How to Craft a Team of Productive Software Users

By Terri Roeslmeier

March 31, 2022

Why do so many software systems fail?  Corporate leaders often wonder what went wrong.  How could they have chosen the wrong software?  Should they have checked more references?  Scheduled more demos?  Why exactly isn’t the solution that they invested in working?

People Fear Change

Part of the process of introducing new software is “getting people on board” for the technology change.   Some of the reasons people resist something new are fear of making mistakes or looking foolish, lack of understanding and/or confidence in the new system, anxiety about having to do more work, and the difficulty of having to learn something new.  People get comfortable with their work habits. To some, change always means extra effort and giving up the restful “sticking with what they know.”

Leaders Must Take Charge 

It’s easy to blame a failed system on people who refused to follow, but ultimately it is the responsibility of a manager to build a good software user team.  Using software as a team is a top ingredient to software success.  Without a team that is willing and taught to work together, any system is bound to fail.

Communication is Key

Communication is Key

It is important to communicate to users what the benefits and expectations of the new system are, and how people will be able to use it.  A key element is that the change is championed from the top of the organization.  It is also crucial to involve prospective users in some of the change decisions and choices.  

This is not to say that everyone in the company should be involved in selecting the software.  Everyone who will be using the software, however, can be involved in some portion of the design of how it will be used within the organization.

Start With A Demo

Motivating the team starts with a walk-through of what the software is capable of.  Sometimes this alone is enough to get everyone excited about using it and can produce all sorts of ideas for software success.  The use of the software is a component driven sequence that must be designed around the workflow of the users.  The strategy implemented must be focused on bringing the world of technology together with the human purposes that must be achieved.

Keep Company Culture in Mind

Software should be evaluated in terms of the corporate culture.  All organizations operate differently.  Users cannot be expected to adapt to system changes that directly conflict with the corporate culture as a whole.  This will only bring complaints and negative commiseration.  Whenever this occurs, the new initiative has no chance of succeeding.

Keep Company Culture in Mind

Senior executives must support the change with their own behavior.  It is fundamental that organizational policies, practices, accountability and feedback methods are in line with the change.  It is also important to note any barriers that prevent the change and assess plans to overcome the barriers.  

Have Realistic Expectations for Timing

Also vital is the realization of how long the change process will take.  Yes, there is such a thing as too long.  Executives must allow ample time for users to get on board with the new program, but  also clearly communicate a realistic cut-off date.  It is important to be clear that the organization is moving forward with the plan and everyone is encouraged to participate.  If certain individuals refuse to participate, some action must be taken.

Create Accurate Expectations

Management needs to convey the thought that whenever you learn something new, your performance actually will decline before it improves, and that’s ok.  Things have to fall apart in some way so that they can come back together in a new way.  A learning environment must be fostered by managers in the initial weeks that the new software is in use.  People are bound to make some errors, and this is part of learning.  There must be some allowance for un-learning as people abandon old ways and adopt new ways.

Amplify the Team Effort

Amplify the Team Effort

The goal is to be as productive as soon as realistically possible with the new software.  This can only happen if the software is used in a team environment.  Companies must provide adequate training so users are comfortable with how to use the tools available.  

Training should include how the various people within the organization will be working together.  There should be a change management team that keeps a pulse on the situation with plans for appropriate intervention where appropriate.  Original goals should constantly be referred to, and modifications should be made when necessary.

Understand the Nature of Change

Understanding change can greatly enhance the chance of succeeding.  Although change is always difficult, most people will change if there is a sound and compelling reason.  The rewards associated with the change have to be greater than staying as is.  

Users also consider the risks of the change.  If the risks of change are higher than staying the same, users prefer to stay the same.  One of the ways to get around this is to have users participate in designing how the system can be used to their benefit.

Make Every Team Member Feel Valued

Make team feel valuedHow can ideas for change be processed smoothly so that team members feel they are contributing?  First, users must be educated on why there is a need to change.  You must let people know why you want them to move from something comfortable to something different and possibly uncomfortable.  

It’s always a good idea to review the specific challenges facing the organization.  It could be economy, competitors, new products and services, market expansion, etc.  This must be intertwined with opinions from the users on how the new system can help accommodate the challenges.  

Get Everyone Involved

Everyone must profit in some respect from the change.  By involving everyone and building a proactive team with software use ideas, the organization can be aligned to accommodate the many issues that come with a major change.

Other ways to involve the users: 

  • Periodic management chat sessions that encourage the exchange of ideas (small groups work best)
  • A master bulletin board in a central area where ideas are posted
  • Senior managers asking questions and soliciting opinions
  • A reward system to align positive behaviors regarding the new system 

Use Group Training Sessions

Provide the ability to use the system effectively by incorporating good training sessions.  The training should include the understanding of how different departments work and how all departments can contribute to each other for a smooth flowing system.  Workshops can be provided to learn more advanced aspects of the system.  

Make public success stories within the organization related to the new system.  Strive to simplify processes and procedures with the help of user feedback.  The new system should always support the core beliefs of the organization.   Illustrate new concepts that will bring the organization together for one common goal.  Encourage the sharing of information.  Underscore the importance of working as a team with the software and how teamwork and sharing will benefit each user and the organization as a whole.

Terri Roeslmeier is president of Automated Business Designs, Inc., developer of Ultra-Staff EDGE staffing software.  Ultra-Staff EDGE is a full-featured software solution with components for front and back office, web portals, onboarding, mobile, data analytics, and scheduling.  More information on Ultra-Staff EDGE.