The following is a guest post from Bastiaan Brefeld, Information Management Specialist with Netherlands-based M-Files Partner of the Year GeONE.

Choosing a software solution in the field of information and document management often has a clear purpose for organizations. This frequently involves common goals like:

  • Increasing efficiency
  • Reducing errors and costs of failure
  • Compliance
  • More insight
  • Being able to work mobile
  • Digitizing, in general
  • Or… several of these goals together

These goals carry a lot of weight and tend to have the highest priority in such a project. But there is one major factor that is often forgotten — and it’s a catalyst to achieving these higher goals.

The Search for the Right Vendor

With one or more of these objectives, the management of an organization goes to the market in search of a suitable software product that can meet these needs. At the same time, they are looking for the most suitable vendor that supplies and implements the software product.

When a nice combination of product and vendor is found that fits well with the demand, the ordering organization starts the project together with the vendor. The project team of the organization focuses more and more on the details and elaboration of the objectives. Together with the vendor, they look for the correct interpretation, design and implementation of the software product. Together they eventually arrive at a functional design, exactly as the management of the organization had in mind at the start of their search.

The Implementation of the Software

Based on its interpretation of the functional design, the vendor translates this into the design of the software. The vendor then delivers the system to the client with due pride.

But then suddenly…

…The solution does not seem to be entirely in line with the wishes of the client.

…Users do not understand the solution, do not like to work with it or do not see the added value of it.

All despite the fact that the project team had developed such a good, functional design.

The result: a rigorous adaptation to the system, a substantial budget overrun, dissatisfied users and, above all, no solution to the initial problem.

It’s Not What… but Who

I see this example a lot in the market. Many companies, but also software vendors, pay too little attention to the people who ultimately work with the software: the end users.

The success of a software implementation depends on user adoption. And to achieve positive user adoption goals, we developed the M-Files Build & Play method. It’s an implementation method that involves the users in the software right from the start.

For a successful software implementation, we cut the system layout into small and clear pieces. This means that we work with prototypes. A prototype forms the layout of the software around a specific and demarcated area — the Build. This area then consists of a process, working method or procedure of the client’s organization.

The prototype, the working method and the use of the software will be tested directly by the users — the Play. We then collect important feedback. We explore extensively with users how they experience the software from their perspective. This indispensable feedback is reflected in the design, configuration and approach.

Through these short iterations, we ultimately improve and refine the functional design and layout of the software until it is fully tailored to the user organization and the working method and meets the set objectives.

Think of it like building a new house. We do this space for space with great attention to detail and continuous adjustment by the client, so that ultimately all rooms are to the specifications of the person who has to live in them. Ultimately, this way you create the ideal home that everyone is satisfied with and at the same time ensures innovation.

By closely involving the users, you can avoid several problems that are common in software implementations:

Grip on the project

An organization often loses control from the moment that software enters the implementation phase. By closely involving the organization and its users through a continuous iterative process, the client is always in the driver seat. This prevents unexpected surprises and gives companies full control.

Connection to processes

The software must adapt to the client’s processes and not the other way around. By working with each process or working method separately, you prevent and ensure a seamless connection.

Unexpected surprises

Normally, organizations spend a lot of time on the job description and then hope that the software vendor interprets and realizes their job correctly. By focusing on the results per step, process or employee group during the implementation, the client immediately knows whether the right path has been taken. In this way, you avoid unwanted surprises that you, as an implementation partner, did not see coming.

To sum up, I would like to give the following to you — whether you’re a software vendor, solution reseller, implementation partner or a customer:

Focus on the user throughout the entire project, from initiation to implementation. Their working methods, roles, responsibilities and processes are the guiding principles. Users are good at their job and they are not software specialists. The feedback from these users is crucial. Only with their involvement you can make a document management project successful.