Last updated January 7, 2012.

For any new software to be successful the people that use it have to feel comfortable with it and understand its purpose. It must also be closely tied to the operational strategy of your organization as a whole. Engagement with staff, users and other stakeholders is vital at all stages of the software selection process. One of the prime reasons for this is to mitigate risks by identifying as wide a range of use cases and scenarios as early as possible.

Engagement not only tends to increase positive perception of any new system once it is implemented but also allows risks and concerns to be identified before the system is rolled-out preventing costly adjustments at a later date.

Alignment with Institutional Requirements

Successful implementation projects must be closely aligned to the wider needs of the parent institution. In order to prove the value of investment and the effort and resource used during selection, the reasons for implementing must reflect the wider strategic needs of the greater body in which the library operates.

As an example, it may be as simple as proving a reduction in costs and streamlining of processes. Alternatively you may need to demonstrate how the new or replacement software will help the library better serve the needs of a specific user group. It may be vital in reaching a wider audience of strategic value to the institution or supporting a new initiative.

Where possible, direct links to high-level mission statements and strategic planning documents should be made in proposals, presentations and any reporting documentation. Such alignment is vital in winning support for a project from all levels.

High Level Support

It’s not a secret that successful projects often have some level of buy-in at the highest level. Ideally, a project sponsor with sufficient “clout” should be sought to protect and sell the procurement at the highest levels. Such support can be vital in ensuring budgetary and resource requirements are met and that administrative hurdles can be cleared in good time. They will also assist in maintaining parity between the implementation project and any high level strategic goals.

Internal Champions

If you are involved in a larger software selection project it is often worth assigning or recruiting internal champions that can push the agenda within their department or sub-department. From the start of the process it is important to reach out as widely as possible within your organization to get feedback from colleagues. This not only helps to create momentum but can also ensure management buy-in for any decision, as the decision will be supported across multiple parts of the organization.

Regular meetings either face-to-face or virtually are an important step in ensuring cohesion and making sure interested parties are in agreement over the needs of the software. You should aim to connect

Iterative User Testing

With buy-in achieved at a number of levels, it can be capitalized on throughout selection by involvement in the testing of potential products. Internal champions and even friendly, interested end-users can all play a useful role in selection. If suppliers are unwilling or unable to make use demonstration software available, existing implementations at other sites can be used. Open Source software offers some specific advantages here, with the opportunity to set up bare bones local installations to view. Down the line, a group of end-user testers can be useful in implementation.