Succeeding with Software Adoption: The Devil is in the Details

Following a learning and adoption continuum is a proven way to achieve business goals faster and with less disruption when deploying PLM software. But when it comes to successfully pulling off this model, the devil is in the details.

Along with starting the adoption process at the beginning of an implementation program instead of just doing training at the end, companies need to invest heavily in the up-front planning to make sure that every aspect of the continuum is designed and timed for success.

A large manufacturer implementing PLM in a multi-year program affecting thousands of users across business units provides a great example of the depth and breadth of planning required for successful adoption.

The company takes learning and adoption very seriously, seeing it as a critical path to successful implementation. Looking back at previous software deployments, the manufacturer knew that its communications and training had fallen short. PLM program leaders were determined to overcome those shortcomings with the new program. As such, they began the adoption planning process early on, with full consideration of the Plan-Aware-Acquire-Apply model of successful adoption.

To ensure consideration of the wide-ranging challenges and contributors to a successful program, the planning process addressed the following key issues:

Sponsorship and Leadership: Understanding that executive-level sponsorship is a key success factor, the company ensured the director in charge of the program participated, along with mid-level executives from each business unit. They also formed an organizational change management team to address the process changes that would accompany the software implementation.

Adoption Strategy: The team determined at a high level what types of training and support were most likely to accelerate end user adoption of the new system and processes.

Detailed Program Plans: Taking the strategy to a more practical level, the team created detailed plans based on how many users would need training, where they were located, and how to accommodate diverse learning needs and preferences. The team also defined a communications plan to build awareness and understanding of the changes to come, and a content plan to support all aspects of the adoption program.

Blended Learning: To accommodate individual learning preferences, the company adopted a blended approach, combining instructor-led and on-demand training, along with over-the-shoulder mentoring. While the program team preferred to focus most on instructor-led training, geographic constraints and the sheer numbers of people that needed training made this difficult to achieve across the organization. Instead they balanced instructor-led and on-demand training, and augmented these with mentoring delivered by super users and subject matter experts.

Roles and Responsibilities: Managing a program of this size is a daunting task, and it is easy for program leaders to get overwhelmed and allow things to fall through the cracks, especially given the likelihood that they still have other important responsibilities beyond this specific program. The program team created a comprehensive organizational change structure with clear definitions for each person’s role and responsibilities (including a change management leader, relevant stakeholders and change agents). Before finalizing this structure, the team gauged how ready end users were to accept the change that comes along with new PLM software so it could determine how many change agents were needed and where.

As a result of all this planning, the company is following the prescribed approach with great success. Because all aspects of learning and adoption have been addressed and planned, they are able to make necessary adjustments in a proactive and predictable manner.

Understanding the need for a continuum approach is critical to ensuring successful learning and adoption of a new PLM solution. But companies shouldn’t just jump into this without some forethought. Real success comes when companies invest enough time and energy up front for detailed planning at every step of the process.

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