It’s sad but true. The world has had too many failed MLM software implementations. A failure occurs whenever software is inadequately delivered, trained, or used.
Fortunately, when you understand the reasons for software implementation failures, you can take steps now to prevent another failure.
This post was inspired by a question asked to me by Meredith Berkich of Jenkon, the software company where I worked from 1986 to 1999. Thank you, Meredith.
Reasons For MLM Software Implementation Failures
1. Your direct selling company didn’t know what it actually needed.
Because you didn’t know what you needed, you couldn’t articulate it. Because you couldn’t say what you needed, you didn’t get it.
Solution: Work with an experienced direct selling business analyst to help you to identify your needs in writing. Prior to launching Sylvina Consulting, I worked as a business analyst for a direct selling software company for 13 years, so I can help you if you’d like.
2. Your direct selling company knew what it wanted and needed, but you were talked into something else by your software provider.
Your software company tried to save you some money by suggesting alternative solutions to your needs. You acquiesced and compromised, but later you were unhappy with the results.
Solution: Before agreeing to an alternative solution, ask yourself if you will be happy going down this road. If you have any doubts, don’t compromise!
3. Project components are not completed and therefore never delivered.
You are waiting and waiting and waiting, and still, there is more waiting. You are told by your software provider that a deliverable is 70% done or 80% done or 90% done, yet you never see it fully completed.
Solution: Insist on a project schedule with milestones and timelines. Ask for payments to be tied to deliverables, not to dates. When a software company doesn’t get paid until the software is delivered and accepted, project components tend to get completed in a more timely manner.
4. Sufficient testing was not conducted before delivering the project.
Good software companies have people whose job it is to create test plans and to fully test software. Bad software companies will tell you that their developers test the work of other developers but only when they have time.
Solution: Don’t choose a bad software company. Before selecting your software provider, ask to meet some of the people whose job it is to test software. Ask them how many hours per week they spend testing software. What you want to hear is 40, not 5.
5. Your direct selling company does not appoint your own project manager to manage the software implementation project.
President Ronald Reagan said about the Soviets, “Trust but verify.” Be like Reagan. Someone at your company needs to hold your software company accountable for its deliverables.
Solution: Designate a centralized point of contact for your direct selling company who will share communication with your software company with your staff who will need it. The knowledge of how to use the software must be consistently shared with other employees of your direct selling company. Schedule a weekly accountability team meeting to be attended by your company’s project manager and the software company’s project manager.
6. Budget blow-out. Your software company doesn’t give a fixed price. Instead, they quote an hourly charge and provide estimated hours.
To land the deal and avoid a lengthy detailed assessment, an hourly estimate is given without concrete analysis. Because the estimates are often “uncapped”, the actual hours worked can exceed the estimate by 5X or more. It is reasonable to expect you will experience resentment and anger over financials when an overage in estimated hours exceeds 20-25% of an estimate.
Solution: Ask for fixed fees for each software project. If your software company refuses to provide fixed fees, ask for estimated fees with a cap of no more than 125% of the estimate. The 125% cap could apply to individual projects or to the total of all projects undertaken. The latter is a better approach for all.
7. The project manager the software company assigns to your account was inexperienced.
As the customer, you made your purchase decision-based in part on the relationship you built with the Sales Lead and/or Demonstrator.
You have not yet developed a relationship with the software company owner or the project manager you would be working with. Unfortunately, your assigned project manager was new to the software company, the job, or both. As a result, first, you were frustrated that it seemed most questions you asked required untimely delays while you waited for the project manager to “research” your questions before getting back to you with an answer. Then, the real trouble began. Your project manager, tired of waiting too, decides to start guessing answers to hide personal incompetence. You don’t know about the guessing right away, so you make key business decisions upon the answers your receive, and later pay for the price of your project manager’s ignorance and yours.
Solution: Before you sign the agreement with the software company, specifically request that you be assigned to an experienced project manager. Ask to meet and talk with the project manager, too. These are unusual requests, so don’t be surprised if the software company initially resists them. Be strong. You need an experienced project manager to have a successful project!
8. Your company did not take the steps necessary to be a good software client.
While it may be easy to complain about your software provider or internal programmers, it’s hard for them to consistently meet your expectations. Have you ever wondered what you can do to be a better client?
Solution: Knowing how to be good is good for your business, so please use this list.
- Communicate in writing. When you verbally make a request of your software company or internal programmers, always follow-up with that same request in writing. Ask for and receive a confirmation back.
- Be Clear. When you make a request, be clear in what you expect will be included and also list what you expect won’t be included. The better you define the scope of a project, the more likely the project will meet your expectations.
- Be Wide Eyed. Many software changes have ricochet effects. This means making a change in one area of your software may cause inconsistencies with software in other areas. Accept the responsibility to ferret out these “other” areas. Don’t assume your software developers will find them on their own.
- Be Early. As soon as you think you need a software program created or changed, write up the requirement and give it to your software developers. The sooner you request a project, the higher the likelihood you will get it when you want it.
- Prioritize Features. Sometimes not all features in a project are needed at the same time. Prioritize the features so that if you need to wait longer for some of them, the right ones will be delivered first.
- Agree on Deadlines. Don’t assume your project will be delivered when you want it because you are the client. Ask for acceptance of your deadline. If you can’t get it, then adjust your deadline to one your software company or programmers can agree to. Remember to include sufficient time to test the program before you need it to go live.
- Assume It Doesn’t Work. When a new software program or modification is delivered to you, assume it doesn’t work exactly right. Test it thoroughly. Prove to yourself it works 100% before assuming it does.
- Don’t Wait to Test. If there is something wrong with a deliverable, finding the problem just before you need the program may be too late. The earlier you can test, the better.
- Express Appreciation. Saying thank-you for a job well done helps motivate anyone to repeat the great performance next time.
Know What You Can Control
Here is how you can avoid the pitfalls of poor project management and a ruined implementation. Begin by resolving to control what you can.
- Start by reading my article Do This For Project Failure and don’t do these things. If you prefer a video over reading another article, you will find my video on this topic here.
- Next, read my Amazon Kindle book, MLM Software: What You Need To Know.