We’ve talked a lot about ERP failure over the years. However, we know that ERP software isn’t the only type of software that can fail to deliver on expectations. There are various types of enterprise software with abysmal failure rates, whether it’s SCM software, CRM software, MRP software, or another type of solution.

In this post, we’ll discuss a few common reasons for software failure. If you’re planning a software implementation that doesn’t involve ERP, the last thing you need is another post about ERP software, so here’s a post just for you. Use this guide as a roadmap to know what potholes to avoid.

A Government Entity's Failed Implementation

Panorama’s Expert Witness team was retained to provide a forensic analysis and written report to the court regarding the failed implementation of a major software developer’s ERP/payroll system.

7 Common Reasons for Software Failure

1. Focusing on Technology, Not People

Great enterprise software will drive your digital strategy forward. However, people are at the heart of your project. The changes that follow will impact your employees, their workflows, and your company culture.

You could press ahead and hope that everyone gets on board, but this could mean overlooking change resistance that ultimately details your efforts. 

This is why we recommend including organizational change management in your project plan, ensuring plenty of time and resources are devoted to it. Using change management strategies, you can build employee confidence regarding the change and help them understand why it’s important.

A dedicated and invested workforce is your number-one asset, so prioritizing employees during your project is the only way to ensure long-term software success.

2. Moving Forward Without Executive Buy-In

Without the support from your company executives, a software project can only go so far, whether it’s an ERP implementation, SCM implementation, or another type of project altogether. Even after you’ve secured budget approval, you’ll still need their active involvement and participation.

It’s important to establish an executive steering committee responsible for keeping the project team focused on your defined goals. This committee should also be responsible for allocating sufficient resources, time, and money to both selection and implementation. 

If executives are actively invested, then your other employees are more likely to follow suit.

3. Implementing Bells and Whistles You Don’t Need

Every software project should start with a discussion of your core business needs. Choosing a solution before defining your goals is a recipe for software failure because you might implement more functionality than you need.

To understand what functionality you actually need, begin by analyzing your current pain points, including any time-consuming workflows you want to automate. This typically involves mapping your current processes and looking for places you can reengineer them or improve them. 

Then, look ahead and consider where you want your organization to be in the future. What kind of tools and technologies do you need to implement to help you get there?

Only when you have a clear view of where you are and where you want to be can you start comparing vendor options and selecting your software solution. 

4. Failing to Align Project Priorities

When you start discussing a new enterprise software implementation, you’re bound to hear plenty of opinions. From your C-suite executives to your department managers, it might seem like everyone has something to say about what needs to be done. 

It’s important to listen to employee feedback and consider various opinions. However, don’t let those conversations veer off track.

Strategy meetings should be constructive, meaningful, and unifying. The result should be the alignment of all stakeholders regarding the top priorities for the project.

Once you have this strategy in place, you’ll know what functionality to prioritize during software selection and what customizations or special requests to allow during implementation. 

5. Setting Unrealistic Expectations

Digital transformation is undoubtedly exciting. As such, it’s easy to get swept up in the allure of it all. Suddenly, you find yourself halfway through the project and wonder where all your time and money went.

Projects that are over-budget and over-schedule often must be abandoned before go-live – all because the software customer blindly believed their vendor’s lowballed estimates.

Don’t let this be you. An experienced software consultant can help you navigate vendor RFPs and contracts as well as negotiate favorable terms.

6. Failing to Establish a Culture of Change

Enterprise software is not a silver bullet. It won’t be the end-all solution that meets your every need. 

While it can put you ahead of competitors, continued success requires an everyday commitment to change. This is why change management is so important.

We discussed change management earlier, but to elaborate on it we should mention that it is most effective when it is enterprise-based and not just project-based. This means that in addition to influencing employee attitudes toward the software project, you’re also influencing their attitudes toward organizational change in general.

As a result, the years following go-live are not a gradual slide toward apathy but a time of continuous acceptance of not only the new technology you just implemented but also the additional changes you’ll implement over time.

7. Over-Customizing Your Solution

Software customizations can ensure your solution meets your unique business needs. However, these adjustments don’t come cheap or easy.

While there are bound to be a few areas you’ll need to customize, resist the urge to make customizations at every turn. This means proceeding with caution when it comes to accepting employees’ change requests.

Otherwise, you might experience scope expansion, cost overruns, and a negative ROI.

You Can Avoid Software Failure

If a software project goes south, it’s usually because there were several different issues at play. From a lack of change management to an unrealistic schedule, there are many reasons for software failure.

While you may not be able to avoid every one of them, you can prepare your team for what lies ahead. Our enterprise software consultants can help you start on the right foot and then identify potential project risks as you go. Contact us below for a free consultation.

About the author

As Director of Panorama’s Expert Witness Practice, Bill oversees all expert witness engagements. In addition, he concurrently provides oversight on a number of ERP selection and implementation projects for manufacturing, distribution, healthcare, and public sector clients.

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