A Surprising Resurrection

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Implementing IT systems isn’t always a joy. Once the elation of the sale has faded there’s the hard work of making the software meet the client’s expectations. Whether or not those expectations are ambitious and unrealistic or entirely reasonable, they are bound to be slightly different from yours. It’s like a marriage, perhaps. You never really know what you’re getting in to.

phoenix

There are many difficult compromises to make during configuration, implementation and training, and then there are the unexpected horrors that occur when you finally go live, however much testing you do, but after some difficulties days and weeks things settle down, and the frowns begin to dissolve into smiles.

It’s a predictable trajectory:

  • Elation at the start of the project
  • Realism as it progresses
  • Optimism as it goes live
  • Horror at what happens next
  • Gradual habituation
  • Ultimate satisfaction

Some months ago I wrote about a large CRM project our LLP CRM division executed for a medical clinic in Prague (see Too Scared to Visit the Doctor). It was the clinic I go to myself, and for a while I was almost afraid to go because the receptionists were using the system and weren’t entirely happy with it. No matter that the problems weren’t our fault (some technical problems deep in the software that we resell, not in any software that we write ourselves), our users weren’t happy, and we were the supplier.

But time went by and the problems got solved, and then, surprise, surprise, our users began to like what we’d built for them.

And then, acute disappointment.

One of the worst things that can happen during any kind of sales process is getting to the point where your potential customer is just about to sign the order, and then hearing that your they’re going to be taken over by another larger company. You might as well begin again, but there’s often no point. The most likely outcome is that the company you’re talking to will be forced to implement the software that their new parent company uses. Acquisition of your customer can be equally disturbing.

So, just when they had begun to like us and our software, we were officially informed that they’d been taken over and would abandon the software we’d put together for them in favour of the software their new parent uses.

Our contract was terminated, we expected to hear no more, and we closed our files on this client.

And then they changed their mind. After an extensive analysis of their system and ‘our’ system they decided to do the opposite, a kind of reverse takeover, at least in terms of CRM systems. So we’re back in the game again, and they will have to buy more licenses too.

It’s a case of double glee. Not only do we get our client back in a larger incarnation, but we know that what we did was good, was liked, was appreciated, was better than its competition.

Too scared to visit the doctor

For many months, a year or so ago, I was scared to visit the doctor. Not because I feared an alarming diagnosis. I could never be afraid of my delightful and kindly general practitioner. Rather, I was afraid because my company, LLP, was fortunate enough, about four years ago, to win a contract to implement a CRM (Customer Relationship Management) system for the company that owns the clinic. And now they were using it. So I was petrified of the administrators, not the medical staff.

Doctor

Medicine is a big and complex business and it has to be run commercially. Appointments must be managed efficiently and bills must be produced promptly and accurately. This is what they wanted help with. So we sold them software and consulting to handle the scheduling of appointments and the generation of invoices, holding all the variations in price that depend on complex combinations of factors.

The implementation of our software took several months, and was not unlike the progress of an illness – good days, bad days, some pain from time to time, anxiety, progress, and then, eventually, the launch. So when the system went live, visiting the doctor became my chance to find out, incognito, what the end-users (amongst them the clinic’s receptionists) thought about it.

The difficulty was that I could see them struggling. They didn’t look happy with it at all.

As we all know, there’s a predictable double fall and rise of mood from the moment of software sale to the moment a system works well.

When a system is sold, expectations are at their highest. After a few weeks of system implementation and the realisation that packaged software systems can’t do everything, the mood plummets. But then, with workarounds and modifications, and as ‘go-live’ approaches, the mood lifts once more.

But then, when the system is live and things immediately go slightly wrong (as, sadly, they often do, however much training and testing you do) the mood declines again. Finally, step by step, bug by bug, day by day, as problems are solved and users get used to the new software, the mood improves again.

So, for a while I could see them struggling, and if I felt brave enough I would ask them about the system. They were kind. There was some problem with printing, they said, (system crashes in fact, when they clicked the Print button) and  there were other things they didn’t love. But they soldiered on, even if without joy.

But now I’m not afraid. I went for some physiotherapy just yesterday and for the first time I heard those very consoling words, ‘It’s really great, so much better than the system we had before.’

You don’t often get the chance to hear an honest opinion from the end-users of a system if you’re the supplier, and in my profession we often feel reluctant to hear it. But in the end, it’s important to know, and this story had a happy ending. The system was responsive to treatment, and now it’s been pronounced fit.