A firm's software installation process can be an extensive and expensive proposition, requiring not just monetary investment but also considerable man-hours costs, system architectural changes, and infrastructure up gradation. There are also many downstream implications to be considered such as maintenance and support, impact on future upgrades, etc. As such, it is important to define the exact requirements and then work with a vendor to ensure a successful installation and transition.
Before reaching out to vendors, the first logical step is to consult the stakeholders and users and define the need of the business and then prepare an exact list of requirements for the software. A lot of businesses have attested to the benefit of segregating the list into 'must have' and 'nice to have' to determine the priority of each requirement. Some companies see the benefit in forming a steering committee or a technology advisory group to ensure that the entire process is streamlined and overseen so that there is no deviation from the requirement and the solution being implemented.
This is especially true for systems like Workforce Management Systems wherein, multiple departments need to use it and it has integration with multiple existing systems.
Once the requirements are locked down a firm can reach out to potential vendors. The best practice is to reach out to vendors who specialise in the required implementation and then broaden out to other vendors who can provide generic solutions which can be customised. From this stage itself the participation of vendors is very crucial. Vendors need to understand the business requirements along with all the nuances and expectations attached. Firms should encourage vendor demos, if possible with actual business use cases.
Software Implementation, Customisations and Integrations
It is important to engage with the vendor's customer service team to ensure that all the stakeholders buy in to the proposed solution. Potential impact and vendor services need to be discussed for implementation, integration, customisation, migration, and post installation support. Typically, the integration with the existing software ecosystem requires a lot of thought and the vendor subject matter expertise should also be leveraged for this.
After deciding on the best fit solution, the actual software implementation process is planned and executed, which is mostly driven by the vendor.
Any required customisations need to be decided on and implemented as well. Typically, firms should try to get a standardised solution which fits most of the requirements and then tweak it to the specific needs. For systems like Workforce Management Systems, customisations are sometimes important to make the installation effective because it needs to consider the existing workflows and processes.
There is a lot of dependency on the vendor's support service post installation. This includes any post-sales support, maintenance, and troubleshooting.
- On-premise Support: Vendors typically provide support through dedicated on-site resources, phone, mail, ticketing system, or even through social media. Sometimes, on-premise support is more effective as it helps to fix issues at the root and reduces the time the customer spends to get solutions by calling the call centre. It also gives the vendor more visibility and enables the support engineers to have a better understanding of the problem and provide specific resolution.
- Ticket-Tracking System: Other effective means through which vendors provide support range from the more traditional email and phone to the latest trends such as ticketing system, live chat, and social media. If there is a single support ticket tracking system, then it becomes easier for the customer to raise the support tickets without having to worry about finding the right department concerned with the problem. Customers have reported that the most frustrating post sales experience is when the vendor's support staff does not have the exact information or refers the customer back to the website or documentation for more information on how to resolve the issue.
- Online Portals: It is not possible to completely eliminate support requests but the frequency and the time spent in resolution can be reduced. For this, vendors often maintain an online portal which logs the issues along with their priority/urgency, time spent in resolution, feedback about the resolution, etc. This analysis can help to identify which segments of the software are most difficult for the customer to use. The vendor can then take various steps to limit the time spent on support. This can be through employing better means to support the customer such as dedicating support resources to a customer or deploying a separate link/hotline to manage support for the critical component.
- Customer Training: The best solution for issue resolutions is always customer knowledge and educating the customer to prevent recurring issues. Vendors often come up with tutorials and training sessions which help to drastically reduce post sales customer support.
Vendor's support service is thus a crucial part of a successful software installation. Customers should ensure that they leverage continued support from the very first stage of the project through to post-sales support to ensure the efficacy of the implementation process.