The benefits of a modern technology infrastructure are attractive. And there are rewards such as business insights, greater efficiencies and cost savings to be gained by getting the implementation right.

But great technology implementations can be complex. Getting it right can take hard work and time.  This is because all technology projects are just as much about people

Indeed, the human element can make or break a technology project. It is absolutely critical to get employees behind a technology implementation project in order for it to be successful.

Last summer, I saw IFS through a 24-week period of implementing our own technology globally, IFS Applications 10 enterprise resource planning (ERP) software. The result was some invaluable career and (frankly) life lessons that I’ll always take with me.

Create a community

Ownership is important. So, members of the team that want to be involved in the project, should be empowered to play a role. For our project, we brought in subject matter experts from disciplines throughout the company for focused work within the project.  We chunked activities down into very granular processes. People got behind it and owned it thanks to the inter-departmental approach, and our focus on workstreams. I was pleased to observe people sharing insights, collaborating, generating ideas and contributing in a way that reflected the level of community we created around the project itself.

We were mindful to be open to feedback and amend our approach accordingly and took a long-term view of the project. We leaned into both the negative and the positive outcomes even if that meant an overhaul of items we had thought we completed. This ensured a better end result.  We used the stop-start-continue methodology to great advantage. That meant identifying what things we need to stop doing, the things we want to start doing as well as the things we wish to continue doing.

We used a change management professional which proved valuable, but for the most part, we did a lot of the implementation with existing employees ‘double-hatting’ over those weeks.  Apart from helping to moderate the all-important human element of change management in the project, the level of employee engagement was enhanced by the fresh perspective of a seasoned expert. We then used the experience gained and resources created to feed back into our change management teams for the benefit of future customer implementations.

Leading by example

Like all successful projects, ours was led from the top. Guidance and sponsorship started with the CEO and the whole senior leadership team from Day One, but crucially throughout the lifespan of the project. Communication was clear and assertive from the start. It was important to validate the needs and importance of getting the project right, demonstrating a commitment that the technology will underpin the business processes, explaining the importance of the program, and inspiring and incentivizing people to work quickly to deliver the project on time. These sentiments were replicated by other senior leaders. This allowed us to reach a point of high morale and maintain that peak, rather than allowing it to fluctuate and having to respond to those peaks and troughs.

We harnessed the momentum of those with a positive approach and encouraged peer-to-peer leadership. This spanned department heads to line of business managers. It wasn’t too difficult to find peer leaders and teams of people that work together.

For example, early on we skilled up a number of project superusers. Some of these were people who had put themselves forward to help with, for example, data entry tasks. They learned new skills and passed those learnings onwards. Our superusers even wore special t-shirts during the launch week so they were easily identifiable by employees who needed to turn to someone for hands-on, specialized assistance.

Test and refine

Despite best efforts to co-create new technology and processes, we know it’s only possible to truly understand it once it’s live. So, we ran pilot tests. After all, the proof of the pudding is in the eating. These served to iron out minor bugs in the system. We acknowledged early on that adjustments would be inevitable.

Seeing how well end users got on with a new system in its real-world scenario was a valuable experience and employee engagement was greatly enhanced by involving real users at this stage as they felt part of the process. This was useful at that stage of the project as it was not too late to make user-requested changes. Leaving enough time for more stop-start-continue evaluation at this stage was critical.

Communication is key

I cannot emphasise enough the importance of high-quality communication company-wide for the duration of the project. Once per month newsletters are too ‘top down’ and ‘after-the-fact’. They don’t cut it. Without buy-in from employees, projects like these struggle to get the footing they need to be successful.

Our communication strategies kept it fun, inspirational and varied. This meant videos from project leads on Workplace, town halls, lock-screens on PCs, TV screens at our office locations, an intranet hosted FAQs and milestone updates.

Organizational change is most successful if people are always at the center of the change implementation and feel they have a voice throughout the process. Change management should be as proactive, inclusive and as open as possible. External change management expertise can really help, but in the end, the organization itself must lead from the front.

Change is a constant. That means that we are never ‘done’. Businesses will always evolve and to ensure that technology is always delivering on its promise means marrying agile technology with a change mentality.

Written by Jane Keith. Have you read?

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