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What makes a cloud implementation successful?

June 1, 2013

5 things to consider for a smooth implementation

There are lots of reasons to move from on-premise software to a cloud solution. From upkeep and maintenance, to spendy upgrades, to lack of accessibility, many institutions of higher ed are looking for SaaS solutions to replace their standard systems.

If you’re heading into a cloud implementation or are even looking at purchasing a fully-hosted software solution, here are our top five things to consider going into your implementation in order to make it a success:

Talk, talk, talk. And then talk some more.

As with anything in life, communication is the most important piece in a successful implementation. Make sure to involve as many people as possible so those who want and need to be in the loop can participate leading up to, during, and after the implementation process.

You’ll want to be sure to communicate priorities, set expectations, timelines, and make sure any questions are answered clearly. As the implementation moves forward, providing updates in progress, any changes, and other important information can continue in these communication channels. Be transparent in what you’re doing and why you are doing it.

Decide on a meeting cadence, and supply other communication channels such as email, to keep the information flowing.

Develop not just a way to disseminate information regularly, but set up a way others can ask questions about the implementation. Making it easy for anyone to be involved in the communication, and deciding how often, can be helpful when building the group of people who needs to be in the know.

Over-communicating is often the safest route when working through a cloud implementation, because it helps dispel rumors and speculation about the changes coming up.

A good rule of thumb is to assume that everyone will want some form of communication.

Remember the human side

A lot of times an implementation team focuses on the technical side. But what about all the end users of the new software who are going to have to change what they’re doing?

There are several ways people react to change: Panic, confusion, joy, denial, refusal to change, and helplessness. Understanding and planning for any or all of these reactions can help make your implementation go smoother, and adoption be quicker.

This can be done by focusing on the human aspect of an implementation, and not just the technical aspects.

A Change Management Plan is how you change people’s behaviors, attitudes or even basic understanding, not just how you change the software. When the new software is in place, you Change Management Plan outlines how you affect change within the organization so that the new software is actually incorporated into the organization’s day-to-day work.

This plan should include a change manager who is on site early on. This can often be done by including someone from your institution’s marketing or campus outreach teams. This person can help get people excited about what’s to come, build momentum, and get the right message out about how this implementation will benefit others.

Do your homework

And speaking of who’s on your implementation team, make sure you do your homework. Successful implementations depend on having the right people involved. And this can go all the way back to an RFP committee.

If you have a faculty member who is resistant to change, or skeptical of technology, it may be a good idea to put them on your RFP selection committee as a way to help provide more understanding and less fear of new things to come.

And while every implementation team looks different depending on the institution, there are a few basic roles that need to be filled. Along with a project manager, you’ll want to include champions within the department, members of the IT department, your vendor’s customer service representative, as well as a change manager. And then build from there. Perhaps marketing or campus outreach. By asking lots of questions, visiting with any department or person who may have some kind of involvement with the new software, and then asking if there is anyone else to involve, can help ensure you’re involving the right people, whether on a simple informational basis, or a full member of the project team.

Once you’re set, be sure that everyone has the bandwidth to tackle their responsibilities in a timely manner. This can involve reassigning other duties and reprioritizing. This includes time for training, demoing, and any data entry required in the transition.

Often these tasks take significantly longer than anticipated, causing a rush to finish. Plan ahead and make sure you have a risk mitigation plan for when things go sideways.

Do as I’m doing

Before going live, demoing and training is a big part of making sure your implementation is successful. Be sure to prepare a training plan earlier on in the implementation so you understand what resources you will need. Waiting until closer to go live can cause a panic to find trainers or availability for training.

While there are a variety of training methods for introducing new software to faculty and staff, “Train the trainer” is a great way to efficiently get staff trained. This involves assigning a handful of specific people to train one-on-one with the vendor, and then those trainers will take that knowledge and train their own staff and departments.

If you are doing a phased implementation or all at once, you’ll want to arm your trainers with documentation, and cheat sheets to refer back to.

Listen up

Just because the implementation is over, doesn’t mean you’re done. It’s important to make sure you’re following up with everyone to see how they’re doing, what’s working and what’s not working, and how you can help.

Take the time to go on a “listening tour.” Allow people to tell you how it’s going, what’s working really well, what they aren’t able to do. It may be that what they aren’t able to do is actually possible through a different route.

For example, one of our clients had staff complain that they weren’t being notified about proposals as early as they were with their former paper system. While it was getting to them later than previously, it was much more accurate. They were able to communicate this difference, as well as adjust their workflow so they could notify of upcoming proposals sooner.

Implementations are different at each institution, but by remembering to thoroughly communicate, focus on the people impacted by the changes, making training a priority, and continue to listen after you go live, you’ll be able to realize all the benefits of your new software system that made you purchase it in the first place.

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