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Executive Summary:

It is widely understood that one of the more significant factors contributing to failed software implementations is that employees and management fail to adopt the new solutions and accompanying processes. There are many figures that get thrown around when it comes to failure rates associated with software implementations. However, it is reasonable to estimate that 70% of software implementations FAIL. Organizations often make the mistake of assuming that because they invest money in new applications that streamline efficiencies, improve cross-organizational communications/collaboration, improve client/customer satisfaction, provide better management insight, and make it easier for employees that everyone in the organization will be eager to use the new solutions. Just because a company invests in great technology does not mean employees will adopt it. It is vital to the success of any technological implementation that organizations think carefully about how to plan for and manage through CHANGE. In addition, it is important to develop a plan for how to obtain user/management BUY-IN and subsequently ensure the adoption of the new technology.

New technologies can help propel the business forward and dramatically improve employee work productivity. When designed and utilized properly, competitive advantages and lower operational costs can be realized. However, without employee buy-in technology implementations can flounder causing the organization to spend more money and eventually abandon the technology in lieu of existing outdated processes that are known and comfortable to employees. To help ensure the success of adopting new technologies there are a few pivotal elements executives and managers can utilize: set the expectation, manage through the change, get user input, devise a communication plan, and TRAIN

SET THE EXPECTATION:

Executives and managers do not always set the proper expectations to all employees. (This is often the case with many other management issues, and not just relegated to technology implementations.) Executives and managers must make sure everyone understands WHY the organization is implementing this technology and HOW the technology will help the organization. In addition, management must ensure that every employee understands the utilization of the new technology is paramount and will be the NEW STANDARD for operations moving forward. All of this helps set the expectation that this is the “new way “of doing things.

MANAGE THROUGH THE CHANGE:

This is one of the most difficult elements for many leaders. Change is HARD for many employees. It is uncomfortable, unfamiliar, unsettling, and frightening. In order to manage through change it is important for executives and managers to understand how employees react to or resist change. There are four basic reasons employees resist change. They are: Self Interest, Mis-Understanding/Lack of Trust, Different Assessments, and Low Tolerance for Change.

Self Interest

The leading factor in an employee’s resistance to change is that they perceive a loss of some value or authority.  In these cases, because employees focus on their own interest and not those of the organization, resistance often results in “politics” or “political behavior”.  This political behavior often emerges before or during organizational changes.  Occasionally, the political behavior will take the form of two divisions or business units fighting it out.  However, in most cases, it is very subtle and occurs under the surface.  According to Edgar H. Schein in his book “Organizational Psychology”, “initiators of power struggles are sometimes scheming and ruthless individuals.  More often than not, they are people who view their potential loss from change as an unfair violation of their implicit or psychological contract with the organization.”

Misunderstanding and Lack of Trust

Employees tend to resist change when they do not completely understand it.  The initial perception is that change may cost them much more than they will gain.  Employees want to know what is in it for them, the benefits they will receive, and how it will improve their “quality of work environment”.

Different Assessments

Some employees resist change because they perceive the situation differently from their managers, and see more costs than benefits, not only for themselves but for the organization.  This often occurs when an individual or group of individuals fail to see the “global picture”.  (The initial learning curve associated with implementing new technologies often give employees an impression of taking more time to perform a certain task. While initially, this assessment may be correct, once an employee becomes proficient in the utilization of the new technology the benefits become readily apparent. It is often an insurmountable task for an employee to “see past” their comfort zone. In some rare cases where a manager has not fully assessed the organization’s needs and has inadequately analyzed the need for change, this type of resistance is considered good as it provides an implicit check on the manager.

Low Tolerance for Change

Often employees resist change because they fear they will be unable to develop new skills and the behavior needed to utilize them.  (Such as the case with many employees who have performed the same tasks for several years.) Everyone is limited in their ability to change, some more than others.  Peter F. Drucker, author or the “Practice of Management”, argued that “In some cases, a major obstacle to change is the manager’s inability to adapt their behavior as rapidly as the organization requires”.

GET USER INPUT:

It can be argued that the most important factor associated with the success of implementing new technology is USER ADOPTION. This is often referred to as “obtaining user buy-in”. One of the best ways to get user adoption is to include the users through the entire process. Solicit feedback and opinions from select employees who can “socialize” the new technology throughout the entire organization. Listen to the feedback and where possible incorporate user ideas into the technology and/or processes.

DEVISE A COMMUNICATION PLAN:

Communicate—communicate—communicate than when you feel you have communicated enough, communicate your message again. An effective and strategic communication plan ties the entire project together and helps with “setting the proper expectations”, “obtaining user buy-in” and helping executives and managers guide employees through change. A solid plan will:

  • Be consistent and regular (keep the same format for communication and communicate at the same time (e.g. Monday of every week or the first Monday of every month etc…)
  • Identify key stakeholders
  • Establish key milestones in the project
  • Inform employees at all levels of the project’s progress
  • Provide key “tidbits” of knowledge concerning positive aspects of the new technology (e.g. The client services team will benefit from the new internal Chat Feature associated with our new software. This feature will allow you to see the status of all your co-workers and instantly communicate via chat or video directly from your desktop.)

TRAINING:

Training is crucial. Without proper training, employees can Not be expected to understand how to use the new technology to get their job done. This will cause employees to “fall back” on the way things used to be done. In turn, this will cause the implementation of new technology to FAIL. Additionally, the training should be specific to an employee’s job and not be too broad in scope. Additionally, it is important to include “why” this change is occurring. When employees know “how” and “why” it helps ensure adoption.

CONCLUSION:

There are NO guarantees when it comes to ensuring the success of implementing new technology in an organization. However, there are certain ways to guarantee the implementation of new technology will FAIL. If an organization sets the proper expectations, empower managers to lead through change, solicit user input, deliver constant and relevant communication, and provide solid training the company will be well positioned to ensure employees and managers adopt the new technology.