The first computer software program was released and executed in 1948 at the University of Manchester: a math program that computed the greatest divisor of 2 to the 18th power. It took 52 minutes to calculate the answer.

Software has come a long way since then. It powers the digital economy; organizations in every industry use software to solve business challenges, drive innovation, and deliver stakeholder value.

Along the way, however, those organizations face multiple implementation challenges and risks. If those risks aren’t identified and addressed early, the implementation of new software can go awry and create serious problems.

Implementation challenges can disrupt workflows, hamper business processes, and curtail employees’ productivity and efficiency. Ultimately, they can derail the company’s IT budget and tank the ROI of technology investments.

So what are the most common software implementation challenges? And how can your organization avoid them? This guide answers that question.

5 Key Risks of Implementing New Software

In project management, planning is critical – and yet, too many companies fail to create comprehensive plans, and then the application doesn’t deliver its expected outcomes. For a successful implementation process and high ROI, a clearly defined and detailed plan is essential.

The plan must clarify the goals you expect to achieve from the software. It should help guide execution, prepare the system implementation and testing team, and include essential metrics to measure the project’s success.

Thorough planning can help you avoid these five critical risks of implementing new software systems.

  1. Unrealistic Expectations

    What it means: You expect something from the software, but it doesn’t deliver.

    Before implementing software, you will have some expectations from it, such as:

    • It should streamline operations through automation.
    • It should lower costs for one or more business units.
    • It should be easy to deploy and use.
    • It should seamlessly integrate with the existing technology stack.
    • It should help the organization to meet its customer experience or customer success goals.

    While it’s perfectly OK to have any of these expectations, if expectations don’t align with what the software can actually deliver, you will struggle to meet these goals. Such misalignments can turn out to be costly mistakes.

    Strategies to Reduce the Risk of Unrealistic Expectations

    To avoid these problems, vendor communication is critical. Before the rollout, ask the software vendor pointed questions such as:

    • What are the software’s unique or new features?
    • What can it do? Equally important, what can’t it do?
    • Can it help us meet “X” goal? How?

    Define the implementation timeline and critical milestones to keep the project on track. Finally, identify the must-have deliverables that the vendor must provide to assure that stakeholder expectations will be met.

  2. Adopting Off-the-Shelf Software

    What it means: A ready-to-use software without modifications may seem attractive – until it’s not.

    Many organizations use commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) software for a wide range of applications, business challenges, and use cases. COTS can be beneficial if:

    • You want to buy a ready-made, pre-tested, and trusted software.
    • You don’t need to customize it.
    • You don’t have a development team to build a bespoke solution.
    • You want to save money and avoid expensive greenfield software projects.

    End-users can use a COTS in an almost “plug and play” manner.

    All that said, COTS can also create risks that harm the organization later. For example, the vendor may stop supporting the software with little or no notice. This can be especially problematic if the COTS has security vulnerabilities that can jeopardize your software supply chain security and increase the risk of cyberattacks and data breaches.

    The vendor may also provide only generic support that’s inadequate for your specific business needs. Many COTS don’t offer a simple upgrade path from one version to another. Finally, the software may lack a feature request process and product enhancements such as plugins or add-ons to extend its functionality for your specific use cases.

    Strategies to Reduce the Risk of Commercial Off-the-Shelf Software

    Before investing in COTS, confirm that the vendor will support the product for the entire period you plan to use it. Inquire about premium support or support per your specific service level agreements (SLAs).

    If you reuse any components, your team should have the right skills and access to the source code for a successful implementation. Team members should have control over the application’s performance and functionality and be able to add plugins or add-ons per business need.

    It’s also crucial to find and fix security issues and errors before they open the door to cyber attacks. One 2021 report found that the average time to fix critical cybersecurity vulnerabilities had increased to 205 days.

    That’s 205 days a hacker has access to your systems and data because of a vulnerability in the software’s code. To protect your organization, ask the vendor about its security patching and version upgrade schedule.

  3. Inadequate Resources for Implementation and Testing

    What it means: Implementing new software without a dedicated team to manage implementation and testing can affect its ability to meet your needs in a real-world environment.

    One reason for software implementation failure is that organizations depend on the vendor for end-to-end implementation and testing. While the vendor’s job is to implement the software and customize it to your specifications, only you know your business best, and you must have the right resources in place to manage its implementation, testing, and go-live.

    Strategies to Reduce the Risk of Inadequate Resources

    Identify dedicated resources to work with the vendor on implementation and pre-deployment testing within the project timeframe. Involve the relevant stakeholders and process owners throughout the implementation lifecycle to assure you get the solution you expect and need.

  4. Poor Change Management

    What it means: A failure to prepare users for the change to new software can limit adoption and result in failure to achieve expected goals.

    Humans are creatures of habit, so any new change may cause resistance. When implementing new software, people will push back, delaying implementation or creating adoption challenges after implementation. Poor change management may also lead to a decline in productivity and a demotivated or burned-out workforce.

    Strategies to Reduce the Risk of Poor Change Management

    For successful software implementation that delivers on its goals, you must manage the people-side of the change. Prepare staff with proper training, onboarding, and guidance to help them adapt to the new system and modify their behavior accordingly.

    If possible, identify a few testers and “evangelists” from the end-user group to test the product and drive its adoption after deployment. This will also help the team identify administrative or business process changes that will be necessary to facilitate the success of the new software.

    Senior leadership should set and drive the communication strategy to show staff the advantages of the new software. Make sure to clarify how it can benefit their day-to-day work and improve the organization’s efficiency and quality.

  5. Poor Data Migration and Tech Integration

    What it means: If the new software cannot integrate with other systems or maintain data integrity, that will affect your data architecture and business outcomes.

    Does the new ERP software or CRM platform require data to be migrated from an old system? If yes, the new system should maintain data integrity to assure you don’t lose any valuable intelligence that informs your organization’s decision-making.

    The data migration should happen seamlessly, without affecting existing processes or business continuity. Also, the two applications should operate in tandem until you have completed the migration and implementation.

    The new software should also flawlessly integrate with your existing tech stack and offer interoperability with other software. If it doesn’t, that might cause usability problems after deployment.

    Strategies to Reduce the Risk of Poor Data Migration and Tech Integration

    During implementation, your project team must continually verify data integrity as it moves between the old and new applications. They should also assure its security so that nothing falls through the cracks concerning privacy, security, and compliance.

    It’s also important to check that the software aligns with the organization’s IT architecture and is fully interoperable with other systems and applications.

Strengthen Risk Management with Reciprocity ZenRisk

A robust plan with a detailed risk management component can help you avoid these common software implementation challenges and the consequent problems such as cost overruns, project scope creep, and missing functionalities.

Visibility into the risk landscape is vital for effective risk management before, during, and after software implementation. Here’s where a platform like ZenRisk comes in.

Mitigate risk and stay ahead of threats with actionable insights in the context of your business. Conduct effective cybersecurity risk assessments with ease, monitor ongoing threats, and free your teams from time-consuming manual work.

Through one comprehensive platform, you can evaluate, manage, monitor, and mitigate risks throughout your technology stack. To see how ZenRisk can strengthen your enterprise risk management program, schedule a demo today.