Adopting new software can be intimidating. Organizations task their most talented problem-solvers with months of researching options, arranging demos, and maybe even designed some code themselves. Once the software selection phase is complete, attention shifts to implementation. While leadership eagerly anticipates its new investment’s promised results, the rest of an organization may react differently.
Facing this uncertainty, workers may fear that they will find themselves irrelevant. Even the most skilled performer may worry about appearing incompetent or lacking in technical skills. For many employees, the thought of having to invest so much time and effort into a new process while continuing to perform to standard may be overwhelming. Still others will be wary of the hiccups, bugs, blame, and other unforeseen snags that often accompany software implementation.
Fortunately, companies can follow proven strategies to minimize fear and resistance an instead encourage trust, acceptance of a new way of doing things, and even enthusiasm. With forethought, leaders can guide a new software transition from acquisition through implementation by practicing simple principles of change management.
1. Establish Communication to Inform and Encourage Employees
When change is imminent yet leadership remains silent, rumors and fears can replace facts. Employees usually follow their managers and the managers rely on input from the executive team, so it’s important to have at least one person from the C-suite acting as a vocal advocate for the new software. If team members understand that their managers are acting on and sharing information disseminated from the executive levels, they are more likely to be onboard with the change.
Most people approach change with a sense of “what’s in it for me?” Employees will understand the company plans to benefit by procuring new software. What they really want to know is whether the new system will benefit them and how it will make their jobs easier. For example, will it reduce their data-input time, or let them access critical analyses remotely in real time to satisfy demanding clients? In some scenarios, employees may harbor fears about how new software might make their roles superfluous – this is also an area where good communication can help.
In-house project managers and team leaders can become powerful motivators by giving individuals insight into how their roles will change and confirming that their personal involvement remains needed and valued. With the proper communication channels established, managers, project managers, and all team members will have the information they need to act effectively.
2. Identify Positive Changes to Corporate Culture
Corporate culture is an amalgam of values and visions as well as everyday aspects of how objectives are accomplished. New software has the potential to disrupt the status quo, so it’s important to emphasize how any software will either support the existing culture or create a positive change and refinement to it. An ill-timed upgrade or move to a poorly-fitted solution can leave previously confident workers struggling to apply old policies or procedures that may no longer fit.
In contrast, clear and candid communication about changes to the existing culture will help workers better understand the purpose for the new software and what they must do to adapt. It can be as simple as departmental heads or team leaders demonstrating how specific changes will impact or benefit the smaller scale, specialized parts of the organization. Even better, if communications move in two directions – from the bottom up as well as the top down – the resulting dialogue can inform the progress of the software’s implementation and help resolve any challenges as they crop up.
Emphasizing how established procedures will change and certain tasks will be done going forward leads to several benefits, for example:
- Informing training or professional development programs that will be necessary as part of the implementation process. Defining the procedures, tasks and any aspects of the underlying culture that are changing makes for better focused and effective training sessions.
- Granting easier access to data to any employee with appropriate permissions can lead to improved customer service, streamlined operations, and increased collaboration.
- Generating reports that were previously time-consuming to compile and run may instead be available on a continuously updated basis, allowing decision makers to see updated metrics in real time.
- Creating the potential to integrate useful or even transformative new technologies of various types, from self-service portals for employees to update their own human resources-related data, to the use of interactive chat interfaces to enhance online customer service, to using the Internet of Things (IoT) to collect insight-provoking data, and many other possibilities.
3. Host Planning and Training Sessions to Promote Success
The surest sign of commitment is when leaders and managers go beyond the minimum required and invest valuable resources like time, space, and money to ensure that their employees will have the tools they need to handle the new initiative smoothly.
All too often, project managers are left to carry this responsibility alone. However, employees at every level can benefit from attending planning sessions and introductory meetings, whether broadly focused or tailed to a specific department or job function. Dedicating time to share a consistent vision created for the workers tasked with carrying it out and addressing their questions or concerns builds authenticity.
Similarly, it’s wise to designate some respected individuals at each level who are able to serve as touch points – people who can take the lead and guide each group through planning and implementation.
4. Provide Quality Training
Implementing new enterprise software requires educating its users, so be prepared to commit time, space, and money to training. Generally speaking, the vendor who provides the software will not be doing the implementation. Most software vendors will supply client companies with a list of implementation partners and it is your job to choose the implementer that will work best for your organization. When contacting each potential implementer to decide which one your organization prefers to work with, finding out about the sort of training program that each offers will be an important consideration. Here are a few critical questions to ask related to training:
- How much of the training will your own organization be expected to supply, and how much training of the new software will be provided by the implementer under the terms of the implementation contact? Educators must be able to provide unique training that will teach workers the skills they need to perform their specific tasks with the new software. Some enterprise software training programs are built around generalized scripts meant to be suitable for all industries but tailored to none. Make sure the provided training will be specific to what your organization does and the way the software will be used.
- What types of learning strategies would be most effective for a given time frame? Self-paced learning modules let workers train for mastery at their convenience, while game-like apps add elements to enhance the motivation and engagement. User-generated training content uses online portals where peers can exchange knowledge and experiences, and traditional boardroom presentation favors structured, uniform group instruction. Many organizations and training providers combine different strategies to fulfil their workers’ needs.
- What types of learning techniques do the trainers find most effective? Trainers should be able to discuss how they allocate time, their learning plan, and the results they typically achieve within a given time frame. While some technologies may be more time, or resource-intensive, they may also heighten engagement and retention.
- How does the trainer handle workers with different learning styles? Different workers have different capabilities and needs. One training strategy or a single teaching technique is highly unlikely to fit all individuals within an organization equally well. Training options should cater to various learning styles.
5. Empower and Engage Your Employees
Software implementations offers perfect opportunities to grow talent by empowering workers to take responsibility for their part of the new initiative. To work, the venture will need team leaders, advisers, and facilitators to guide others through the process, troubleshoot operational difficulties and track progress.
Initially, the department manager may seem an obvious choice to lead their own department’s effort, but most are already swamped with responsibilities crucial to daily operations. Instead of adhering to a hierarchical approach, organization can instead choose to foster a collaborative one simply by looking to other reliable workers who are prepared to thrive in this temporary but crucial role. Studies and anecdotal evidence repeatedly confirm that the rewards of empowerment are mutual:
- Empowered employees gain a sense of autonomy and control. When they feel that their work is meaningful, they have greater confidence to share innovative ideas and make effective decisions for the greater good.
- Empowering employers earns the trust of their employees. As a result, they can count on those workers to expend effort and be more bested in the accompanying outcomes.
Not all workers are equally prepared for the responsibilities of empowerment. Some may be facing prohibitive professional or personal challenges while others may lack the requisite skills or experience. For those individuals, tailored training sessions can teach the principles of self-assessment and open pathways to self-empowerment. In the meantime, those who are ready can contribute exactly what’s needed to make a difficult new software implementation attainable and successful.
Implementing Change Management
Change can be challenging, stressful and rife with unforeseeable issues. At the same time, each element of change, when properly managed, holds the power to reinvigorate and motivate. Communication, culture, investment, education, and empowerment are five facets of change management that are key not only for implementing new software but also for strengthening your entire organization.