Five Best Practices that Drive Successful Deployment and Firmwide Adoption for New Technologies
There is no exercise in change management that is trickier than implementing new technology. The truth is that installing the software and integrating data across systems is the easy part; the real challenge lies in mobilizing people — who are, by nature, creatures of habit — to accept, access, and adopt new technologies and workflows.
In light of today’s unprecedented business climate, technology has never before been more important. To survive in the post-pandemic economy, firms must optimize operational agility, collaborate effectively, deliver best-in-class client service, and preserve their competitive advantage. Whether upgrading existing solutions, replacing an outdated system, or implementing new technologies, it’s critically important to put in place solid strategies that ensure successful deployment and user buy-in.
Here are five tried-and-true best practices that will help you and your firm get there.
1. Study Existing Processes and Workflows
People gravitate toward the familiar. Psychologists will tell you that, given the choice, most people would rather perpetually manage mild discomfort than suffer ripping off the bandage. So, if staff believe existing tools are adequate — albeit not stellar — they may not be receptive to a better, faster, or more efficient way of doing things, particularly if it necessitates disruption and learning new programs. Whether it involves storing contacts in a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet instead of a centralized CRM solution, printing out every email, or keeping paper account files, it’s important to understand and communicate how and why existing processes will benefit from the new technology.
2. Identify Technology Usage Gaps
The best technology humanly imaginable is only as useful as the people who use it — or don’t use it — believe it to be. Many firms struggle with driving adoption for solutions and wonder why certain subsets of staff resist using the technology in place. It can be as simple as a lack of training; alternately, it can be the result of teams clinging to long-established workarounds and not wanting to fix what they don’t believe to be broken. It may be the result of software that’s too difficult to use, buggy, slow, or inconvenient. Whether the issue is training, attitude, or capability, it’s critically important to surface these pain points and proactively communicate how the new deployment will ease them.
3. Innovate in Increments
During my consulting days at Accenture, innovating in increments was a mantra to preach and practice. The idea centers on expansive thinking about the vision for what the ultimate solution could be — if all of the process and people factors were aligned — and then breaking down development into discrete phases. During each phase, we focused on a few key business use cases; from there, we would fine-tune until we nailed those first use cases. With a slew of fully baked use cases in the vault, we were quickly able to build momentum for quick wins in subsequent phases.
4. Anticipate Time-to-Value Realization
There’s no way around the time it takes for an IT team to properly implement and deploy technologies. There’s a natural expectation that — post-deployment — efficiency and overall performance gains will be witnessed immediately. But it’s not like flipping a switch. During most implementations, there is a slight dip in productivity as the staff learns and adjusts to new processes and technology. Organizationally, it’s important to set the expectation that stakeholders and end users need to be patient and support the process — in all likelihood, it will be an exercise in taking one step back before moving two steps forward.
5. Communicate the What’s-in-it-for-Me Benefit
With respect to change, people are most concerned with the personal impact. Specifically, they worry about what they will be required to do differently. The rollout of a new CRM solution affects the organization collectively, but people experience change on a personal level. When organizations focus on touting the benefits to management — things like cost savings, data centralization, and business agility — the needs of end users get lost in the shuffle. This is why it’s critically important for the project team to deliver a value proposition to each user: faster speed, a better dashboard, and an improved user interface, for instance. The upshot here is that if you’re asking people to make a change, it is far more likely that that they will, in fact, accept and adopt the software if they clearly understand the benefits and value on a personal level.
When moving through change, it’s important to celebrate the wins — especially the small ones. Set goals along the way, and communicate successes, large and small. It’s a great way to keep people motivated and committed throughout the process.
Keep these five best practices in mind when deploying your next technology effort and you’ll improve buy-in from your users and set the right expectations across the firm.
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