At a Glance:
As any retail business scales, there are inflection points where one of its core processes or tools becomes insufficient and must be replaced with something new. Unfortunately, navigating the transition from one tool to another can feel overwhelming – it takes focused time and effort to execute the change, and sometimes the required bandwidth isn’t available. However, business leaders recognize that in the long run, navigating a broken process requires even more of their team’s time and effort than rolling out an appropriate solution does.
Below are a few tried and tested steps your organization can take to greatly increase your efficiency when evaluating and implementing new products.
Elect a Champion
Shopping for and rolling out a new business tool typically requires involvement from multiple stakeholders. It’s helpful to choose one person in particular to champion the project, though. Have this individual schedule and run meetings, communicate with vendors, and delegate/provide accountability for internal action items related to the project. By nominating a champion, you avoid situations where each stakeholder thinks the other stakeholder owns the next step – and thereby neither one gets anything done.
Once you’ve elected your champion, be sure to provide them with the time and resources they need to get the job done. Consider whether there’s someone else on the team who can provide your champion with a bit of slack by covering for them on another of their responsibilities.
Choose the Right Timing
Typically, businesses feel that the best time to revamp a tool or process would have been yesterday. But alas – time travel continues to elude us, and the next-best time to revamp is very often today. The longer your team adheres to an old workflow, the more gravity it accrues. Folks get set in their ways, then haphazardly add supplemental processes to a shaky foundation, and before long no one knows how things got so complicated.
That being said, you may have a great reason to put off until tomorrow what can’t reasonably be managed today. If your champion is entering a seasonal crunch time, preparing to take family leave, or deep in another time-consuming project, think about delaying your search for (and rollout of) a new tool until they have a bit more breathing room.
Define Your Main Goal
When evaluating or adopting a new product, you’re likely to feel a bit of friction as each user appraises how it supports their unique set of responsibilities. There is seldom a solution that offers 100% coverage of an organization’s jobs to be done, but you shouldn’t let perfection be the enemy of progress. Instead, identify the number one pain point you’re seeking to address with the new tool or system – then communicate it! Stating the top priority will help motivate the team and keep everyone rowing in the same direction.
Sometimes, you’ll choose a tool that drives better outcomes for your business as a whole but doesn’t offer as many benefits to an individual user. They may actually have an extra step in their process relative to before, but that extra step may save ten steps down the line. In these scenarios, your champion can offer empathy, reiterate the primary goal the tool is helping you achieve, and provide additional support to the impacted user as needed. Take care to keep morale high so the project isn’t derailed by slow adoption.
Weigh Your Options
Once your main goal is defined, you’re empowered to evaluate the various products on the market that might help you achieve it. If you’re not sure where to start, ask folks in your network what tools they’ve used and liked, and check out software and service review sites like G2 or Capterra. Create a short list of products that seem worth checking out, and set up free trials or schedule demos to get a better sense of how well each would work for you.
Ask questions of the vendors of the tools you’re evaluating – and pay attention to how they respond. You want to get a sense of not just the value of the product, but also what it will be like to do business with the vendor. Do they respond promptly? Do they seem to understand your industry? Do they offer in-app support or a strong knowledge base to help you learn and grow with their product? All these things can make a world of difference to your business.
Gather and Polish Your Assets
There is some amount of data you must seed into any new system to begin working in it. While it’s easy to think you need to port everything over, in reality you should be pretty sparing. Identify what will be most important in the first month or two after you kick off. Remember, you can always fold in additional data as you go along. You’ll get a sense of how best to organize data in the new tool by using it, and you can apply those learnings to later migration efforts.
Once you’ve settled on the scope of the seed data, gather the assets where this data lives. Examine the source material, and get a sense of how clean, consolidated and manipulable your information is. If things are spread across multiple systems and documents, and there are small discrepancies throughout, you should take a rough pass-through to reconcile and standardize as much as possible. Switching tools can be a great forcing function to tighten up your data governance and get everyone on the same page.
Launch and Learn
At this point, it’s time to jump right in! Your champion should determine the official cutover date, and rally the team to the task. The champion should also be your first super user – have other folks reach out to them first with questions. They can be a clearinghouse for information, and share relevant discoveries across the team, so one user isn’t stumped on something a different user already figured out.
Make sure you’re taking advantage of all the customer support offerings available to you. Join webinars, explore knowledge base content, and book meetings with success representatives, if they’re available to you. As you go along, you’ll learn new tips and tricks and continue to optimize your workflow over time. And be sure to pass feedback to the vendor – in general, they want to know where you get stuck so they can improve and evolve their offerings.
Most importantly, extend the team a little grace as you get up and running in your new tool. There will be some missteps and some experiments that don’t work out, and things might slow down a bit before they speed right back up. Stay forward-looking and you’re sure to get where you need to go.
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