SAAS (Software as a Service) implementations all have a similar trajectory. As a result, most implementation services organizations have a fancy chart that represents these main phases:
- Discovery and Analysis – This is where the true scope of delivery and delivery capabilities is reviewed. You should expect end-user, champion, and executive sponsor interviews and system and process reviews.
- Design and Planning – This phase digests the Discovery phase and lays it all together as a mutually agreed-upon plan.
- Configuration and Validation – usually done agilely and structured in a way where foundational pieces are built and verified first.
- Launch and Post-Launch adjustments – This is key to success because otherwise, you are in a perpetual build-state. Ever heard of SAP implementations?
- Rinse and Repeat (hopefully after more than 6 months of feedback) – This stage takes all post-launch feedback, sizes them, and prioritizes them as a separate phase.
The change management steps are equally predictable as the implementation stages, and depending on the extent of change, it will likely follow the pattern below.
During all of the implementation phases, there is also an emotional curve. Having implemented software at Apple, Kohls, Charles Schwab, and Metlife, I can say these stages are very real and predictable. The extent of change performed and the organization’s technical sophistication also dictate how extreme these emotions appear. For example, an organization with high technical abilities implementing software that is a minor change in the workflow will likely not have the extremes listed above. On the other hand, a low technically sophisticated customer attempting a massive change management change will probably feel every bump along the journey listed on the chart above.
However, once you get past the Pit of Despair, I have seen people become true champions for the software, whereas one month prior, they couldn’t finish a sentence without cursing the software.
To help reduce the temperatures, I always try to let people in on this predictable secret – software implementation is not a straight line to value (or success). My latest attempt to explain this phenomenon is through three Beatles songs.
There is a time early in the project when we all realize that we are not talking the same language. This typically equates to the “Frustration” downward slope. There are many reasons for this – the most common is that something in the software or implementation isn’t as expected.
We Can Work it Out
Then there is a time, usually right at the Pit of Despair moment, when you want to quit the implementation. It’s too hard; too many people complain; the project is way more intensive than originally expected. Either way, this is the blow-up, and we end with a path to get through the Pit.
Here Comes the Sun
Then we have the upward slope. This is when people start realizing why they went through all that emotional shit in the first place. In short, people begin to realize the value of the software. While the pain of implementation melts away.