Implementing new software in your daily operations can be a challenging and highly involved process. There is no denying that the experience can be overwhelming, lengthy and even risky at times. When Baylor University first launched our LPR-based parking software one month into the new fall school semester in September of 2015, things were not off to the smoothest start.
There were issues with the connectivity of the LPR cameras to the field vehicles and incorrect distribution of several hundred email citation notices that the system never attempted to send out. One of the most daunting challenges was dealing with a trove of incorrect license plate information transferred into a system that was supposed to be built around the need for correct license plate information. To say the least, it was not the most enjoyable time.
It took time and effort on both my team and our solutions provider NuPark to figure out the issues. But as promised, over the next few months, each issue was resolved. By November of that year, our department entered a groove and was operating the system effectively and competently. The start of the Spring Semester was one of the quietest semesters ever experienced by the Parking and Transportation Department.
When I reflect back on the implementation process with NuPark, I know that it wasn’t pure luck that helped my team pull through our product implementation and lead to the satisfaction of our current operation. Our success was a result of our team being able to approach the project with a focused mindset and a few practical strategies.
It’s a simple concept and a mindset frequently overlooked by those in leadership positions. As a perfectionist by nature, I certainly identify with a desire for strong planning and a solid execution of that plan. In difficult situations, like the implementation of a new software, it’s important to anticipate something going awry.
Don’t allow hiccups in the plan to cause a management paralysis or an outburst of poor decisions. Try to develop an attitude where “unexpected” challenges are expected. After all, if everything goes according to plan, you are just a guide following a map. It isn’t until you go off map that you must become a leader.
Go with the Flow
Software is much like a river, it is designed to run a certain way. While segments can be designed to work in contradiction to this natural flow these efforts need to be carefully considered. Each counter flow operation will take significantly more time to engineer and higher risk of not working as desired or of breaking.
In the transition, make sure the operational process matches the flow of the software. Carefully reconsider what you are trying to accomplish. Are you holding onto a process that was probably built around the previous software? How can the process be re-envisioned to synchronize with the new software?
Keep it Simple
In complex situations, make every effort to keep things simple. Box items into appropriate groupings. The boxing of particular elements allows for a better understanding on how certain variables interact with each other and better frames communication. Assign these segments to both internal staff and external support staff. Carefully measure the workload allotted and the progress on each issue. Keeping forward momentum on the issues is key for successful implementation. Baylor intentionally controlled the number of issues communicated to NuPark Support, greatly improving communication and ensuring a Baylor prioritization on each issue.
When it seems like all you have are issues because nothing is working quite right, start prioritizing. Look for two types of issues: issues with big impacts and issues with simple solutions. Start an internal departmental list of all of the issues. Keep the list where it can be seen by all of the appropriate team members. Categorize them into high, medium and low priority. Assign a specific person to each issue. Provide clear direction on what a short and long-term resolution looks like. Set dates for the expected resolution and follow up – repeat in a manner to ensure progress.
All Things are Relative
Perhaps Baylor Parking Services held a distinct advantage over most entities in keeping a long-term perspective. Baylor implemented LPR software because essentially our old way of doing business no longer fit the needs of our campus. We HAD to make a change. With each issue that was reported to my office, I took time to reaffirm to myself and to my staff that we were, despite the issues, heading in the right direction. It was the truth, it just took the appropriate mindset to keep it in perspective.
As much as the implementation process is in the hands of our solutions provider NuPark, our team knew that it was also our responsibility to develop our own implementation approach to work alongside their team to ensure success. In the end, our preparation paid off and we haven’t thought twice about the return on our investment.