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Shiny Kit Syndrome

I don't know when I came across this term for the first time, I think it's roots are in the military, but it's that drive to get hold of the next big thing whether it fits your needs or not. This is a particular issue with software which is sold on the premise that it's the breakthrough product that makes life easier and you would be a fool to ignore it. Now, getting the right software can make the journey to success easier but, on it's own it'll have little impact and the wrong option can be a real obstacle. Often the software is blamed but mostly it's not getting the right tool and really not understanding what's the problems you need to solve.

In my experience successful implementations of software go through three overlapping phases, collected below. When there is a problem or the solution does not measure up it's because one of these stages has been rushed, done badly or skipped altogether. Being three I though a triangle would be a good framework!

The Success Triangle: Key parts to successful software implemention

Stage 1 Strategy - scoping and planning. It start with strategy! First decide what you want. It's great to start out with a blank sheet of paper and consider what should the software achieve for you? Does the project link with the overall aims of your business? It's at this stage that we can find out that there is a mismatch between what the expectations are and what the software can provide and it's better to find out now than after a lot of work and expense has been committed.

What is the timeline? Costs? Time and other resource commitments for you and your company? This doesn't have to be a long document, in fact a concise and clear plan is of more useful and likely to be an active and regularly checked document.

2. Stage 2 Support - now the hard graft of putting all this together. The right software implemented with planned testing before and after it becomes live. What happens to the results of the tests? How will they be used to refine the systems and get it operating more effectively? If there are changes to the business model how can these be implemented in the software? This is when changes to the original plan comes in, there must be flexibility because business priorities change and your project needs to recognise that. How is support dealt with? If there are issues with the software how will these be dealt with?

3. Stage 3 Training - how do we train all staff to use the system. There may be different levels of training required with staff defined as a supervisor or admin having different requirements to users. Having a one off "training day" is great to launch a new system but the effectiveness can wear off over time. Often you'll be full of enthusiasm after being introduced to a software solution and that needs to be maintained or it risks falling out of use. This is where refresher training, support by phone and online and review meetings can have a big impact on long term success. Training and support sessions are also valuable to the provider to gain feedback on the software development and how it's implemented.

So before you take on a new piece of software or app that promises the world consider these three stages. Don't jump at the first piece of shiny kit but consider what it is you need? What are the problems this will solve and how does it fit with your plans? Will the implementation and training be provided or will that need your time and resources? Long term, how adaptable is the solution and will it grow with your business?

Crucially, don't buy solutions for someone else's problem!

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