I do some work for a non-profit organization. Recently the national office decided to adopt a new accounting software package. This was done with little consultation with the branches, and in particular with the people who were actively involved with their finances.
Each branch of the organization has its own requirements and way of doing things. Now it is important to standardize systems wherever possible so that every branch or division in the organization operates the same way, but for this to happen it is necessary to understand how each branch operates and their particular requirements. Then make sure that the new system can accommodate these requirements where possible.
This may require the system to be adjusted slightly. It also might mean that the way some things are done at each branch or division has to change. It is however important that the new system won’t negatively impact the business unit.
Things haven’t gone very smoothly with the transition to the new accounting system and the national office has succeeded in upsetting our branch treasurer and others. Thousands of words have been written in emails and much has been said about who is at fault and who is right.
I’m sure all of us at some time have been part of an organization where new software, technology, and systems have been adopted, only to find that they didn’t deliver as expected, or that they weren’t used and eventually were discarded. Inevitably this has resulted in wasted costs and wasted time, even in some cases resulting in personnel who are annoyed, demoralized, or in some cases have left the organization. So why have these systems failed, and why is implementation often done so poorly?
What should we consider when implementing new systems and technology?
The implementation of new technology can often benefit the company, enabling it to be more efficient and productive. However:
The technology must be appropriate to the company and its projects. Care should be taken when implementing systems and technology that hasn’t specifically been developed or modified for the construction industry.
The technology must have suitable local back-up and support for both maintenance and training.
3. It should be simple to use
Personnel must be trained in the efficient use of the systems.
Staff must be convinced of the suitability and safety of the systems.
6. It must be reliable
7. Its worth
The new technology must improve the company’s operations, making it worthwhile to implement.
Where necessary, it must be able to integrate with existing systems and be compatible with the current popular software packages. It is important to understand what other systems will have to change to accommodate the new technology and what the cost of this will be.
The technology should be adaptable and flexible.
The suppliers should be continuously evolving the system to keep up with technological improvements.
If necessary it should be able to be expanded to accommodate future growth of the company.
The technology must be robust and able to work in remote and hostile environments – or certainly in the environments where your current and future projects are located.
It is important to consider what you are trying to achieve. Often companies adopt new technology because they believe it will solve their problems. Often new technology is just a platform that can help solve a problem, but it still needs management to implement solutions. Sometimes the problem can even be solved without going down the route of purchasing the new technology.
It’s important to understand the workings and the requirements of all those who will be required to implement the system. Often each branch or division has its own requirements and the new system should be able to meet these requirements.
Consider the timing of the implementation. For instance; we shouldn’t be implementing a new accounting package at the end of the financial year. Try and implement changes when there is some slack in the company when people have the time to implement the new system.
Deciding on new technologies
There are many different systems available and their prices vary enormously. Therefore, before deciding on a system it’s important to adequately research the various options, decide what you require from the system, look at where the company will be in a few years’ time (size, location, and type of projects), and consider the pros and cons of each system and how they’ll best suit the needs of the company in the future.
Decisions must not be made solely on price, rather they must be made considering the benefits of the system and the ease of use. ‘Clunky’ systems often take time to use, don’t always give the desired results and end up annoying users.
Implementing new systems is time-consuming and often those implementing the system will have to work additional hours while learning new ways and to input existing data into the system. The implementation can also be disruptive to the overall running of the business. Invariably there will be ‘bugs’ and issues that have to be resolved. Often management underestimates the time and effort involved in converting to new systems and invariably unrealistic deadlines are set.
Often these deadlines result in shortcuts being taken, existing data not being converted properly and ‘bugs’ not being properly solved. This can lead to long-term problems that can have negative impacts on the efficiencies of the system later. It is important to have deadlines otherwise some parts of the organization are slow to convert, but meeting a deadline should never impinge the long-term effectiveness of the system.
Deadlines might have to be reassessed. Monitoring implementation is critical to ensure it’s done properly and is progressing according to schedule. Those in the organization needlessly delaying the implementation may have to be given a push in the right direction.
It is important to have a ‘champion’ to drive the process who is continually talking to those involved to understand problems and progress. Issues need to be swiftly resolved before they become a reason for some not to implement the system, or reason for employees to become disgruntled.
Management should show appreciation to that person who has been involved in converting to the new system and those that have had to put up with the disruptions.
Why new systems fail
Many of the systems and technology implemented by companies end in failure because:
- A system is selected which may be either unsuitable or too complicated and time-consuming to operate.
- Managers haven’t convinced personnel of the reasons and advantages of the new system.
- Personnel hasn’t been trained to use it.
- Personnel is not given a chance to use the system immediately after the training meaning that they forget what they were shown.
- Personnel isn’t encouraged and supported to use the new system which means that they fall back on the old system.
- Managers accept the continued use of the old system.
Always look at new systems and technology with a critical eye and ensure that the company has considered all the pros and the cons, taking into account all the costs, the impact of implementing the changes, and more importantly look at existing systems and understand why they haven’t worked or how they could be improved to maximize their benefits.
Once a new system or technology has been decided on it’s important that all users embrace its use. Those who are reluctant need to be helped, have the advantages explained to them and be provided with continuing support. Adapting to new technology and systems is often vital and it can deliver huge benefits – if it’s done properly.
What has been the biggest challenge for your company adopting new systems and technology?