Successful Software Implementation in your Construction Business: Five Steps
As the founder of a construction software company, one of the things I hear most frequently is about the objections and challenges people expect to face when implementing new software. So I wanted to write a post covering my own experiences along with some research I did on how to make this process happen smoothly. After all, a new software solution is supposed to help you save time and money, not make your job harder. The worst-case scenario is a construction business that fails to implement software solutions that will help them, just because they fear the backlash from their crews, managers or administrative staff.
Why do employees resist change?
It's funny to watch how resistant some employees can be to change. It makes them uneasy. Anyone who's tried going into a company and changing the way things work understands that a certain amount of resistance is usually to be expected. Why is that? Some employees are so set in their ways of doing things, they get comfortable, and are resistant to change because it forces them to undo habitual processes they have become comfortable with.
But successful companies know that accepting the mediocre or (downright broken) status-quo because they know the improvements may not be greeted with enthusiasm, is not a plan to be successful. Rather, that kind of thinking keeps companies using the proverbial fax machine when everyone else in the world has moved on to email.
Why do employees resist new software? It's often the fear of the unknown or how the new software will impact them. When employees don't have all the answers they feel like they've lost control and that makes them uneasy. It's your responsibility as a manager or owner to manage the software implementation to minimize the negative effect on your employees and organization.
So, when the decision is made to move to a new software solution, here are five steps to help ensure the implementation goes smoothly.
Step 1: Management Buy-In
It is important for your managers to understand the reason for and benefits of the new software and to communicate those things when talking with employees. To make sure your managers are on board, meet with them first. Talk about the software and if you've already decided to move forward with it, explain why. If you are still deciding whether to move forward with the software, ask for your manager's input. View a demo of the software with them and/or experiment with a free trial as a group. In the end, don’t forget that managers can be resistant to change just like any other employee. Despite their opinions, do your duty as the executive in charge and do the right thing for your company. Regardless, if your managers feel like they were involved in the decision (even when they are sometimes overruled), they'll still be much more likely to embrace your final decision and speak positively about it with employees. This is important because when employees see managers speak positively about the change they are more likely to adopt the same thinking.
Step 2: Call a Meeting with Your Employees
Now, it's time to call a meeting with all of your employees. Make a case for the new software. Explain why it is needed. Explain how the decision was made. Explain how the software will benefit the company and the employees. Explain that the managers were involved in the decision and that they are all prepared to explain the new software to anyone with questions. Field questions openly in the meeting. At this point, you may hear some objections you were not expecting. If you don't have all the answers, it's ok. Let your employees know that you'll get them an answer. Then make sure you follow up. It's a good idea to make it clear that although a decision to implement the software has already been made, you want to hear and address all concerns so that everyone can be comfortable. Finally, make it clear that you know that learning a new process can be a pain, but explain that everyone has to be on board for the implementation to succeed and that doing things the old way will soon no longer be an option.
Step 3: Implementing the Software
When it is time to start using the new software, make sure employees get the training they need and that everything is installed properly for them. Set a timeline for the implementation, and communicate that timeline to employees. After the timeline has passed, everyone should be expected to be using the new software. Inevitably, you will probably have a few stragglers. These folks will give you reasons why the new software process is not ideal, or they may even complain of technical issues. Take this resistance with a grain of salt, but make sure you address it and consider structuring a what happens scenario for anyone that fails to use the new software. These are the same folks we talked about earlier, putting up a last line of defense against change. They are hoping that you'll change your mind and go back to the old, less efficient, but comfortable way of doing things. You'll win with these folks, but you need to show them with a stern/firm approach that their attempts to slow progress will not be accepted.
Step 4: Remove any Remaining Barriers to Complete the Implementation
After you've got most everyone started on using the new software it's important to assess what you've accomplished and what is left to do. Check for issues like inadequate training, user resistance/errors, improper/faulty computers and/or mobile devices.
Step 5: Put an Ongoing Process in Place to Maintain Compliance, Training, and Updates
Now that you have things working smoothly, your work is not done. It's critical to put a process in place where periodic checks and balances are done to ensure that the software is still being used properly. It's a common scenario for construction companies to implement software, only to slowly drift away from it because management is too busy to enforce its use. This type of scenario leads to chaos and must be avoided. Any software system must be continually managed to make sure employees are using it as intended. This management should include training for new users, retraining for any updates, and making sure that employees who fail to use the software properly are not allowed to continue doing so.
Following this five-step process should make successfully implementing new software in your construction business easier. Don't forget to celebrate your success with your employees and managers. You've done the hard work to improve the company and save time and money with new software. Let everyone know they did a great job and consider sharing the savings (if you have an easy way to measure this cost).