You’re about to implement a new enterprise application. Chances are good you put in a lot of time selecting the technology components. You probably also have a solid game plan for how you will configure and roll out the technology.
But have you thought about what it takes to get your employees to readily adopt the technology and change the way business processes are executed? That’s often the more difficult task. If end users don’t enthusiastically accept the new solution and make the effort to learn how to use it correctly, you won’t generate the value you are expecting, or there will be a significant delay in achieving your ROI goals.
In addition to getting employees to be more receptive about the new solution, the management team needs to acknowledge that bumps will occur and communicate to the employees that it will take some work and adjustment. To set the stage for success, there are three main objectives to achieve:
- Secure management support across the company—the importance of this key can’t be understated. Many projects are run by IT or one department without buy-in from executives and business unit managers. Success requires much more than signing off on the project and walking away. Leaders need to stay with it and help make the decisions that always come up during the implementation.
- Gain employee buy in—this should be done by decreasing their resistance to change as opposed to mandates. Get employees excited early in the process and involve them in helping to design the solution and planning the implementation. Anyone left out as to how and when things will unfold will tend to resist.
- Set realistic expectations—deadlines that do not give the organization enough time to adjust will put even more pressure on everyone involved in the project. People don’t want to feel rushed; it will add to their resistance. Don’t over-promise on what the organization can achieve and don’t set expectations too high as to when the project will go live.
For more information on the mistakes to avoid when implementing enterprise software, check out the “11 common ERP mistakes and how to avoid them” article in CIO magazine.
An important reality to accept and then address is that user adoption and process change management are never easy and usually more difficult than managing the technology roll-out components. People get used to doing things in a certain way and are generally comfortable with the status quo—even if it’s not an efficient way to run your business. Getting them to change can be painful for you and for them.
Prepare yourself and your team for the detours in the road that will inevitably occur, and train everyone properly so they will experience success early on. That will lead to the team enthusiastically utilizing the solution.
So before training employees on how to use the new technology, communicate the benefits of the solution and why certain processes need to change—both for the benefit of the business as a whole and for individual end users. Show them what life will be like once the company gets fully trained and has time to experience the solutions after it has gone live.
The new solution will presumably reduce the amount of time to complete tasks and get more work done, but at first, it will take longer as the staff learns the processes. If you have not prepped them on the problems to expect and the benefits at the end, they may not buy into the new solution, and this could delay or completely derail the implementation.
As you begin your training sessions, the willingness of end users to adopt the system needs to be managed closely. As they learn how to execute tasks, do they seem skeptical of the value of the new technology? Are they resisting doing things in a new way? If so, you need to refocus on helping them wrap their minds around how the new methods will benefit the company.
Change resistance is inherent in people and always to be expected. You can’t just force them to accept change—you need to help them envision a positive outcome. They may not object directly to the business leaders during training sessions, but they may privately complain to their peers and further sabotage the project.
They may also start to work around the solution by using their own spreadsheets on the side and not putting all they can into the new system. They may look for short cuts and have their own private “secondary system” going at the same time.
Your general organizational culture and style of the business will also impact the willingness of the employees. If morale is down, they are less likely to be enthusiastic about a change. The project could also be impacted by how often things change within the business. Is the staff already accustomed to rapidly-evolving processes, or has it been a long time since the last major operational change?
As shown in the Kubler-Ross Cycle of Change graph below, employees go through various emotions when asked to transition to using new technology:
Little, Jason. “Navigating Organizational Change.” Lean Change Management, Leadchange.org, 2014, leanchange.org/2014/02/navigating-organizational-change/.
These emotions and resistance are realities of human nature. You can proactively account for the resistance in your game plan and ride out the lifecycle by including activities that help people accept the new solution and the changes. The faster people move through the stages and the adoption curve, the easier the implementation, the faster time to ROI, and the lower the risk of the solution implementation failing.
It’s best to steer clear of simply applying more force—such as more resources, more management and mandates. Reducing the level of resistance almost always works better. Get people excited and wanting to explore the benefits on their own. They will then want the solution to reach the go-live stage as fast as possible, which will help you stick to the project timeline.
As you start to make plans for your implementation based on the principles discussed above, remember that people often are not resistant to something new that’s being done, but rather how it’s being done. They want to see a realistic plan that acknowledges how hard it is to transition.
When trying to solve this challenge, many business leaders think the answer is to just dedicate more resource time to the project. While it’s true Joe and Mary may need to be dedicated for 25% of their time over six months, there may be two-week periods where they’re needed 100%. In cases like this, work with Joe and Mary to reduce their resistance, get them up-to-speed, and discuss how to cover their main duties. By making them part of the solution, they will be more engaged.
The most successful projects we’ve seen our clients complete are the ones where the key players are dedicated 100% to the project, and their main jobs are back-filled. This approach is more expensive, but the project will be completed faster, and the company will start generating benefits sooner, which helps offset the job back-fill costs.