May 2019

Changing Technologies Means Changing Minds

By Mary Ann Herny

Rapid changes in technology are affecting all of us. Organizations, large and small, in every sector, want to make smarter, more informed decisions and achieve greater efficiency through improved technology. The technology itself is only half the battle, though, if you want to maximize performance.

While most organizations spend a lot of time and effort making sure that new systems meet business and functional requirements, they often don’t put the same emphasis on preparing their teams for new ways of working. A common tactic is to ask technology vendors to include training as part of the system implementation agreement. Superficially this makes sense, since the technology experts know the most about how new systems are designed to work. However, there are some risks with this approach:

  • Technology vendors are experts in their technologies but may not have expertise in delivering high-quality learning and change management. Training is not their core business, and the outcome may not achieve the results you need.
  • Large technology projects usually include a lot of customization and configuration. Designing customized training for each implementation is a nuisance—therefore technology teams often offer only generic training, which is easier to maintain and deliver quickly.
  • Many technology companies draw a hard line between system training (which they see as their responsibility) and business process training (which they see as the customer’s responsibility). However, new system users need to see how the system is going to be used in the context of their own jobs and day-to-day work tasks. Training is much more effective and relevant if both topics are covered at the same time.
  • Many organizations underestimate the impact of a major system change on their employees. If employees are confused, fearful, or resentful about having to change the way they work, adoption will be slow and productivity will suffer. Time to proficiency can be vastly improved if employees feel like they are in the loop and fully supported throughout the change. The best outcomes are achieved when a well-planned change management initiative, including role-specific training, supplements the roll-out.

Smart organizations are including robust requirements around training and change management when they implement new systems–and the best responses include a team of training and change management experts that specialize in these disciplines.

How do you find a vendor that can help you with this? To address the need, there are some important points you should include when you solicit proposals from potential vendors:

  1. Complexity of Change: It’s important that you describe the full nature of the change that your teams will be facing. Who in your organization is being affected? In what way? Be specific about the number of people and their roles in your organization. This is important because training and messaging may need to be customized for different roles.
  2. Significance of Change: Many technology implementation projects also result in a redesign of business process, or reorganization of teams and roles. The greater the impact to the organization, and the more people affected, the more important it is to invest in both training and change management.
  3. Acceptance of Change: What are prevailing attitudes about the prospect of a new system? Do employees see it as something to dread, or does the change open up exciting new possibilities? Knowing current attitudes can guide change management recommendations.
  4. Development Process: Are you anticipating agile system development? Your training and change management vendor will want to know, since this means they will need to accommodate the staggered timing of sprint releases.
  5. Available Resources: Who in your organization will participate in training and change management, and to what degree? Many organizations have their own training teams, but a large system implementation effort can divert attention from their current priorities and projects. Be specific about what you want your internal teams to do and what you are willing to outsource.
  6. Aligning Timelines: What is your implementation and training timeline, and where are you in the process? Figuring out the timing is always a little tricky. Your training and change management vendor will want enough time to develop content and evaluate business process changes well before training actually begins. Training delivery dates will depend on the learning format, the number of trainees, the number of available trainers and facilities, and many other factors. There are, however, two important dates you should share: the dates you begin User Acceptance Testing (which is the point at which the system is stable enough to begin developing course content) and your go-live date.
  7. Budget: Training and change management programs vary widely in scope and pricing. Your vendors are much more likely to propose a workable solution if they know approximately how much funding you are willing to commit. Reserving 10-20% of the total implementation budget is a good starting point—but many factors can affect the investment needed. If you need to know more before you establish your budget, have conversations early about the questions above and ask potential vendors for typical price ranges for your situation.

It’s important to be proactive about including an experienced training and change management vendor as part of your system implementation resourcing plans. If you have limited experience with training and change management, spend some time learning about what these initiatives typically include. Companies with this expertise will be happy to offer guidance and describe some approaches and options.

We will be exploring some of these topics more deeply in future blog posts. Stay tuned.

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