Technology is fast-changing, so you need a plan in order to keep up.
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With so many new technologies promising to revolutionise business processes, disrupt industries and, most importantly, increase profitability, it’s easy for an organisation’s leadership to get swept up in the hype.
It’s a hyper-competitive business landscape, where fine margins in efficiency and productivity separate the winners from the losers. Utilising new tools and systems that can put the business ahead of its rivals is therefore usually top of the Board’s agenda.
However, Board and shareholder enthusiasm doesn’t make the process of implementing new technologies easier, and many businesses are struggling to keep up with the speed of the technological changes happening around them. Large companies in particular, historically used to a glacial pace of change, are having the most trouble keeping up.
This is because, with greater speed comes greater complexity. If we look at this from an IT team perspective, the plethora of different cloud applications now available, from CRM solutions to web-conferencing to backup and storage (and everything in between) are becoming increasingly unmanageable.
With many members of different departments clandestinely setting up their own apps to suit their various needs, IT teams are dealing with even greater complexity and frustration.
For those of us who develop and sell these technologies, it’s important to recognise that, in truth, we have a role to play that is beyond being salespeople and technologists.
Driving change within a business isn’t simply plugging in new technologies, there are important personnel and organisational changes that need to be considered, and we should be acting as advisors to our customers on managing these changes too.
Creating a change culture
A key roadblock to facilitating change is the ‘we’ve always done it this way’ mindset. A change resistant culture within an organisation leads to stagnation and, ultimately, competitive disadvantage.
Resistance to change can come from two main constituents: upper management and end-user employees. Communicating the benefits of change to each group before kicking off any project is essential.
These two groups have distinct needs to be met and assurances to be made, so require different approaches from leadership when communicating the value of change.
Change can and will bring some initial level of disruption, which is why senior managers, for their part, need to be given an understanding of the business challenge being addressed or opportunity being created that is associated with a technology change. They need to be confident that the end goal justifies this disruption from the outset.
Furthermore, they also need to see where the proposed change fits within the overall business strategy. Finally, and most importantly, they are cost-sensitive, so they need to be empowered to conduct a cost-benefit analysis to ensure the return on investment is assured.
In order to get end-user buy-in on new technologies they have to be made to feel like they’ve been suitably involved in the process from the get-go. Failure to do so risks making them feel excluded, and more resistant to adopting a new tool that they had no say in.
You need to be honest with employees about how this change will impact them and why they should care. Failure to communicate honestly with employees will breed rumours and assumptions. These will be discussed, and parallel truths can emerge within the workplace.
These can derail plans and prevent employees jumping on the bandwagon. If the change will affect employees, you need to communicate - early in the project - how their roles may change and what the company’s plans are.
So, the question remains - how can you get end-user buy-in, while also ensuring that senior management remains happy?
The initial step is to clearly define the reasons for change, including the consequences if change doesn’t occur, as well as the benefits of successful change.
Next, implement a change management plan. This will help you consider multiple points that might not have been obvious before you started. This should identify any areas where issues may arise, and develop mitigation plans should they occur. It’s important to work methodically toward clearly defined goals and business outcomes.
To keep employees and stakeholders engaged, you need to have quick wins (tiny gains) to share and celebrate as much as possible. This can reinforce the benefits of the technology deployment and help assuage at least some of the anxiety that stems from change.
Participation from the workforce can also be driven through friendly competition and even gamification for hitting certain milestones.
Rely on your technology provider
Change, and particularly fast paced change, is often difficult for people, and the greater the impact it has on people, the more they’ll end up resisting it. Simply announcing how things will be better once it’s all done and dusted will not alleviate the fears and concerns of employees and stakeholders.
It’s more important to focus on change management strategies that clearly communicate the impact of change, and set clear milestones.
Even with the steps laid out above, change isn’t easy. However, it is necessary for businesses to remain relevant. Partner with your technology vendor to aid you through both the deployment, process and people changes needed to take you through the project, and prepare you for the inevitable changes in the future.