When it comes to technology, getting new systems off the ground isn’t always a walk in the park (just ask the folks over at healthcare.gov). Whether you’re rolling out new hardware or software, or a combination of the two, a successful implementation depends on one thing: getting your staff to buy in.
Change is hard, especially when it comes to ingrained processes that have become second nature, so a certain amount of reticence is to be expected. There’s a crucial psychological barrier that needs to be breached when transitioning staff from the old and familiar to the new and frightening. It’s like rock climbing, you need to hang on long enough to get to the top without falling off. Ensuring that the natives don’t go from restless to mutinous is a matter of planning.
MAKING A PLAN
A good implementation plan starts with defining expectations. What legacy systems are being replaced or amended? What improvements to existing processes do you anticipate and how do you plan to measure those improvements?
And, perhaps most importantly, what’s your timeline for the transition? Clearly defining your expectations for implementing new systems will allow you to better judge their ultimate success in the long-term, and in the short-term it will set you up for the next step of a good implementation plan—communicating the plan to your staff.
Staff members who are affected by the new systems will be in a much better position to succeed when they understand your expectations for the implementation. Apart from alleviating the understandable anxiety that can accompany this type of change, communicating your expectations to your staff gives them the opportunity to give you feedback. Critical feedback and communication throughout the implementation is essential to achieving success, and it’s best to start early. Is your timeline too aggressive? Are there any logistical factors you may have overlooked? Listen to your staff’s ideas and concerns, and incorporate the best suggestions into your plan.
After communicating and evaluating the plan with your staff, your last step should be to set some concrete objectives based on your expectations. These will be the markers against which you can measure your progression through the implementations and will give your staff goals to meet along the way.
The most difficult aspect of any implementation is following through on your plan, and it’s not hard to understand why. Things get busy, urgent matters require your attention and keep you from monitoring your progress—before long, you find that you’re a month in and none of your objectives have been met. A plan is only as good as your ability to put it into action, and while there’s no magic bullet to guarantee follow through, there are some steps you can take to make things easier on you and your staff.
The most important step is to hold periodic evaluation meetings. You should be meeting with your staff on a weekly basis to listen to their thoughts and impressions of the new system, provide a space in which they can ask questions and learn from one another, and compare your real world experience to your expectations in order to track your progress toward your concrete objectives. Commit to having these meetings, even if they last only a few minutes, because they will keep you focused on your implementation goals and keep those members of your staff who are having difficulty from getting lost in the shuffle.
By having regular evaluation meetings you will keep your finger on the pulse of your implementation, and you will have the opportunity to adjust and tweak your implementation plan according to your firm’s needs. By simply scheduling and attending these meetings (along with other partners and leaders in your firm), you’re sending the message to your staff that the management team is committed to making the implementation a success, further pushing that crucial psychological barrier and encouraging them to buy in.
UTILIZING AVAILABLE RESOURCES
From the beginning, you should explore all the training and support resources that are at your disposal and incorporate them into your implementation plan. Make sure that your staff has access to user guides and manuals through your vendor, as well as the contact information for technical support. In your evaluation meetings, check on everyone’s progress and gauge whether staff members are able to get the help they need in a timely fashion.
Many vendors provide remote or inperson training, and, depending on the scale of your implementation, you may want to take advantage of these resources early in the process. The greater the scope of the change you’re implementing, and the sharper the learning curve is for your staff, the more you’ll benefit from hands-on training and consulting. Getting started is most difficult part, and a professional trainer will give your staff the push they need early on to get over the initial hump.
Get involved in online communities where you can connect with other firms using the same systems. Look to Linked- In, as well as your vendor’s website, for message boards where you can interact with and learn from other users.
If you put in the time and effort at the beginning of your implementation, finishing strong will turn out to be the easy part. The momentum you’ve built in planning and evaluating stages will carry you into that “ah-ha” moment in which everything clicks. If the system you are implementing is the right choice for your firm, the real world benefits that result will convert even the most stubborn staff member.
Getting over the implementation hump is all about getting your staff to buy in. By engaging staff from the beginning in formulating a solid plan, committing to the follow through, and taking advantage of all available resources, you make it easier for them to buy in and help make the implementation a success.