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5 Questions to Ask Before Implementing New Software

How to Set Yourself Up for Success

Change is undeniably intimidating — adapting to a new process or system puts stress on everyone in an organization. It’s also, however, the precedent for growth.

Intentionally managing change with a proven framework can make the process a little less stressful. Change management is a structured process and toolset for managing the “people” side of change. Employee acceptance and understanding of change are as crucial to a project’s success as having the right tools, project manager, resources, and experts. Well-managed change results in:

  • Projects that remain both on time and on budget
  • Higher ROI and higher utilization of the new tool or process
  • Better utilization of human capital
  • Achievement of organizational goals

Successful change management can help an organization or school district assess capability for change, prepare for and manage change, and reinforce change. Read on for five common questions that should be asked before implementing a change in software or processes.

1. What are the key first steps when preparing for an implementation?

Determine the expected outcome from the project and get as many people on board with that goal as possible. Having a consensus among stakeholders on the goal of the project is critical.

In RFPs, it’s common for grand objectives to be identified. However, those RFPs are frequently put together by a small group of people who may not be in tune with the objectives and viewpoints of departmental directors or staff. A comprehensive change management approach fills this gap.

2. Who are the key people to have at the table?

Identify a “sponsor” to promote the success of the project who is viewed as a leader in the organization being impacted. For example, the superintendent, assistant superintendent, executive director, or president of an operation are good choices to sponsor a project in a school transportation department.

While sponsors don’t need to go to every project meeting, they have a key role in being visible supporters of the project’s success. Sending emails, appearing in videos, and speaking in person at the appropriate time for the relevant audience will help everyone understand the project is a priority.

There’s also the project team’s structure, which can sometimes be too narrow. A small project team consisting of only transportation and IT representatives can be a detriment when the project will affect others in the district or organization. Employing a coalition structure — including a representative from each department — is recommended to help you communicate to all areas in the district that aren’t directly involved in the project. That way, everyone feels they are getting information and are being heard — an essential concept in change management.

3. How can information about the project be communicated effectively?

A best practice is to create a sponsor messaging plan, which looks at the project schedule and maps out when a sponsor needs to message various audiences.

There are typically three levels of communication audiences: the core project team or coalition, the directors, and the entire organization. When building the sponsor messaging plan, ask, “When does the sponsor need to do XYZ with each one of these groups to keep the project moving forward?”

Use the coalition structure to push messages to the wider audience. For example, if the organization has a horizontal structure of all the directors, the information may go to them, and they can then echo that message to their teams. This repetitive messaging from different sources amplifies the messages and increases the likelihood that messages are received.

4. How do staff and stakeholders stay engaged throughout the process?

The sponsor often assumes that everyone understands what happens while creating an RFP. The process includes analyzing, evaluating, and selecting vendors. In some cases, it can be years into a project before a vendor is even selected. But the project objectives and the history, reasoning, and logic behind why the vendor was chosen are not always communicated well to everyone impacted.

A clear communication strategy and effective leadership will continually keep staff informed throughout the project. The theories behind change management are focused on the “people side of change,” therefore, the people involved must be treated in a way that helps them embrace the change. Effective communication plans will answer the key question, “What’s in it for me?”

5. What’s a good strategy for positive implementation outcomes?

A software implementation can be a heavy lift and requires realistic timelines to help manage expectations. If reasonable timelines are not set, change fatigue can occur — and most districts and transportation operations are already stretched to complete their daily work.

If the chosen vendor is trying to encourage a slower implementation process that will take more time, the result will likely be better than trying to race to the finish line. There’s just no way to postpone or skip the core work. For example, if the district or organization has to convert data, the data will not convert on its own. Someone knowledgeable has to review, convert, and then validate the data — and that all takes time.

A Final Reminder for Building Success

Resistance to change can derail an organization’s plan to move forward. However, implementing effective change management strategies can increase the probability of a project’s success, manage employees’ resistance to change, and build confidence within the organization for future projects.

For more information and guidance about change management, visit


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