Are you and your team facing productivity challenges? Do you feel that your project management tool isn’t quite what it promised it would be? If you replied “yes” to these questions, it could be time for a new project management software tool that better fits your exact business needs.

Our survey on the top challenges among small businesses found that “productivity improvements” was a top reason to invest in new technology. The second most-cited reason was that small businesses eventually outgrow the technology they’ve been using.

But the decision to ditch your old project management tool for a new one is bound to present you and your project managers new and unique challenges. These include: knowing the right time to purchase a new solution and preparing for employee resistance to new technology.

Small businesses need to have a software change process in place for a transition that’s embraced by the whole organization. This will help you avoid seeing a drop in revenue because of poor project performance (by up to 21 times), allowing for efficient reinvestment of these savings.

This article aims to help small businesses bring in new project management technology that efficiently replaces their old one and boosts team productivity.

Checklist: Is it time to switch your PM tool?

About 10 percent of every dollar spent is wasted because of poor project performance. If this sounds like your organization, it may be time to switch to a new project management tool.

Your primary expectation from a new tool should be that it fits your business processes and boosts your team’s productivity.

We know that it’s easy to feel overwhelmed and confused by the whole process of determining if you need new software. So, here’s our checklist to help small businesses like yours figure out if it’s the right time to switch your project management software.

do you need new PM software checklist

5 steps for implementing new PM software

Once you’ve decided to prepare your organization for the project management software change process, you need to ensure that you address any employee resistance that you’re likely to face.

This section lists the steps you should follow to make the switch a smooth one. These steps can help your small business achieve maximum employee satisfaction. Here’s how:

1. Prepare your team to adopt the new solution

Familiarity with your current software means your employees may take time to get on board with the decision to switch to a new system. That’s why you need to prepare them in advance. Here’s how to do that:

  • Hold small group meetings to better manage discussions. Distribute these meetings over a few days instead of handling everything in one meeting.
  • Discuss your employees’ concerns and openly address any resistance. They’re likely worried about changes to their workflows. Assure them that they’re heard and that you’ll do everything to make the whole process smooth.
  • Organize successive catch-ups to check your team’s comfort level regarding the switch. This will lessen their concerns over time.
  • Walk them through the new project management software and highlight the productivity gains. Compare the new and old software to demonstrate the wins, similarities, and differences to address any remaining concerns.
  • Lay out clearly any additional effort that your team may have to make to adapt the new tool. Also, discuss the tool’s accessibility on mobile devices and the web.
  • Offer your team around-the-clock support with the help of training modules, documentation, demos, etc.

 The benefit 

These actions will acclimatize your team to the change and prepare them well in advance. Also, the group discussions will make them feel like equal partners in the decision and the implementation process.

2. Ensure absolute commitments from leadership

Holding all these meetings is a lot of work for your senior leadership. However, it’s vital for showing their commitment to the teams. Here are some ways to make it easy for your managers to handle this switch:

  • Identify key leaders who would like to be closely involved in the software change process.
  • Ask senior leaders to list their reservations about the new software and honestly discuss those with the team to come up with solutions.
  • Collect these joint solutions to include them in the final plan to ensure smooth implementation of the software. This way, your leaders and employees will feel closely involved in the process, which will improve engagement with the new tool.

 The benefit 

This step will bridge communication gaps that tend to develop between senior managers and employees on important business decisions. At this stage, your goal should be to build leadership-employee trust and ensure complete transparency.

3. Choose a demo project and pilot team for testing

As a small business, you must be careful and thoughtful in how you invest your funds in the right project management tool—for the second time. Here are some steps to avoid wasting money on a solution that won’t work for your business in the long term:

  • Identify two to five project management tools that fit your criteria. Participate in the free trials and software demos to understand a solution’s suitability to your business.
  • Identify short-term and low-impact projects that could be used to test your shortlisted tools.
  • Provide a few employees basic training on the shortlisted solutions so that they can effectively test these tools.
  • Gather your test team’s feedback to understand their top concerns and positive points about the tools. Once you complete the test project or projects, use the example as a business case to convince the rest of the organization about your software change plans.

 The benefit 

The primary benefit of this exercise is to foster internal influencers who will have a positive impact on the software change process. A core go-to team that already has experience with the new tool will make it easier to transition everyone else.

4. Show empathy during the switch to support your team

Shifting to a new project management tool is a personal change, as it impacts the workflows and working style of each person. You can make this shift a smoother one by following certain steps:

  • Share your vision with your team during the software change process. Lay out the intended goals and benefits to make it easier to understand your decision.
  • Once you announce the decision to switch your PM software, you’re bound to encounter some resistance from the teams. To get their complete support, gather real-life workplace challenges and address how each can be tackled using the new PM tool. You should also hold one-on-one meetings with your project managers to discuss their current project management challenges.

 The benefit 

These steps will help you position yourself better when you highlight the benefits of the change; you’ll be better aligned with your employees’ motivations.

5. Transition to the new solution in manageable phases

The primary reason for transitioning to a new project management solution in phases is to ensure greater adoption. The transition shouldn’t come out of the blue for your employees. Phase it out as much as possible.

  • Ensure that the shift doesn’t occur when a project is underway. Your goal is to ensure that your team isn’t stressed about learning a new solution on top of meeting strict deadlines.
  • Break down the implementation process into stages. Map out project schedules and begin with newer, simpler projects that don’t have short or strict deadlines. Inform your team that the old and new systems will coexist until training is complete and adoption is at 100 percent.
  • Provide on-site support to your team during the initial stages of transition to counter any resistance in the learning phase.
  • Schedule training time for your teams and ensure that there’s ample time for onboarding even if they have ongoing projects.

 The benefit 

Timing the transition makes the whole process less overwhelming for the team. This way, they are more likely to support you throughout the entire software change process.

Other important considerations for a smooth change

Now that you’re prepared to make the switch to a new project management tool, here are two major considerations:

  • Calculate the cost of the switch. Understand the total cost of the switch to avoid any hidden costs. The total cost includes the price of the new software, investments on internal resource training, the cost of project delivery, and the cost of downtime that you will face during the period of transition.
  • Ensure data security and seamless transfer. Ensure that the new system is compatible with the old one so that you can seamlessly transfer, sync, and store all your data in a secure location. This will ensure that project data isn’t lost.

Next steps and recommended resources

Here’s what you can do to kick-start the software change process in your organization:

  • Appoint project-migration champions. Identify cross-functional representatives to champion the migration. They can help you deal with the problems and risks that emerge during the migration. They can also handle employee queries throughout the process to prevent employee disengagement.
  • Lay out the framework. Communicate the deadlines of each phase of software implementation and migration to the whole organization and earn your employees’ trust. Gather all your employees’ expectations from the new solution regarding technology, time, and costs.
  • Test the success of the switch. Set regular checks after a project is completed and document any issues your employees encountered. Report these to the vendor so that the solution can be upgraded or customized accordingly.
  • Offer employees incentives for the switch. Ensure you offer incentives for seamless switch and adoption of the new solution. For example, recognize the team that comes up with the best hacks for successful project management on the new tool.

Gartner Top Technology Trends Survey

Gartner conducted primary research online from July to September 2018 among 715 respondents in the United States. The results of the research and survey are based on Gartner’s study to understand small-business challenges and approach to technology investments. Companies were screened for their size, in terms of the number of employees (two to 249 employees) and enterprise-wide annual revenue (less than $100 million).

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