“There is nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct, or more uncertain in its success, than to take the lead in the introduction of a new order of things.”
– Niccolo Machiavelli
Change. It is the one crucial element an organization needs to be able to execute if it wants to remain relevant and profitable in an increasingly dynamic and challenging global economy. It is also the one vital element that generates the greatest amount of resistance, and throws up the largest number of obstacles to success, than any other business necessity.
Why is this? Of course, with any new technological implementation there will be technical challenges to overcome, but the largest impediment to change within an organization is always the organization itself and by organization we mean the people. Change management is a critical step for successful software implementation because it involves the coaching, supporting and motivating of the people within the business to accept, adopt and execute the new changes.
Implementation of a new software system can in many instances lead to an interruption to the way your employees go about their daily, comfortable and habituated workdays. This is due in part to two major factors: First, employees will always fear any new addition to their lives when they do not understand how that addition will impact them. And second, it stems from a perceived lack of control.
Reduced importance and redundancy – the two great fears
Software systems, including SaaS, are in many cases designed to automate and enhance critical functions within an organization. This, to some employees, equates to rendering their role within the business as less important at best and redundant at worst. It’s not just the employee’s life within the organization that is threatened; it is their life period. A major change such as a software implementation can be perceived as a very real and deliberate threat to some workers very livelihoods. Their job, their means of income and supporting their family and their future financial security are all perceived to be under threat the moment systematic changes that they do not understand are introduced into the organization.
When viewed from this perspective it should become very apparent why any change within a business – regardless of how necessary it is to enable the business to fulfill its vision – can be seen as a threat and therefore met with resistance and foster an uncooperative and even hostile reaction from the workforce.
No Change Management – What’s the worst that could happen?
Change management needs to be an essential component to any new large-scale implementation of new systems or software within a business. Businesses that overlook the importance of proactively and skillfully guiding the implementation of new software into the workplace soon find themselves facing an army of daunting and costly obstacles to improved business performance and profitability.
According to a 2006 study conducted by Forrester Consulting, as relates to the implementation of new software without sufficient change management, a striking percentage of businesses reported a host of detrimental effects on their organizations. These included poor software quality (75%), dissatisfaction from customers (72%), tasks and projects unnecessarily requiring re-do’s (71%), overshooting deadlines (68%), higher costs (61%), failure of implemented changes (57%) and downtime in production (50%).
Businesses do not change – People do!
As is very evident, failing to manage changes within the organization has ramifications far beyond a disgruntled or resistant workforce. It must be well understood that the business is the people, and so by default, if the people do not change, neither does the business – which inevitably begs the question; what is essential to get right when implementing change management to successfully execute a new software implementation, such as a new inventory management system?
It is essential that everyone within the organization is told in a manner that leaves no room for ambiguity exactly what the new changes will entail, why they are being instituted and what the benefits to both the organization as a whole as well as the individual employees will be.
As already mentioned, people can fear change. Informing and educating your managers and employees as to what they can expect as well as what will be expected of them will go a long way to addressing their fears and making them more accepting of the coming changes.
Take the time to troubleshoot questions, fears, concerns and challenges from employees to the new changes and prepare solutions to these concerns ahead of time. This way you will be leading from the front as opposed to driving off the back foot and hopping about in a frantic and desperate attempt to put out fires as they spontaneously ignite around you. It is to be expected that some questions or concerns will be raised for which you have no immediate answer. In such instances, simply admit that you don’t have the answer but you will work on it and come back to them once you do.
Bend but never break – Always be assertive
While opinions, concerns and feedback should be requested and considered from your managers, at the end of the day it is up to the executive in charge to drive the decision forward and implement the changes if they will benefit the company. Whilst there may still be resistance from certain personnel or managers, incorporating them in the process will make them feel valued and likely incline them accept the implementation and help as best they can to ensure its success.
Training, training, training
Any new software implementation is going to entail that your employees go through a training process to familiarize themselves with the new programs and systems. It is imperative that you provide each and every person who will be working with the new software all the training they need to become proficient.
Ensure that everything is installed correctly for your employees and be sure to set and motivate them to meet a timeline for the implementation. Make it clear to your workforce that after a set date everyone will be expected to be using the new software. This gives them a measurable benchmark to work towards and gauge their progress in adopting the new implementation.
Training should be comprehensive and integrated. Foster an environment that breeds teamwork and cooperation and ensure that the channels of communication remain open and accessible to all. Ensure that employees are clear as to their role and function with regards to the new software, and that they are trained to the level where they can perform their tasks with confidence.
Do not get sidetracked by small issues
Resistance at this stage is likely to be experienced in the form of complaints regarding the new software, technical issues, or the fact that it simply doesn’t work like the old system. If an issue is raised and it is significant – deal with it. But for the smaller, mundane and trivial complaints that arise it is important to remain focused on the end objective and move past them.
Offering incentives can help generate an open and optimistic approach to the new software implementation. Using incentives as a tool with change management offer two distinct advantages:
First, it helps employees overcome their resistance to the changes by helping them align their focus with the optimistic vision of the business – what is good for the business is good for them and they, like the business, stand to gain from a successful implementation.
Second, they contribute to retaining the most valuable implementation members of the workforce. People who are given a responsibility that positively impacts the business should have their efforts recognized and rewarded.
The end justifies the means
While change management can be an intensely challenging task, it remains critically important to ensure the successful implementation of a new software system. By communicating the reasons for the implementation clearly, assigning clear roles and responsibilities to users, providing comprehensive training and support, and incentivizing your workforce to ensure the success of the implementation, your business will be perfectly poised to transition into a more productive and profitable mode of operation.
Article by Melanie Chan in collaboration with our team of Unleashed Software inventory and business specialists. Melanie has been writing about inventory management for the past three years. When not writing about inventory management, you can find her eating her way through Auckland.