“It won’t be finished. The way fashion is never finished”
The Social Network
It used be we bought software in boxes. Large boxes with floppy discs, self addressed registration cards and instruction booklets. Whether word processing, database or design software, the tool we unpacked and carefully installed on our computer was the result of months, if not years of diligent programming and development work.
As we used the software, we may have developed a mental checklist of the things we wish the software could do, but we knew we were dealing with something concrete, a true finished product. The tool we were using today would the be the tool we would be using tomorrow, and the next day, until we walked into the neighborhood software store to get the upgrade the next year.
In our internet/app connected world of late 2018, software is updated with much more frequency. Insignificant bugs can be addressed almost immediately, and functional and design upgrades are implemented regularly. Whether we are working on our phone, tablet or desktop computer, this is great news. The tools we are using are always getting better, slicker and easier to use.
Improvement is good, but not always welcome. Consistent updates and changes can present challenges of their own. When the tools we use are integrated into strategic procedures, workflows and deliverables at work, and those tools change, those changes will surely have an effect have productivity. How might the teams who use the software that constantly changes respond to the changes? How well prepared will they be to incorporate those changes into their work?
We could regurgitate workplace tropes like “The only constant is change,”Let’s think outside the box,” or “Find opportunities for synergy.” Though these phrases may in fact apply to the issue of software development, they are not going to do much to help people work through sometimes complicated and difficult changes to the key, primary tool they use to do their work. More often than not, people don’t embrace change. Change is not welcome. Our colleagues don’t want to think outside the box, and they don’t care a bit about synergy. They want to do their work, and they want to do it quickly and competently.
But there are some things we can do to help navigate through software that is being constantly fixed, changed and upgraded, and there are ways we can help our colleagues to sustain productivity, creativity and growth along the way. We can get our work done. We can have peace of mind. We can feel control over the situation.
1. What is the reason for the tool?
The place we live may have a game room and a spa, but ultimately we all know that our house is really only meant to provide us shelter and safety. We can listen to music in our car and use navigational GPS, but our car is primarily designed to get us from one place to another. What is the central, primary reason your organization is using a specific tool? Does everyone understand that reason?
Do you have email only to send jokes and links to cat videos to your colleagues, or is it to collaborate on important projects? If the email application changes so it is harder to send cat videos to your colleagues, how can we help our colleagues to understand that this change may actually help us focus our work?
2. Where can questions be addressed?
A trope though it may be, it is true actually true that change is a constant, and if our software is always going to change, how can we empower our employees to deal with that change quickly and productively?
Readers of my blog will not be surprised to see that I recommend Yammer, or any other enterprise social network, as a place for information, expertise and questions about commonly used organizational software to be asked. Let your colleagues know that their questions and concerns will be answered timely, and in a kind and constructive manner…and then do those things. If questions are asked, answer them. If concerns are shared, respond to them. An enterprise social network will empower the entire staff to see what is being asked and what the concerns are, and learn from the answers as a community.
3. Preempt the concern
There are lots of ways that corporate technological leaders can be aware of changes coming to the software platforms they use. Online technology communities. Twitter newsfeeds. Organizational websites. As soon as information is available about software changes, start to share that news with staff. Reduce the surprise and potential for unhappiness. Help your staff think through the changes that are coming, and start to develop solutions to problems that may arise.
4. Stay engaged
The work only really begins once the new upgrades are being used by everyone. Don’t assume the work is done. Don’t fall into the trap of the “light switch mentality” and think that just because the new software has been turned on and installed there is nothing else to do. There is lots to do. Make sure users know how to fully utilize the new technology. Make sure users know how the new functionality effects their work, and make sure that policies and procedures reflect the new functionality. Make sure users know their concerns and frustrations are being listened to.
The speed with which our software is automatically updated may provide a sense that everything is easy and that everything works, but the alert that your software has been upgraded is only the beginning. Now, comes the time to think outside the box.