OK, maybe you are not a Neanderthal, but that’s the way you are sometimes treated when your company introduces a new software tool it wants you to use.
Remember the first scene of 2001: A Space Odyssey? Maybe the first great movie about technology, the film begins with a clan of pre-historic homo-sapiens. They wake up one day to find a perfectly shaped, rectangular obelisk standing straight up from the ground. They have never seen anything like this before, and immediately start to screech loudly with concern and curiosity. They jump up and down and wave their arms in the air as they slowly approach the object. They touch the obelisk and soon enough, are closely gathered around the strange object as they try to figure out what it is.
When your company introduces that new piece of software, the new perfectly shaped obelisk it wants you to use as part of your work every day, you should not be surprised if you act like a Neanderthal. What is this strange tool? Why is it appearing on my computer screen? What is it for?
Too often, these important software tools are introduced with only minimal training, designed to let you know only what the different links do, and how information can be entered in data fields. What we don’t discuss enough is why the software should be used, how it can help people with their work, and the habits we should be thinking about to make the most of the software.
I will never forget when we began to use Yammer, the Microsoft enterprise social networking tool, at my organization. We introduced the new platform with absolutely no training at all. One day, we just began to post. I was treating my staff colleagues like they were Neanderthals. There was a strange new obelisk.
A member of our executive team sent out an email to many people on the staff saying “What makes you think I need another place to check for messages?” He was right, we hadn’t done what we needed to do to prepare people to use this wonderful new platform.
Introducing new software to any organization is difficult, but if managers are able to think through the answers to five simple questions while being transparent and collaborative, introducing new tools to the workplace will be much easier and smoother.
1.What is the problem?
Most likely, the software is not being introduced just for fun. A problem is being fixed. You are trying to make it possible for your organization to do something it was not able to do before. Document the problem, and ask for input from others throughout the company for their thoughts about the roadblocks they are facing, and the frustration they are experiencing.
2.What are the options?
Rarely is there ever only one solution to a problem. If you are trying to track customer data, you need to review tools like SalesForce, Sugar CRM, and Microsoft Dynamics. ecide which platform is going to resolve the problems that have been identified best. Invite colleagues to review and test platforms with you so that the software choice does not reflect the decision of one person.
3.What software has been selected?
As soon as the software decision has been made, announce the choice to the staff. Talk about the platform that has been chosen and why. Announce the date the software will be rolled out, and when training will be offered. Talk regularly about the problems that will be solved by the new software, and how it will make everyone’s job easier.
4. How will staff engage with the software?
It will be likely that not everyone will be on board with the new software, but once the software has been chosen and rolled out, it must be used. So if a new communication platform is being introduced, leadership should avoid sending emails and share the information staff need to see in only the new platform. If a new CRM is being used, leadership should insist on seeing reports at meetings that have been produced from the platform. Track usage, and the more employees use the new platform, the more they will be recognized. Consider making company wide announcements and giving prizes. These efforts will result in more employee engagement with the software your company has invested in.
5. What could possibly go wrong?
Though you will most likely plan carefully and diligently, problems will happen. The new software won’t always work the way you thought it would. It will crash, employees will have trouble incorporating it into their daily workflow, information will be difficult to find. Track the problems as they are identified, and make sure all staff are aware of what different colleagues are experiencing, and discuss together how to best address the shortcomings. Solutions will be found as people realize they are not the only ones having a difficult time.
You can’t really blame the apes. That new obelisk just appeared one day, and they were surprised and scared. The entire landscape of their existence had suddenly changed, and they were completely unprepared for what lied ahead.
It doesn’t need to be this way. Prepare yourself and your staff for the changes ahead, changes that need to happen for problems to be solved and work to be done quicker and more effectively, and nobody will feel left behind. Nobody will feel like a Neanderthal.