First impressions are very important for the long-term success of your new outcomes measurement system and dictate either a positive or negative experience for your users. This blog outlines how you can make a positive and lasting first impression with your new outcomes software by applying these five best practices tips as part of your implementation project.
1. Keep it simple
When you start planning the implementation of your new outcomes measurement system, it can be a very exciting time as you can see its potential and how the system will be saving the organisation lots of time and money so you can focus more on the clients you serve. But with this excitement comes the potential for your organisation to focus on adding too much detail to your system because you want to get every bit of value from it. You may end up “overbuilding” your new system which can lead to multiple challenges down the track including:
- Low user adoption;
- An inability to generate reports; and
- Time-consuming data entry.
So although you may have grand visions of the data you want to track, why you think it is important, and how that data can show up in reports, you need to keep your system simple. This may mean thinking carefully upfront about what you hope to achieve with your new database, determining what success looks like, and setting straight forward goals and strategies to measure progress. Once you are clear on this, you can then set up your database to only include necessary data, reports, and features to achieve your goals, particularly at the beginning. You may want to prioritise actions into two distinct buckets: those items that are “nice to have” or lower priority items, and those items that are “need to have” or high priority items. These latter items are more urgent because without them you are holding back the everyday functions of the organisation.
Thus, having a narrow vision that is specific and straight forward rather than a broad vision that tries to cover too much territory up front can help to ensure you don’t end up with an overbuilt, unmanageable, and complex data system that far exceeds what you need to be efficient and effective. You can always change and grow the system as your organisation’s needs evolve over time and then turn your attention to those “nice to haves” on your list.
2. Build relevant data
Building on the first point above on keeping your system simple, many organisations have an immediate urge is track everything (all data imaginable) to maximise your return on investment. After all, the system can handle it!! But just because the software can track any type of data, this doesn’t mean that it should track every set of data.
In most cases, less data is better data. Less data is easier to manage, easier to report and analyse, and simplifies data entry—all of which provide good returns on time and money.
So, along the lines of the first implementation best practice tip, keep it simple and build forms that are “relevant” to your reporting requirements and measure progress towards your goals in order to promote long-term database health. After all, you don’t want to duplicate your existing system as you are implementing a new solution for a reason. You may want to mitigate the challenges you had with the old system and leverage new opportunities you have with a new system by incorporating only relevant data.
3. Invest in implementation
It is also important to avoid the common implementation trap of not investing enough time, energy, and resources into the implementation of your new software. Underinvestment generally occurs in three critical areas:
- Post-go-live testing
So be aware of your organisation’s needs in these three areas and be “smart” about your investment in these areas to ensure a successful implementation. For example:
- With Training, although this is the easiest place to cut in an implementation budget, it is also the primary resource your users will need to build capacity in the new system. If you feel you need to make cuts to the training budget, consider more cost-effective options for training, like train the trainer models, virtual or remote training, recorded training sessions, or the development of comprehensive written user guides.
- With reporting, although this is generally not an area that is cut from an implementation budget, it is an area that is often left off the implementation project plan altogether. Many organisations want to implement first and then think about reports later. However, you will need reports at go-live, and the data that you are collecting in your system should be necessary data that you need for reports. So, it makes sense that you need to think about your reporting needs during implementation. This may mean a phased approached to reports where the essential ones are in your system on day one, and then others can be developed later.
- With Post-go-Live testing, you need to assume that your database will evolve over time. The pace of evolution will be fastest in the first three to six months of using the system. So, be aware that post-go-live is a vulnerable time for your software, and you need to be flexible and open to the possibility of changes after implementation, once staff start using the system.
4. Listen to & involve Users
At a minimum, listen to the people who will use the software on a regular basis and at a maximum include them in the decision making process of the implementation project.
Listening to users results in the following outcomes:
- Increased end-user adoption with less friction during startup because users are invested in the outcome of the new software
- Increased training retention because understanding builds over time rather than in a single moment near the end of implementation
- More accurate system build that will require less changes because the “right” structure is identified through end-user feedback up front
- More accurate data entry and data quality when the system goes live because, again, users are invested in the software
Listening to users goes beyond taking note of their feedback. You need to understand what users are saying, why they are saying it, and how the design of your system can align with that feedback. The best way to do this is to include users at the start of the process and involve them in testing the system to validate any implementation assumptions and ensure the end result is a success.
5. Develop targeted reports
Reporting is the ultimate value of your new outcomes measurement database because you can turn program, service, assessment, and referral data into information, knowledge, and action to enable performance management and improvement.
Reports should be used in a strategic and intentional way, such as:
- To define organisational goals and benchmarks
- To back up management decisions
- To implement performance management systems
- To nurture an organisation-wide curiosity in data
- TO develop a culture of learning and improvement
Because reports are important to your organisation, be sure to include them in your implementation project so that you have some standard operational reports before you go-live. You might also consider including report training for some of your users from the start so that they can build ad hoc reports after the implementation is complete.