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Hiring a Superuser Could Prevent Your Next Big Software Project Fail

Before your company launches into the next ERP or CRM project, consider bringing on a superuser who can serve as a critical bridge between the user and all the other stakeholders.

Hiring a Superuser Could Prevent Your Next Big Software Project Fail

By: John Rossheim

When a software project fails, it can cast a long shadow of remorse across the organization. Unfortunately, for many companies, that failure is all-too-familiar. 

In fact a large fraction of enterprise resource planning (ERP), customer relationship management (CRM) and other software projects either completely bomb or don’t reach some of their objectives. According to a Deloitte white paper citing analyst firm Gartner’s data, between 55 percent and 75 percent of them fall flat. 

One way to avoid this type of disaster is to recruit the kinds of folks who serve as “superuser glue” for these complex projects. These superusers—typically business analysts or project managers who take on a liaison role with IT—can make all the difference between software project failure and success.

So how can you recruit and groom these kinds of folks? Unfortunately, “there are no shortcuts to building a talent pipeline of ERP superusers,” says Lisa Anderson, president of LMA Consulting Group, Inc., which consults large corporations on supply chain management.

As the experts below point out, building a superuser pipeline requires creativity and persistence. But those efforts will ultimately provide a significant payoff. After all, your superusers will serve as a critical bridge between the user and all the other stakeholders on an enterprise software implementation. 

Open the gates to let superuser talent in. The next time you’re sourcing business analysts and program managers, include superuser aptitude in the target skill set in the job description. Szofer, CEO of software services firm SenecaGlobal, explains why. 

“Oracle, Salesforce, SAP—they’re fairly sophisticated, so a lot of knowledge is needed to configure the system. If someone is in the scheduling department for a large manufacturer and they’re working on the capacity of machines that are producing goods for Costco, that’s a steep learning curve, because ERP is pretty complicated,” he says.

Attract potential superusers with your employer brand. If your company does peer interviews, be sure to include a superuser who can speak with candidates about the role. Or consider highlighting that employee in a video on your company career page.  

“There are different definitions of who superusers are and what they do,” says Jan Meyer, global head of digital learning solutions at SAP. So codify what you need from your superusers and widely communicate the nature and importance of the role internally and in your recruitment communications.

In interviews, probe for the candidates’ superuser interests. A superuser can make the difference between a rocky release and a smooth one. “Superusers help us with roll out and hand holding, and help us get product feedback,” says Meyer. 

Is the candidate up for the task of being the conduit? “You cannot work with 10,000 end users, but if you have a handful of locations with one or two superuser representatives in each area, you can work with them.” 

Test the candidate’s ability to speak up for a peer community. Superusers will be called upon to speak for their peer users, who will likely be less familiar with your organization's enterprise software. 

“The superuser takes on the role of speaking up for the naïve user,” says Anderson. Whether they’re business analysts or project or program managers, superusers need to empathize with newbies. Be sure to look for soft skills in the candidates you select.  

Assess candidates’ ability to aid in software training. “Superusers are a key for us in training,” says Meyer. Superusers will spend their days on your ERP system, so look for people with experience in training, whether as training leaders or as peer trainers.

Superusers want to keep learning. A great way to successfully recruit promising superuser candidates is to appeal to their ambition. “Superusers are typically interested in the training,” says Anderson. “They see that they could go somewhere else someday if they want to.” 

By keeping ambitious people on the cutting edge of technology, even if they’re not technologists, helps boost retention as well. 

Superusers must have a gut feeling for process. These two key qualifications will enable you to recruit superusers: a knack for business processes and the ability to suss out new features. 

“It doesn’t really matter if you have experience in the system at hand,” says Anderson. “You need someone like a business analyst with a good process understanding, someone who can figure out how to do additional things with the system without too much help.”

Management should scout for internal superuser talent. Beyond your external searches, “leaders should keep their eye out for emerging superuser talent within the company—someone who understands down-the-line impacts, is willing to speak up, and enjoys being a change agent,” says Anderson. 

“Give them opportunities while making sure to provide security in their day-to-day job responsibilities.” Presenting the superuser role as a professional development opportunity will also help support employee retention.

Compensate superusers for their above-and-beyond efforts. If you love your superusers, retain them by rewarding them for their industriousness. “It’s good to have financial rewards like a bonus at certain milestones,” says Anderson. And it’s good to keep those superusers in your employ—rather than lose them to the greener pastures of your competitors.