You have probably spent a lot of money on all sorts of enterprise software in recent years. And you have probably spent years researching and building dozens of software ‘solutions’ for your organisation, not to mention months – or, more likely, years – rolling each out. So, I know how exciting a 'go-live’ day can be. It feels as celebrated as a birth or graduation. It is an enormous milestone that some people probably felt would never come. To most, it signals the finish line, and that is a big business problem.
Not to rain on anyone’s parade, but whenever I hear someone pronounce a software rollout a success, I worry because that means someone (or perhaps an entire team) is about to deprioritize this application and focus their energy on bringing another software platform online. That means your employees will be asked, or perhaps told, to use a software tool that may not be properly optimised for their jobs – or ready to use at all.
I know your organisation's main objective may be to deploy a solution focused on meeting the business requirements (usually AS IS from the software being replaced) on time and under budget. However, in most cases, this means that you are only scratching the surface of the software's true potential. You are going live with a minimally viable product (MVP) without considering whether MVP can actually make a positive business impact. It is more of a check-box goal to keep the project’s sponsor happy than anything else because the reality is that making a software tool available to the intended beneficiaries does not mean that the available tool is actually beneficial in its current state. That is why the go-live date is typically different from the payback date.
Software's return on investment (ROI) comes over time. The more it is used, the more value you will extract. However, your employees will quit using the software on day one if it does not feel like it is helping in some way. If the software is making their jobs more complicated (after they have been properly trained on how to use it), then they are not going to use it – or they are going to try to use it and then complain about how much slower or harder certain tasks feel.
Simply put: if many of the software features designed to enhance business operations, streamline processes, etc. were not part of the project team's defined MVP criteria (even though they would have been MVP criteria among the intended beneficiaries – your employees), then you risk losing money on your software investment on the go-live date.
But there is no need to panic. I want you to have a team ready to start unlocking the right features the day after go-live so your software investment pays off.
That is where ongoing consulting services come into play.
I realise your in-house resources will need to move on to the next big rollout or perhaps the backlog of tickets built while they have prioritised this software launch. So, now's the time to tap into the consulting services offered by your software provider.
You cannot have your software sit in its current state for another week, much less forever, and hiring a new in-house resource dedicated to ongoing software maintenance and optimisation will take time. Even then, there will be some learning curve unless that person previously worked for the software supplier – and in your industry. Their impact will not be immediate and may never be what you hope. So, I recommend you take advantage of the ongoing consulting services offered by the software provider.
Besides giving you an easy way to transition into this maintenance phase, the outside consulting team will amplify the value of your software in many ways:
1. Consultants will have tailored expertise.
You will have 24/7 access to a team comprised of seasoned professionals with extensive knowledge and experience in your industry, not to mention the most experience configuring your deployed software to do exactly what you need it to. By working closely with you, your employees, IT team and other stakeholders, the software supplier’s consulting services team will determine the specific needs of each stakeholder and then identify which of the software platform’s features and functionalities align with this unique set of business goals. Better yet, they will be able to guide your team through the process of turning on and integrating each recommended feature within your tech stack and workflows. Depending on your service level agreement (SLA), they may even be able to execute that integration on your behalf.
For example, for all our Reflexis software platform implementations, my team works closely with Zebra customers to design a solution that is tailored to their specific needs. The Functional Consultants and Implementation Specialists identify and leverage the features and functionalities of the software that align with each customer’s unique business goals; the same is then captured in an extensive solution document and delivered to the customer. However, with other software platform implementations, my team will actually work with Zebra software engineers or Zebra partners to complete the feature activation.
2. Consultants can uncover hidden gems in the software.
The beauty of software is that constant innovation is happening, and new updates are being pushed via the new releases all the time. But given that new features and product enhancements are introduced regularly, it can be hard to keep up with what is available unless your entire job is tracking these updates. Considering your company probably does not have someone focused full time on one or two software applications, it is important to lean into your software provider’s consulting team, as their job is to stay abreast of these changes. They can highlight lesser-known features to you that may significantly impact your operations. It is often by leveraging these hidden gems that organisations find it easiest to streamline workflows, automate processes, and unlock new efficiencies that will save time, reduce costs, and boost productivity.
Recently, in one of the Workforce Management (WFM) consulting sessions, my team proposed two simple configuration changes to enhance the exception management journey for the retail customer’s store managers. Deployment of the proposed solution resulted in a time saving of approximately one hour per store per week (500 stores * 1 hour * 52 weeks = 26,000 hours) and improved the store manager's experience. I do not have to tell you how hard it is to find and keep hardworking, committed employees these days, especially in retail. But I do want to point out how big a win this was for the retailer. The impact of that one saved hour reverberated across the entire operation, positively impacting store employees and customers.
3. Knowledge amplification is critical to building an effective in-house workforce.
Consulting services go beyond simply instructing you and your employees on how to use specific features. Instead, they aim to empower your teams with a deep understanding of the software's capabilities, enabling them to become self-sufficient problem solvers and innovators. Furthermore, by imparting their knowledge, consultants empower everyone in your organisation to harness the software's full potential, not just IT or end users. This helps foster a culture of continuous improvement and growth.
In one of the recent Reflexis Task Manager deployments in the UK, I insisted the customer change the scope from my team completing the additional configurations to 24 hours of additional training instead. This allowed the Functional Consultant and the Implementation Specialist to impart their knowledge and enabled the customer to become self-sufficient for all such future configuration changes.
4. Proactive problem solving is the key to true software “success.”
Technology is ever evolving, and challenges may arise as your business expands or adapts to new market trends. With ongoing consulting services, you will have constant access to a reliable partner who can provide proactive support and problem-solving.
Here at Zebra, my team acts as a trusted advisor for many of our customers, and we ensure that their software aligns with their evolving business requirements and helps them stay ahead of the curve.
5. Cost optimization is critical if you want to maximize your software ROI.
It is no secret that inefficient software usage can result in wasted resources and unnecessary expenses – or that constantly unlocking new value is the best way to render software “useful,” the key to getting your money’s worth. One of the main reasons why many organisations do opt into consulting services support is because these experts are highly skilled at recommending software optimisations that eliminate redundancies. They are also adept at fine-tuning processes and configurations and identifying areas where somebody may need additional training. By helping to ensure your deriving maximum value from your software, consulting teams are helping you achieve a higher ROI, making ongoing consulting services a cost-effective choice in the long run.
Investing in ongoing consulting services is not an expense—it is an investment in long-term success. By partnering with the Professional Services team from your software suppliers, you can leverage their consultants’ expertise, unearth hidden value, and amplify the impact of the software on your business operations.
Remember, the software you have invested in is only powerful if people use it. The ongoing support you will receive from the consulting services team will help you unlock its full value so employees will buy in and you will get your money’s worth.