New technology can provide significant benefits to the business by making its people and processes more effective and productive, but only if the technology is applied effectively and your people actually use the new technology. However, there are many examples where technological change worsened a company’s situation by hard wiring the functional silos with technology.
Problems arise for companies attempting to absorb these new technologies efficiently because they were not adept in managing the challenges that go along with implementing the change effectively. The Business-IT gap still represents one of the biggest opportunities for improvement in business.
User involvement in shepherding technical innovation into routine operations is a key ingredient for the successful delivery of technological projects. Yet, the proper extent, timing, and type of user involvement vary greatly from company to company.
Oftentimes technological change projects fail to deliver because their project team is focused on resource management, not the work required to deliver value. Improving processes often means changing them, or, creating a new one altogether and technology can assist in making these improvements.
Many companies still focusing their resources on the purchase or, development of the technology but, very little into its implementation. In practice, many companies employ project teams to develop the technology and then hand it off to users. With, the result that users are not willing, or able, to take on responsibility for the technology at the handover of a project.
What has happened is that new IT initiatives have tended to worsen matters by hard wiring the functional silos with technology – rather than deliver the breakthrough business changes the new technological change could have yielded.
Business-IT Gap Explained…
“Businesses are increasingly dependent on information systems.” Users’ can’t improve business process designs without collaborating with developers on how to use technology to assist. “Technology exists to serve the business.” Developers’ can’t build and design effective enabling technologies without understanding the new processes or, improvements ‘users’ want the technology to automate.
Whether manual or automated, companies have learned that the piecemeal process improvement methods and techniques scattered within their organisation don’t produce the breakout results they expected. All change projects are made from many parts, more than the three, albeit major ones, budget, deadlines, and features.
While it’s true that strong project management governance is an important part of running any successful change project, it doesn’t determine success in the implementation!
Strategies To Address Implementation Difficulties
Introducing technological change into an organisation presents a different set of challenges to management than does the work of competent project administration. We have learned the higher the organisational level at which managers define a problem or a need, the greater the probability of successful implementation. At the same time, however, the closer the definition and solution of problems or, needs are to end-users, the greater the probability of success.
Some of the strategies, businesses must surmount for successful technological innovation development and change: the inescapably dual role of business and IT in BPM, the variety of business levels to be served, legitimate resistance to change, the right degree of promotion, the choice of implementation site, and the need for one person to take overall responsibility.
For example, to address common implementation difficulties companies must be careful to:
1. Align technology and strategy – when choosing which technology to implement for your business, think about how new technology will help you the business improve performance. Start with the goals you want to achieve, and then plan backward, finding a technology that best supports improved performance. People are more likely to adopt new technology if they can see how it helps them to achieve their goals and objectives. Involve top management and ultimate opinion leader users in the choice and/or development of the technological change to help smooth the path of implementation. Developers of the new process often know their tools very well, but rarely do they understand the business own processes the technology needs to assist. At the very least, provide some mechanism and time for such knowledge to flow from experienced worker to developer. Decouple process management at the enterprise level from the new technology that supports the business with shared language and tools for identifying business problems, designing improvements and delivering results. Do not skip early preparation steps with business to plan an almost accordion-like framework search for information to guide decisions about when and how to collect needed information from all groups affected by innovation to configure the right finished product for the environment. Involve process improvement designers to support the design and redesign of process models that solve problems the operators really faced without creating new ones.
2. Communicate for buy-in and engagement – achieving user adoption for new technology requires communicating with stakeholders early and often. Before you can communicate with stakeholders you need to have all your stakeholder groups identified. The way each currently performs their work, processes, should be documented. The impacts the new technology will have on them need to be identified and communicated. Ways in which your company will mitigate any negative impacts for stakeholders also need to be communicated. Do not skip the early involvement of the individuals or groups with tailored communications, marketing the benefits for each group accordingly.
3. Perform a current systems analysis – technology upgrades or introducing new technologies carries a huge compatibility risk – what if the new systems turn out not to be compatible with those you already have or integration requires more build time than was anticipated. To prevent system integration issues, make sure you review all your current technology systems thoroughly before you consider deploying something new. Don’t just conduct detailed requirements gathering for the new technology, make sure the functionality of your current systems can support and integrate effectively with your new technology. Performing this work upfront will prevent system redundancies, reduce costly build times, and help the budget from ballooning.
4. Develop training approach early – one of the biggest risks to user adoption is the lack of sufficient and customised training. Many vendors offer training options as part of your technology purchase, however, most of this training is standardised off the shelf and not specific to your business processes or culture. People need to see and play in the system, prior to go-live, in the context of their specific work processes. To increase adoption, make sure that training is specific to each stakeholder group and the way they perform their work. Consider offering multiple training methods – electronic, classroom, smaller hands-on training labs – various options ensure users feel most prepared.
5. Integrate technology deployment with change management – many companies are so focused on deployment and conversion, schedules and criteria, that they fail to deploy and integrate a change management process for helping stakeholders adapt and adopt to technology. To maximise adoption and minimise resistance, your deployment plan and the team must be integrated with the change management plan and team. If you don’t have a change management plan and resources in place then you may want to get on that pronto. Technology teams focus on building the technology, resolving technical issues, designing the architecture and deployment of the new technology. Change management teams focus on people. The change management team directly interacts with impacted stakeholders. They identify areas of concern related to workflow and process. They often identify specific training needs. They handle communication. Plan for the transfer of knowledge from the old operation, in which people knew, to the new process, which outsiders may initially design and run. They frequently advocate on behalf of stakeholder groups, raising concerns and issues to leadership, mitigating risks and alleviating anxieties that can lead to resistance and decreased adoption. To maximise adoption you must place an equal focus on both the technology and the people.
6. Create an effective governance structure – many technology deployments fail to establish an effective governance structure to lead and manage the deployment. Often project management and technology resources are assigned to govern the implementation, but the voice of impacted stakeholders and even customers are not represented. Effective governance can’t exist in a silo or a vacuum. The governance structure should consist of executive sponsors and a mix of all stakeholders impacted by the technology changes. Think of this structure as a mini organization designed with the mission to execute the technology, change management, communication, training, manage risks and issues, and make project decisions. It is imperative for the individuals serving in a governance role to have the ability to voice concerns on behalf of their stakeholder groups. When people feel they have a voice that represents them and addresses their concerns, they are less likely to resist the technology and adoption is likely to increase.
7. Monitor and course correct – introducing new technology is likely to cause a major disruption to workflow. Monitor your deployment and consider whether the implementation schedule may need to be revised into smaller more manageable stages. Provide stakeholders opportunities to offer feedback. New technology impacts everyone, so listening to stakeholder opinions and concerns and adjusting your deployment as needed, is important for achieving adoption. Not only does offering opportunities for feedback make everyone feel part of the change, but it also gives you important insights into what is working well and what may need to be adapted. Additionally, everything needs to be measurable and observable. Once implementation has begun, do not assume that things will run on their own. Develop measurable success factors and performance metrics. Assess and evaluate regularly, keeping the goals you set at the start, at the forefront.
Make it people first – when implementing new technology, if you want to be successful you need to plan for, identify and address implementation challenges early, and gain the buy-in and commitment for technology – driving engagement, enhancing efficiencies and improving user adoption – enabling you to maximize your return on investment. Otherwise, your technology is just an expensive tool that no one uses effectively.