Whether your company is deploying a new mainframe system, enterprise content management system or mobile app, problems can arise. It is common to encounter employees who resist the change, either out of fear that they will be unable to master the new technology or because they fail to see how they can benefit from the change. However, a lack of prior planning is responsible for many deployments that experience delays or fail completely. Here are five steps you can take to ensure a smooth deployment and encourage company-wide adoption.
1. Set Measurable Objectives
If you were planning to drive from California to Maine, you would not just start driving in a general northeast direction. You would plan your route, learn which highways to take and schedule rest stops during the trip. You might decide to drive a certain number of miles per day, plan your itinerary to include stopovers at popular attractions or decide to spend additional time in a particular city to visit relatives or explore the area. Although your ultimate goal is to arrive in Maine, your journey must be divided into a series of steps, or measurable objectives.
The same concept holds true when planning to deploy new technology. You need to establish the steps that you will need to take to complete the deployment. The exact steps will depend on the nature of the new technology, but they will typically include a definition of which steps are the most critical, the actions that must be taken in each step, the rationale for each step and a method of determining that the step has been successfully executed.
2. Establish Milestones and Deploy in Phases
Making a single, massive, company-wide change has the potential to disrupt operations in significant -- and negative -- ways. Deploying in stages can ease the transition, minimize employee stress and allow you to "tweak" issues on a smaller scale. If you have multiple locations, you might choose one location to be a beta site. You could choose to deploy certain modules independently, or you could decide to deploy modules to one department for beta testing before involving other departments, such as deploying an inventory module to the accounting department before releasing it to sales. You might want to deploy a new ECMS to marketing before involving customer service, or test a new order-entry program in-house before enabling it on your website.
The successful completion of each stage of deployment represents a milestone. Milestones are specific, measurable goals for which there can be no question as to whether they have been completed -- and completed successfully. Milestones can include objectives such as completing the initial specifications, cleaning up legacy data, testing data integrity between a new system and its predecessor, obtaining user feedback, "pulling the plug" on a legacy application or completing the training for employees.
3. Train Employees on the New Technology
There is little that can derail the adoption of a new technology than employees who do not understand how to use the technology in the manner that benefits them the most. Some may become frustrated, stressed and hostile to the change. Others may feel insecure because they cannot grasp how the new technology; others may fail to understand how important the new technology is to the future of the company.
Simply stated, you must train employees on how to use the new technology effectively. You might begin by firing their enthusiasm with pre-deployment meetings that explain why the change is being implemented and how each will benefit from the change. Assure them that they will be trained to reap the maximum benefit from the change. A healthy dose of honesty might help -- that you expect some minor issues to arise, but you feel confident that with their help, you can smooth out any wrinkles that might appear. In short, reassure them -- and then make sure that you keep your promises and see that they are properly trained.
4. Provide Ongoing Support
Too often, a new technology is deployed, employees receive rudimentary training -- and then management decides that there is nothing more that needs to be done. In a perfect, static world, this might be the case. However, businesses do not exist in such a world. They must constantly adapt to meet new market conditions, respond to competition or expand to accommodate growth. In addition, technology is evolving rapidly, and each advance can pose new challenges. (Take websites, for example -- 15 years ago, how many people could have anticipated the demand for access via smartphones and phablets?)
Furthermore, no technology has yet been invented that is completely "unbreakable." Sooner or later, a user will find a way to corrupt a GUI or data file, or users may encounter a situation that does not fall within the scope of their training. You must be prepared to support them after the deployment, whether through troubleshooting or additional training.
5. Be Willing to Bring in a Technology Partner if Needed
No matter how well you plan the implementation of a new technology, you may have need of a trusted technology partner. Whether you realize that you are unable to write clear, measurable objectives or need help training your employees, a technology partner can be invaluable. Accept the fact that you might need help and establish a relationship with at least one potential partner early in your planning phase. Interview potential partners to find the one most suited to your project. If you wait to start searching for outside assistance until problems have presented themselves, your deployment can be delayed while you search for help. In a worst-case scenario, your project could unravel completely -- even though a little outside help might have saved it.
Few people wholeheartedly embrace a new technology without some initial trepidations. With adequate planning, the mechanics of a deployment can be made to run smoothly -- and with the proper support and training, your employees will be far more likely to adopt the new technology willingly, cheerfully and enthusiastically.