Magazine Article | August 1, 2002

Remember the Human Factor

Source: Innovative Retail Technologies

New software and hardware implementations won't work unless your employees are prepared for them.

Integrated Solutions For Retailers, August 2002

A company spends millions to acquire state-of-the-art retail management software, which it believes will improve its competitive position. Anxious to realize some ROI on this software, the company puts someone in charge of creating and delivering training. After all, training is nothing more than telling those employees who need to know how to use the new programs. All that's needed is to create and stick to a schedule, run people through some classes, and flip the switch by July - then sit back and count the profits.

Does any of this sound familiar? Perhaps you've been down this road and experienced missed deadlines, software bugs, hardware and legacy system incompatibilities, frustrated employees, embarrassing go-live delays, and hefty vendor bills.

Today's new technologies truly do improve retailers' ability to weather competitive challenges, but they take considerable resources, time, and money to implement. And upgrades and add-ons seem to constantly change what was to have been the universal solution to your problems. The one thing that never changes in systems integration is the "human factor." The "people side" of these complex endeavors can't be packaged in a manual and mailed to the field. If truth be told, the human factor makes or breaks the success of a new system.

Create A Climate For Change
Too often, systems integration focuses on the technical aspects of the software and ignores the needs of the people expected to operate it properly and productively. Your employees collect disjointed pieces of the integration puzzle and rarely see the big picture. Their limited personal commitment can, in turn, limit the success of the entire project. Technology isn't the only thing changing for employees, either. Job descriptions, staffing, organizational structure, performance standards, business processes, culture, budgets, and more are usually affected. Productivity can plummet when an information vacuum forms.

You can prepare people for successful periods of change in your organization. What matters is not how much change people have, but how they deal with it. And how well they do that determines the overall success of the new technology that sparked the change in the first place.

Build A Change Management Toolbox
Change management (CM) strategies help people adapt by transforming the landscape and integrating the change into the company's culture. CM is an art as well as a science. It demands deliberate, thoughtful, and measurable strategies and tactics to achieve goals. CM requires true leadership that encourages, persuades, and inspires users to accept and maximize the new technology.

A CM toolbox should include:

  • Adequate funds: To create the acceptance of change, approximately 30% of an entire project budget should be assigned to human activities including change management, communication, training, and organizational realignment. Training alone should be assigned 10% to 15% of that amount.
  • Business process redesign (BPR): New systems often expose weak or ineffective business processes. It is wise to closely examine and redesign faulty processes before introducing new technologies. Doing so saves valuable time, money, and frustration later.
  • Communications: Your organization is open to change only when your people are. Employees must learn the who, what, when, where, and why of all the changes -- not just how to use the new system. Frequent, honest, and consistent communications delivered through multiple channels provides context for change and builds your employees' commitment to it.
  • Customized training delivery and documentation: Training should use proven adult learning methodologies to help people apply their new system skills. It should be delivered using in-person, online, and blended training approaches. User-friendly and customized training and reference guides, practice exercises, learning surveys, and e-learning tools are a must.
  • Measurement: Follow-up evaluations and feedback collection will help determine if more work needs to be done or if you've accomplished your goals.

Your company is only as good as the way your people, processes, and technology work together. And your people, not just software and hardware, are responsible for the real success of your new systems integration. By engaging your employees' hearts and minds in the entire systems integration puzzle, you'll achieve your financial and operational objectives.