Help, I've been asked to be a key user! Now what?
Key users play an important role in the choice of new business software and its implementation. They know the business and internal processes like no other and understand the needs of the shop floor. This allows them to ensure that each new solution fits in well with the intended working methods and processes. In addition, the key user is indispensable when testing the solution, the implementation, and the support of end users around going live. There are no successful implementations without key users!
There is little doubt about the added value of key users. But what if you were asked to be involved in this role on the next project? What can you expect and how do you ensure that your efforts lead to the desired result? Do you really want it at all?
There is really only one reason not to do it: it takes time! Time that – provided the implementation is properly handled by management – becomes available because you can delegate part of your normal activities to others. Are you still in doubt? Then realize that there are more reasons to comply with the request.
First of all, being asked indicates that you are seen as the functional authority in your department. You represent the interests of your team and you can ensure that your colleagues benefit optimally from the new business software. You will gain more insight into how the various departments function and work together, partly because of the integrated nature of the software. It doesn't make you dumber!
You will also be involved in optimizing processes, processes within your department and processes across departments. An implementation almost by definition changes the method used until then. Not only during the implementation but also afterward you contribute to the optimization of various processes. You are also the point of contact for your colleagues. You are one of the first to be involved in the content of the solution and you have a considerable knowledge advantage, especially during and immediately after going live.
Tips for key users
Do you want to take up the challenge? There are a few practical tips to get you well prepared.
1. Take responsibility
During the implementation, you talk a lot with the consultants of the software supplier. They understand the industry in which you operate, know the software, and have a wealth of experience from implementations at comparable companies. They provide you with the right advice but remain critical. You and your department must ultimately work with the solution. You are responsible for the process and can best estimate whether the advice for your department is really of added value. Carefully check and test what the consultant advises.
2. Create work instructions
During the implementation of software, you as a key user determine the working method that supports your process. It's critical that you document this, even if it's just a concept. If you don't do this, you run the risk of forgetting things quickly. Work instructions provide guidance for you and your colleagues.
3. Record decisions
When important decisions are made, record them! Certainly, decisions that affect multiple departments must be recorded. This provides guidance for all involved. Do not only record the decision itself, but also the motivation. This helps you to fall back on this later in the process.
4. Be critical of the current process
Always ask yourself what the reason is for a certain action in the current process. Why are you printing this document? Why are you recording that data? The software consultant will help you by continuously asking these questions. "We always do it this way" is in any case a wrong answer. The current processes are often the result of the (im)possibilities of the past. Rather let go of the existing systems and think about the desired working method of tomorrow.
5. Make improvement
Perhaps the most important tip: look for improvements! That can be quite difficult if you weren't so involved in it before. However, the implementation of new software is the time to implement improvements in the business processes. If no one had ever thought about improvements, we would still be living in caves and running after animals with a spear so that we could at least put something on the table in the evening. And that table has come about because of our search for improvements.