Thursday, February 14, 2008

Implementing Technology Changes in the Workplace

I never considered myself and early adopter. Everybody seems to have one in their life, either among their circle of friends or within their family, but I'm not one of them.

A little more than a year ago, Microsoft released its Vista operating system. When the product launched I didn't run out right away and install it on my company's PC's. I waited on the sidelines like a lot of other people and stuck to what I knew worked for me, met my needs and what I was familiar with. I didn't want to change to something that was unproven and had little to no guarantee that it will work with my software and other hardware devices.

Late last month, I upgraded one of my computers and chose the Vista OS. Actually, I had no choice with the box I purchased. It was either Vista or nothing. After a year in service, I thought it was time to give the OS a try. To me, the change was inevitable. Eventually I would have to make the change because Microsoft will quit offering XP and will no longer support it in the near future.

A recent PC World article titled Why Users Hate Vista explained how change in an operating system is more emotional (to the end-users) than technical (for the IT personnel). When it comes down to it, any technical change for an end-user is emotional. It's human nature to resist change. Just ask my friend who wrote a recent post on his blog about change. Bottom line: people are creatures of habit and will prefer to keep things status quo. At minimum they will be very selective about the amount of change they are willing endure.

In business and the IT world, change is unavoidable if you want to remain competitive. I don't recommend change for the sake of change, but if it improves your business processes it should be implemented with thought and consideration for the end-user. After all, it is they who will be leveraging the technology to drive the business processes that bring about success.

How does one implement a technology change despite the emotional reaction people will have to it? The answer is Change Management.

Here are some tips and thoughts I have on this subject:

  • Focus on the people - consult with the end-users. Include them in the decision making process when making changes to the technology they will be interfacing with. Work with them to identify their needs, the obstacles they wish to overcome and their overall objectives.
  • Communicate strategic messages - discuss the reason for the change and solicit feedback. Clarify how everyone will be involved in the change and give them ownership in the implementation strategy.
  • Communicate and train - provide ample notice and support for the new technology measure the results. Above all, maintain open lines of communication to allow end-users to ask questions and voice their concerns. Address them promptly.
If you take careful consideration into what you are doing and who you are doing it for, you can be confident that the change will be embraced and implemented as it was intended.

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