff would much rather do things the old way – but remembering why you’re making the change to begin with will help you stay on track and push ahead through the noise.
If a platform has the potential to create major efficiencies across all facets of the business, then it’s undoubtedly worth it in the long run. Put the right preparations in place, commit to seeing long-term change, and push through the noise until you reach your destination!