What’s the best way to ensure your investment in new proposal software pays off? Think through what will help your personnel become familiar with a new tool and use the software to help them do their jobs easier and faster. It is important to involve them in the transition and learning process. When people are actively engaged, that’s when they figure out how to use the software effectively.
Too often we see clients don’t allocate the time or resources to get past the initial activities in their software implementation plan. This typically includes installing and configuring the software. It also includes getting the software up and running for an initial proposal project to work through setting up core data, integrating the new tool with other business systems, and determining the best configuration options to align with the business environment. Frequently there is a single person or a small team that is working through the implementation process so there is limited exposure of the new software to other personnel. It is easy to declare victory because it is a tangible point for measuring progress.
In reality, the initial implementation activities are just the beginning. Getting other users to appreciate the benefits of using the software and to gain proficiency requires additional effort. User acceptance doesn’t magically happen all by itself.
The Next Steps
Here are some tips to help ensure users become proficient with a new software tool.
Tip 1: Ensure you have allocated sufficient time and resources to get past the initial implementation activities.
What’s sufficient time and resources? The classic response is: “it depends.” Questions to ask to help you quantify this include:
- How many people need to be proficient with the software and what are their roles? This can help you determine what training sessions are needed and the number of times you may need to conduct training for different types of users. It can also determine how formal you need to be. For example, if you only need to train a dozen people, you can take a more informal approach. For a large number of users, you may need to engage other corporate training resources to add courses to existing training programs.
- Do you intend to create your own training materials or can you leverage source materials from the software vendor? This ties back to how formal your training needs to be, the number of users you need to train, and how often the training occurs. Do you need to establish a regular schedule for the training? If yes, you may need to get an internal resource up to speed on the new software tool so they are available to conduct training as needed.
- Anticipate there is some level of process updates that need to occur. Define the scope of the updates, time frame, likely tasks and schedule with milestones to measure accomplishments, and resources you need. If your proposal teams are using ad-hoc approaches for developing proposals, you will need more time to define and verify your preferred proposal process you want your proposal teams to follow. On the other hand, perhaps you have a well-defined process that simply needs a few enhancements to take advantage of software functionality to help proposal teams create data driven cost estimates. Either way, the process updates will need to be incorporated into the training so people know what to do and understand why they need to follow specific practices.
- Anticipate you will need to create work instructions for the new software tool. Determine how many work instructions you need to create. These are step-by-step instructions that often include a list of prerequisite activities, screen captures or other images, tips or notes, warnings, and other details such as what to do next. Work instructions walk users through the process of using the software to complete their tasks and help them through the learning curve. Work instructions should always support your proposal process. Depending on the level of complexity, a typical base figure for estimating development time is anywhere from 4 to 8 hours to create and verify the steps for each work instruction. These work instructions should be part of the training process. Work instructions can also help you train new users in less time, particularly when they are already familiar with the normal proposal process you follow.
Tip 2: Training is most effective when people learn to use the software to perform their usual proposal tasks.
The intent is to combine learning how to use the software following your preferred proposal process. Organize the training topics into process areas or sequence of tasks the proposal teams would normally follow to develop their cost estimates.
For example, a common initial task for a new proposal project is to establish the work breakdown structure (WBS) as the foundation for developing the cost estimate. In BOEMax, there are a number of ways to accomplish this. The proposal teams can parse a source document from the customer, create a copy from a WBS template and tailor it to their needs, or import it from a schedule tool or from an Excel file. Along with hands-on training for the proposal teams using the software, provide a work instruction that illustrates how to create the WBS with use notes that may apply. For example, perhaps your process requires the proposal teams to include specific WBS user defined attribute fields or use a specific coding scheme.
Consider breaking the learning sessions into small modules that focus on completing specific proposal development activities and how using the software helps them do their job. That way you can do short, focused training sessions that limit disruption of normal day-to-day activities. Incorporating the work instructions as part of the learning process is helpful because the users can refer to them at any time. That way they can make sure they are selecting the right options and become proficient on how to use the different functions in the software.
Tip 3: Create other user assists that save time and effort as well as help proposal teams create quality data.
This is where software tools can make a difference and simplify life for the proposal teams. For example, in BOEMax, you can create a library of common processes complete with a list of tasks along with resource labor hours and material requirements. Proposal teams can easily copy the process library tasks as a basis to create and substantiate their estimates. They can also search other projects for common tasks they can copy and use to develop their basis of estimate.
You can also establish common source data imported from your corporate systems all proposal teams can use as a foundation such as a master parts or assembly list complete with manufacturer, unit of measure, and unit price details. Proposal teams can quickly create bills of materials for their project from these master lists and easily determine part or assembly pricing using credible source data.
Other things to consider setting up that saves time every time proposal teams create a new project include:
- Common core data such as calendar data, resource structure, or rate sets. This also ensures they are using approved source data for their estimates.
- Project, WBS, other code structure templates they can quickly copy and tailor to their needs.
- Common standard data views or reports tailored to your business environment.
Be sure to include time in the software implementation plan to create the applicable user assists that make it easier and faster for proposal teams to create data driven cost estimates.
Does your proposal software implementation plan include user acceptance activities? ProjStream can help you work through your process, training, and work instruction requirements as well as help you set up user assists to simplify life for your proposal teams. Give us a call today.