We crave new technology. We loathe new technology. We need change. We fear change.
Nowhere does this ambivalence come into play more dramatically than when adopting new technologies: It’s nothing if not human to go through a whole range of emotions before settling down with your new technology and fully realizing its benefits.
After carrying out hundreds of successful implementations, we’ve seen first-hand practically every pitfall to smooth adoption: integration snags, fidgety employees pressing for more customization and management that can’t see the big picture, calling into question the need and value of the solution.
Below are some of the more common implementation pitfalls, and my thoughts about how to weather them. It may take some time and effort, but the rewards are substantial: Successfully transitioning into new technological frontiers unlocks growth, agility and value.
Focus On The Upsides
Careful research and a sound definition of goals and requirements are critical to the success of a new technological undertaking. Even when there’s a good match between the company’s needs and a technology’s solutions, there may still be some underlying areas of incompatibility. Here is a way to visualize this relationship:
However, once the company has entered the adoption phase, all relevant organization personnel must focus on the best ways to leverage the technology. In the early days, it’s important to focus on the “quick wins” — the immediate points of value that can be realized without substantial effort.
There are always ways to further tweak, modify, extend and customize any technology, but these investments can be lengthy and costly. The preferred course is to gain the quick wins available by maximizing what you can get with the base technology now, while planning to extend it at a later stage.
By understanding the strengths of the software and building the business value on those foundations, you can often “pick the low-hanging fruit” and subsequently realize rapid returns on the initial investment, making it easier to convince management to invest more down the line in customizing or extending the solution to address additional needs and deliver future benefits as outlined in the planning discussed earlier.
Avoid An All-Or-Nothing Attitude
Even seasoned techies sometimes approach new technologies with an attitude. They expect the product to deliver everything they want, exactly as they want it, right now. It’s possibly the result of preconceived notions, unrealistic expectations, inflexible corporate workflows or a hairsplitting management style. Whatever the cause, this “diva mentality” focuses attention on the limitations of the new technology, ignoring the huge benefits it is positioned to deliver.
Realizing the benefits inherent in a new technology requires some flexibility.
The diva mentality may manifest itself anywhere within the organizational hierarchy. At times, C-level management understands the importance and benefits of the solution, but this big-picture view doesn’t effectively filter down to the department managers and line workers responsible for deploying it.
Resentment and frustration also can occur within the ranks when relatively minor product drawbacks take center stage, leading them to deem the entire solution completely unsuitable. Either situation may reach a critical tipping point, resulting in an unnecessary and costly failed adoption.
It’s worthwhile to keep in mind that a short-term outlook in the early days is often at the core of this attitude. As time passes, snags will be ironed out or realized for what they are: minor and temporary shortcomings.
Realizing the benefits inherent in a new technology requires some flexibility on the part of the business. This is especially true for disruptive technologies, which require the organization to rework the disruption into its strategy and realign its processes accordingly. Technology is often at the core of these changes, but without a relevant modification of teams, workflows and reporting formats, maximizing its potential is a long shot.
Take, for example, the trend of many big brands moving toward a multi-channel advertising approach that combines digital advertising programs such as search, display and mobile with traditional (offline) media such as TV, direct mail and print advertising.
Whereas many of these companies once had separate teams handling digital advertising and traditional advertising functions, the technology is becoming available to orchestrate these disparate programs and deliver more personalized campaigns. But in order to fully realize the benefits of such technology, companies are required to make certain changes to how the various teams are organized and coordinated.
Along with the technology, organizations need to adopt an agile mindset when thinking about workflow and team structure. In the long run, aligning technology and organizational structure is the fastest route to achieving a successful adoption and maximum ROI.
Lean On Your Vendors (But Don’t Break Them)
All good enterprise software vendors are customer-focused. From the software developers and the pre-sales team to the integration engineers and the technical support specialists, the primary goal of the customer-focused vendor is to satisfy its clients and make them more successful.
As a matter of course, software vendors are far more experienced in their particular operational areas than the businesses that purchase their software. Taking advantage of this expertise in the form of best practices, success management and the educational materials provided by the vendor is sometimes the difference between an outright success story and a crash-and-burn scenario.
Successfully transitioning into new technological frontiers unlocks growth, agility and value.
In most cases, the client’s people appreciate and value the vendor’s attention and service, and highly beneficial synergies result. However, the relationship is sometimes abused to a point that may hurt the whole endeavor. Insisting that the vendor provide more training and hand-holding than what is included in the set agreement is a bad idea, as are unrealistic expectations regarding the quick wins that the technology can provide right off the bat.
These behaviors can lead to integration hardship and even a full-blown diva meltdown. As in all human endeavors, a spirit of flexibility and cooperation goes an incredibly long way toward success, and should never be underestimated.
Technology is always a people challenge. Focusing on the upsides, avoiding an all-or-nothing attitude, maintaining a flexible approach and heeding well-grounded advice are all key drivers to success. With a positive attitude in mind, you’re positioned to foster successful and well-founded product adoption while reaping substantial and wide-ranging benefits from your new technology.