3 Things Every CIO Wants in a Software Implementation

Kendra Von Esh
Kendra Von Esh
Executive Strategic Advisor, Coupa

Kendra Von Esh, a former CIO at Veolia, has been a trusted advisor and CIO for the past decade developing value added strategies and solutions transforming businesses with technology. Von Esh joined Coupa last year to leverage her executive experience and active involvement in CIO communities and industry boards to create inspiring dialogue and change strategies cross-functionally.

Read time: 10 mins
People Talking Next to a Computer

every-cio-wantsThe way that businesses buy and use software is changing, and the role of the IT department is changing along with it. The rise of Software as a Service (SaaS) has empowered business users to find, choose and sometimes even implement software without IT’s involvement.

However, IT is still responsible for security and compliance, for making sure systems integrate with each other and for making sure all the company’s business processes are covered while minimizing system overlap. For those reasons, you still need to get IT, and in particular, the CIO, on board for any software that’s going to impact a lot of people and processes in your company.

But there’s another reason that you need the CIO’s support. The CIO is uniquely positioned to add value to your project because of their experience driving adoption and tracking success across many implementations. They know what it takes to make implementations of all kinds successful: adoption by all, the latest and greatest technology, and measurable results. You can get your CIO on board by making sure your project meets these three criteria.

1. Adoption by All. CIOs want to partner with business units to help them meet the objectives in their business case. Most business cases rest on the assumption of widespread user adoption, so they’ll want to see that it’s actually achievable.

To help them determine this, there’s no substitute for seeing the solution in action. Prepared PowerPoint screenshots of the interface don’t cut it. Make sure the CIO can see a live demo that shows how each different user—not just IT—would accomplish common tasks. The demonstrator should easily be able to go off script and, in real time, put the system through any paces you ask for.

To ensure you’re seeing exactly what you’ll get, the demo should be in your office, not in the vendor’s office as a test of the mobile user experience. Whether it’s SaaS or a browser-based web application, make sure the CIO can see it perform on the web, via Wi-Fi in your conference room. Have them demonstrate the user experience throughout the process on smart phones, tablets and laptops. Do they need to download an app or can they get the same experience via browser on any device? This will show true mobile capabilities and performance.

2. The Latest and Greatest Technology. Most CIOs realize cloud platforms are the future of IT. They are always under pressure to control costs, and the cloud and SaaS help them do that. They used to look at total cost of ownership, or TCO, but CIOs now need to look at TCS—total cost of services.

With older, on-premise technology, IT could customize any cockamamie business practice that a customer wanted. That approach entailed a lot of services. SaaS, on the other hand, offers solutions that are configurable, but not customizable. SaaS vendors build features based on best practices from all its customers on their platform. Features are available to all customers, and these customers can select and configure their solution themselves, which really lightens the load on IT and increases the business’ ability to be agile and self-supportive.

To understand total cost of services, look at things like how much IT needs to be involved in order to make basic changes, such as configuring workflows, or changing or setting up fields, reports and the like. If you still need to have internal or external IT people to do these types of things, that raises costs, hinders business agility, and ultimately gets in the way of adoption.

The other thing that’s going on in technology today is partnership. That partnership becomes critical when you're looking at SaaS providers, because you’re no longer looking to your own IT team to support what you implement. The SaaS provider is your innovation engine. They’re the ones that roll out the new releases. They're the ones that primarily support the software, and they’re also largely in charge of security. Internal IT becomes more of a vendor manager or partner.

The CIO is going to want to know what that partner experience is like. Every implementation is going to have some bumps in the road. They want to know the vendor is going to work collaboratively through issues and problems as though they were part of your own team, because essentially they are. They are also interested in how they can engage with the vendor on future enhancements and innovate together.

3. Measurable Results. IT wants the business to be able to deliver measurable results. They hate hearing people say, "Hey, we spent all this money on this system. What the heck did we get out of it?" They love it when they can see measurable value, and the CIO can play a key role in delivering it.

IT has their own KPIs to deliver on, and if a project meets their KPIs it will also help you meet yours. Specifically, they’re looking to state-of-the-art technology for systems that roll out quickly and are lighter on change management. Up-front costs are lower and the time to value can be quite short. It wasn’t so long ago that a major software implementation could take years, and possibly even be out of date or obsolete by the time the software ready to go live. For a CIO, getting a system up and running quickly, with minimal change management, is a measurable result. That speeds up time to value and gets you to the KPIs in your business case quicker.

The CIO’s three requirements are all actually interrelated. If you don’t have the latest and greatest technology, it may be hard to get the adoption projected in the business case. And if the adoption is not what people thought it would be, the data won’t be there. Without complete and accurate data, the system will be less compelling to use, and it will also be hard to measure results.

Too often, older system implementation approaches don’t deliver the results outlined in the business case. The CIO and IT team are the veterans of many software implementations and most often are familiar with the new ways in which the business needs to analyze cloud and SaaS providers. Bringing them in at the beginning and adding their perspective to the discussion increases the chances that you’ll pick the right software and your project will be a win for the business and IT alike.