You start a return on investment (ROI) analysis with your friendly software vendor.  Exploring every recess of the application, you map it to your business processes, and analyze the relative cost and return it will have on multiple business units.  You discount the resulting values, which, when adjusted, demonstrate that your organization will experience a 135% return on your initial investment within the first year.   So you wrap up the story in a twelve point PowerPoint presentation with accompanying spreadsheets and pivot tables and deliver it to your decision-team in a compelling Monday morning session.  You give it a strong “buy” recommendation.   Decision made, you deliver the joyful news to your vendor, deployment begins and you move on to your next challenge, happy in the knowledge that you have done your homework and delivered the right solution to your business.

A year and seventeen projects later, you’ve forgotten all about that ROI exercise.  The relative impact of that enterprise application can be summed up in two words – “What application?”

To be successful, enterprise level software applications must become integral to the business practice – doing what all great enterprise software systems do: automate business processes, support information flow and reinforce business standards organization wide.   Enterprise acceptance of the application is critical to achieving that goal.   Acceptance is a function of mastery and usage and must take the “human” into account.   Humans require regular training and retraining to achieve mastery.  Hence, mastery depends equally upon the excellence of supporting service as it does on the design the software itself.   This is particularly true when the application they use changes with the business; with the market, and with available technologies.

Humans also require regular reinforcement, reminders and best practice information to broaden usage.  On average only 10% of available application functionality is used by any one user.  Understanding this fact is key to your success.  Humans require support, not the software.   Like muscle memory with repetitive motion, application memory comes only through repetitive, reinforced usage – usage achieved through programs to ensure application immersion,  broad comprehension, concept freshness and best practice awareness.   All of the effort that goes into assessing whether a system is right for your business will be wasted if that system does achieve broad organization acceptance and usage persistence.

Here are ten keys to achieving acceptance and usage persistence:

1.       Analyze the quality of the service underlying the software.

2.      Remind yourself that the functionality is secondary.

3.      Do your reference checking early.

4.      Make an ongoing plan to ensure ongoing service.

5.      Ease into it:  Garden hose, not fire hose.

6.      Establish performance metrics and revisit them regularly and keep revisiting them.

7.      Give your provider active feedback and keep giving them feedback.

8.      Involve key departmental constituents in all phases of the process.  Keep them involved in your regular reviews.

9.      Make a strategic decision – not an operational decision.  Management buy-in and ongoing support is a must.

10.    Go SaaS.