With continuous improvement software already in your business, what are the ways that you can make better use of what’s available to you? Read on to see seven ways that you can ensure maximum value from your investment in an improvement platform.
Written by: James Milsom, Head of Marketing
When software is introduced into any organization it can often be a long, measured decision-making process.
The investment that has been made is much more than the license fee and any other associated costs.
Software is disruptive. Software challenges users to change. Software can be used in anger.
How do you ensure that your business can maximize the potential that its new software presents, especially when it comes to an improvement platform?
Today we are covering seven ways you can make better use of your continuous improvement software. From finding a champion and using by example, to capturing and acting on user feedback, these are powerful ways to drive improvement success in your business.
Why should you want more from your improvement software?
At the beginning we alluded to the investment of continuous improvement being more than paying for your license and the training that comes with the use of new software.
Indeed, a considerable effort will have been made prior to the software’s introduction.
Effort to create an improvement process and identify the stakeholders and resources needed to be successful will have paved the way to the technology and tool selection in your improvement program.
The likelihood of failure is one that forever looms with improvement:
“About 80% of continuous improvement projects fail as companies try to use continuous improvement methodologies like a toolkit, copying and pasting the techniques without trying to adapt to the employees’ culture, manage the improvement process, sustain the results, and develop their leaders…
A failure to achieve and sustain improvement is a problem of both management and leadership as well as the improper understanding of the human behavior, and the required culture to succeed.”
In modern continuous improvement, software features as part of the requirements for success.
The selection of your improvement platform will be one that matches your needs, ability to digitalize your processes, all the while being intuitive and rewarding repeated usage.
For that reason, it is crucial that your use of software mirrors your improvement program – it should constantly be reviewed and championed as part of the very DNA of your efforts.
These are 10 suggestions to increase the likelihood that you are maximizing the value of your continuous improvement software.
1. Ensure you have a program manager
The first of two similar entries on our list, the first suggestion revolves around the direction and roll out of your software.
This roll out may or may not have had someone responsible for its entry into the business, or that person may have stopped their involvement in the software, but there is no reason to discontinue this person’s role.
The program manager can provide your business with one person that oversees everything about the system.
Similar to how a marketer will be the program manager for a system such as HubSpot or LinkedIn SalesNavigator, the program manager will help you to achieve many of the suggestions which follow.
It is the program manager that will keep the momentum of the software rolling in your organization, therefore, do all that you can to appoint this person.
2. Crown a champion
Following our first suggestion is a similar but equally important way that you get drive more value from your software and it is defined by one word – champion.
With a program manager selected and navigating the direction and on-going usage of the platform, it is important to have a user, a key stakeholder, who can act as a shining beacon for all things improvement software.
Their role is to support the program manager in getting all stakeholders involved in using the system, offering help and mentoring of the platform, and being an example of how the software should be used and why this is the case.
The champion can also act as a sounding board for suggestions from key stakeholders and from end users – taking the views from the top and the bottom to create optimal solutions for adapting how the platform is used.
And it is the champion and the program manager who will working with the learning and development function of your business on our third suggestion.
3. Develop and execute a training system
In the implementation phase of your improvement software your vendor should have provided you with an account and implementation manager who is responsible for you quickly getting up to speed with the platform and making it part of your every day work.
Unfortunately, outside of this, or perhaps the help of a digital on-boarding system like WalkMe which i-nexus uses, the training of your users can be seen as a tick box exercise – rushed through and disregarded for its importance.
Now is a good time to consider creating a training system that can help your users to make the system part of their daily routines. The old adage of it takes 1000 hours to master a new skill is what is at play here.
Although logging in and navigating systems are fairly agnostic, the finer details of working one system, for example an Asana vs. i-nexus can be world’s apart giving the different nature of each platform.
Consider the ways in which the software should already be used, and what the optimized use of it would look like.
But you should not stop there, depending on the platform’s capabilities, administrators will be able to perform the next two suggestions.
4. Monitor and reward usage
Continuous improvement software, such as i-nexus’, comes with a suite of reporting tools which can demonstrate the ROI of improvement initiatives. However, beyond that it is somewhat equally important to be able to monitor and analyze usage trends.
By monitoring how your team is using your improvement software you can truly understand just how much it has become a standard part of their day.
You can see which features are being used the most, all the while gauging those which are being neglected.
You can then take this information and build out a training system which will address the areas of under usage, as well as allowing you to conduct research as to why some elements are not being used.
Perhaps your usage case was wrong, or the users are taking to a different part of the platform to execute their work, one which you had not expected. Equally, this alternative means could be better than what you had intended in so far as process.
Moreover, it is this type of analysis which can allow you to reward the right behaviors.
If you want to see more projects created using your SIPOC template, this can be tied to a reward program where correctly using the template earns you points, and points can result in gift cards or some other reward.
The result is the reinforcement of the right behaviors – something which, as we know, is paramount to the success of your improvement projects, and software usage.
5. Survey your users
When forming your training system, while monitoring and rewarding usage is one means by which to promote the right attitudes, another way to get more out of your improvement software is to ask your users directly about their experiences.
A survey will allow you to take the data you have found from usage and the feedback already received from your software champion and build out a series of questions to assess how the platform is being received.
After all, the human element cannot be ignored in the improvement world, and there are few ways better to fine tune your software and get more out of it than collating feedback.
This could be through a digital survey platform such as SurveyMonkey, via email or in one to one review meetings.
What this process will also do is allow you to create a list of requirements in your business, as well as troubleshoot, and then seek out advice or feed this information back to your vendor, improving their product road map, which can only result in a greater experience and increased value from the platform.
6. Seek help from your vendor and user groups
As you continue to build a rich tapestry of feedback, usage and views about your improvement software, you can use this information to seek out help.
Firstly, that help should come from your vendor. With your account manager to hand, your regular review meetings will offer a forum in which you can share this feedback.
The account manager’s experience with other accounts will help you to find solutions, or this could be fed back to the product manager.
In any case, your vendor will want to know how it can help you get more out of your improvement platform. After all, it is in their best interests for your business, and many others, to use the system to its full extent.
Secondly, an often-undervalued source of value is that of user groups, or communities.
These are people in other organizations – other program managers, champions and end users – who have experienced similar challenges to yourself, and can offer their advice to overcome hurdles.
7. Systems integration
The above solutions have centered around your people, but our last is about your IT infrastructure. Success requires the right tools, and your improvement software is no different.
While ensuring that your usage of the platform is appropriate, if the usage sits in isolation from your ERP, accounting, point of sale, marketing, sales and other software, the value you get from the continuous improvement system will forever have a ceiling.
The purpose of software such as i-nexus is to ensure that your improvement efforts are not conducted in a siloed manner. A wealth of data will result from the changes you make to your processes.
For example, adjustments to the order confirmation process in your eCommerce organization can result in more revenue, reduced time to deliver, and a stronger churn rate.
All this information will be stored in different systems, but it is by connecting these to your improvement platform that you can ensure you are driving the greatest value out of your system.
If your platforms are yet to be integrated, ensure that you raise this with your vendor and ask for a solution where you can create one version of the truth – and that sits in your improvement platform.
Learn more about continuous improvement
With these seven suggestions, your organization can find itself in a stronger place with regards to demonstrating the usage and value generated from its continuous improvement software.
However, outside of the issues discussed above, a natural next step in your journey is to visit our continuous improvement resource hub, containing content such as the below:
- Adaptive Strategy - the future of delivering strategic value at pace?: Watch our latest webinar addressing how improvement leaders can support their business in agile strategic planning, program deployment and portfolio optimization for value delivery at pace.
- DMAIC v Six Sigma v Lean: Our guide to the steps and tools you'll need when driving process improvement through one of these three methodologies.
- The Leader's Guide to Continuous Improvement: Download this eBook to get a comprehensive overview of how DMAIC, Six Sigma, Lean, PDCA can support your business in finding a competitive advantage.
About the author
James Milsom is Head of Marketing at i-nexus. James has wide-ranging experience of markets such as telecommunications, energy, education and software.
As Head of Marketing, his drive is to raise awareness and understanding of the challenges facing enterprises in delivering strategic objectives and transformation amidst changing markets and the obstacles traditional tools and methods present leaders.
If you’d like to talk more about Strategy Execution, reach out to James on firstname.lastname@example.org or connect with him on LinkedIn for the latest insights.