If you work at a global organization, you’re probably tired of hearing the phrase “digital transformation.” We all want to go digital – but for many companies, there’s a missing link between choosing the right technology and capturing the long-term benefits of digitization. In many ways, thoughtful and successful implementation is that missing link. But managing a software implementation – especially on a global scale – can be challenging. Here are our five steps to help you realize the potential of your technology investment, and go digital long term:

Step 1: Make Sure You’re Covered Post-Purchase

There’s a lot to consider when investing in a new piece of software for your business – features, price, user experience. But it is important to also investigate the post-sale services offered by the vendor, including their implementation methodology and resources. Remember: no matter how great the software, if your team doesn’t know how to use it, it’s money down the drain.

Step 2: Define Your Team Leaders

Once you’ve made your purchase, be thoughtful and explicit in communicating who the project’s key stakeholders and leaders are. From our work leading implementations with enterprise brands, we recommend that every project have two primary managers:

The Executive Sponsor, who:

  • Owns the strategic and economic success of the project
  • Aligns the implementation goals with overall company objectives
  • Drives long-term ROI, advocating for buy-in across the executive suite
  • Structures departmental processes to support on-going adoption

The Project Manager, who is appointed by the Executive Sponsor to:

  • Own the day-to-day success of the project
  • Manage the vendor relationship
  • Keep the project on time, within scope, and on budget
  • Communicate change and deliver training

Global organizations will need to ensure that all change management is localized in order to be effective across regions.  For example, a global financial services brand we completed a Percolate implementation with designated a global project manager who created presentations, documentation, and videos. These were then translated and localized by a team of regional Project Managers, who were responsible for on-the-ground training and collecting feedback. This global structure resulted in a swift global “Go-live.”

Step 3: Articulate Your Goals Early

Prior to the implementation kick-off, think carefully about what you are hoping to achieve through onboarding your new software — make sure it’s measureable. How do you want to transform your department, organization, and brand? You’ll need to be able to succinctly state, and restate, this to your vendor, employees, and superiors. Keep your goals top of mind throughout the implementation, and refine them as needed during the process.

Use this template to prep for your implementation kick-off and get your on-boarding process off on the right foot.

Step 4: Delegate, Don’t Disengage

The Executive Sponsor is the leader in your organization who signed on the dotted line – they’ve (literally) put their name and reputation behind the success of the investment. But as an executive leader, they will need to lean on the Project Manager for tactical support.

One of the most common implementation pitfalls is an Executive Sponsor who disengages too much from the success of the project. Executive buy-in is critical for inspiring adoption – projects that appear abandoned by leadership are less likely to succeed. Here are four tips for Executive Sponsors who want to stay appropriately engaged in the implementation:

  • Focus on maintaining clarity of strategy and purpose – reiterate your expectations to your team regularly
  • Be on the alert for missteps and red flags – step in to help recalibrate the project if it loses focus or momentum
  • Meet regularly with your Project Manager – ensure that he or she has all the support and guidance necessary for success
  • Revisit your goals regularly – set a cadence for reassessing your KPIs, actively evaluate the goals you set prior to kick-off in light of organizational and industry changes

Step 5: Think Past the Go-Live

Celebrate your go-live, but remember that it’s just the beginning. Implementation is a constantly evolving process that is ongoing for as long the software is live. Commit to being the person on the team who is constantly keeping their eyes on the long-term goals. Leadership can do this by:

  • Being the steward of ongoing change management – by some estimates 70% of corporate change initiatives fail, it’s critical to have a carefully crafted strategy for delivering communications around process change both among users and across the organization.  
  • Ensuring that all departmental processes promote ongoing product adoption and ROI
  • Aligning all internal and cross-functional resources like training and development, internal communications, and IT support to ensure continued adoption through personnel and strategic changes
  • Setting up a framework for measuring and reporting on your achievements and actively tying those achievements to the software to illustrate return on investment
  • Paying attention to what is working and what is not. Your vendor should provide you with options for ongoing support to help you course-correct and avoid enterprise-wide problems
  • Share your successes widely – concrete examples of success will motivate your team and drive adoption

Executive leadership shouldn’t underestimate the power of a thoughtful implementation – it’s all about setting your team up for success so they can excel at their jobs. Regardless of which software solutions you employ, implementation is truly the crux of leading and sustaining an effective digital change.

Want to learn how brand innovators at Land O’Lakes, Sutter Health, Google, and more are thinking about the future of their industry? Request an invite to Transition 2017 in San Francisco.