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Accept, embrace, align: the key principles for implementing new technology in the workplace

(Image credit: Image source: Shutterstock/everything possible)

Introducing new technology into the workplace can help drive efficiency and boost productivity, and when implemented well, can have a hugely positive impact on business performance.

The technology modernisation needed today is more than an upgrade; it’s relatively simple to modernise tools and functions, it’s how we choose to introduce those technologies that can make or break their success. The life cycle for technology is becoming shorter, with platforms becoming obsolete quickly and new competitors disrupting industries by leveraging the latest digital practices and processes.

Understanding what to get right, which technologies you require to reach your goals, and when to roll out is essential. But furthermore, knowing how to plan and engage the wider business around your technological modernisation is just as important. Below are some principles any company introducing a new technology can adopt to ensure optimal adoption.

Design for flexibility

Businesses have a constant need to adapt within an ever-changing digital environment, requiring continuous innovation in products, services and processes.

The business technology of the past competed on functionality. Systems were designed to do one or two things very well, and the business adapted to focus on those one or two activities. When the business needed to change its focus, the structures and processes of the system held it back.

Today, modular systems are more flexible. They can rapidly accommodate a range of possibilities with a wide range of plug-and-play functions for your business, such as processes and HR functions. For example, Bamboo HR can integrate with TRAX Payroll, and Workable to offer an all in one hiring, HR and payroll platform. Or if you need a more bespoke solution, there are businesses such as The Access Group who offer business software for specific industries and sectors such as Hospitality, Construction, Education and more.

To assess the capability of new technology or upgrade, it is my advice to adopt a minimum viable product (MVP) approach. This approach consists of a “bare-bones” rollout, covering the few features that are absolutely necessary to demonstrate the system’s value. Offer your MVP to a select group of employees or customers, and ask those early adopters for responses. You will soon learn what features customers or employees care about, what features they don’t, and what features are missing.

Put the customer first

Any number of factors can trigger a decision to introduce new technology in the workplace. The most important reason to change is to deliver value. Your investment in new technology should provide additional benefits for customers, whether through improved experiences, higher product quality or operating efficiencies that reduce prices and add value. A great example of this is technology’s impact on value and competition in last-mile delivery. This perceived value is at the forefront of technology, as customers are demanding more from their delivery providers, and a highly competitive environment has pushed forward the development of technology that will help the industry deliver on these demands.

Bring experts from areas such as IT, strategy, customer interaction, and operations to all work together in an agile environment to design the changes around a set of aligned specifications. In this early stage, and throughout the rollout, you will link knowledge of the changing technology with day-to-day awareness of the desired results.

Plan the journey before starting

Any successful transformation is a staged journey, and introducing new technologies is no different. Having set a direction based on customer needs and value, you now plot a road map for technology introduction. You need a sequence of milestones that you can expect to hit along the way. One example might be introducing cloud-based capabilities early, so they can be used for other initiatives.

Engage with your workforce

Introducing new technology in the workplace is often seen solely as a matter of changing technology, and flicking a switch. Changes in technology succeed if people accept and embrace them. You must, therefore, try to align your new technology with the company’s culture. Foster innovation and a progressive attitude across employees.

Step one is to acquire access to actionable data. Then provide employees with this data, to inspire workers to ask the right questions, solve problems, and ultimately, create a more efficient workplace.

Before launching, it’s wise to get feedback and create advocates and support at all levels. These early adopters can be invaluable in helping you create a positive message about the change, whilst promoting an open and transparent environment around the upcoming change.

Also seen as “informal leaders,” these champions are needed at every level of the organisation and should already demonstrate the behaviours you need for modernisation because they believe in the new direction. They can tell you about the readiness of your business to change, the places where resistance will occur, and what effort is required to overcome resistance. “It’s most important not that early adopters adopt, but that influencers adopt,” says Michael C. Mankins, an organisational expert.

Don’t underestimate the resource needed

A big software purchase requires big planning. In a 2020 Software Research and Implementation Benchmark Report by Technology Advice, over 50% of respondents took 1 month or more to implement a new software. The majority of respondents (63%) were comfortable using their new software within 3 months. Give yourself a realistic timeline and make sure you perform an analysis of the resources needed for a successful outcome.

Factors such as the complexity of the new software, the number of existing applications that will be consolidated, employee training, new processes that need to be refined, and geographical location are all big considerations.

Project management and leadership capabilities are vital and just as important as technical capabilities. Choose people with a track record in change, a strong desire and ability to learn, a high tolerance for complex and uncertain situations, and a solid reputation for collaboration and teamwork. It can be a costly mistake to get wrong.

Adopt a services mindset

A dated approach to technology treats systems as assets that a company owns and operates. It’s worth noting that a modern approach will treat technology as a set of services that a company can pick and integrate as needed, without necessarily owning the systems at all. Companies should select and combine services from a range of ‘best in class’ providers, that suits the company’s unique needs.

This approach will redefine the IT function within your organisation. Where you once managed systems internally, now you oversee a more open platform. Services are more often outsourced and managed through a provider; when a service component is not effective, you can quickly adapt or replace it.

We’ve seen a rise in the number of businesses attempting to both digitally transform while simultaneously reducing costs has led to a surge in the managed services industry. This includes hardware, software or a combination of the two. It is becoming the norm to partner with a managed service provider to handle its IT infrastructure, such as Air-IT. Managed services are an excellent option for those businesses that want to scale but don't have the resources available to support the necessary infrastructure.

Soon, you will no longer care as much about the source of a service; but more how well it serves your needs and creates value.

Choose your partners carefully

New technology is the key to your company’s future. Therefore, try not to treat modernisation as merely a transactional event. When selecting partners do your due diligence, and approach it with the long-term in mind. The ideal is to find companies that can deliver mutual benefits and with which you can develop a working relationship that involves mutual commitment and creative collaboration as well as a good price.

If you get this wrong, not only could the project fail, but the switching costs could be substantial. Therefore, you need to do wider research, and don’t discredit using informal, as well as formal, ways of gathering information. Seek out companies whose values align with you and whose leadership has proven trustworthy.

No matter what technology you choose to drive improved performance and efficiency for your company, hopefully, these steps will set the stage for a successful transition and implementation. Finally, you need to recognise that it’s not a one-time event – it’s a process, and don’t lose sight of the reason you’re making the change in the first place.

Jon Martin, Technical Director, Hallam