Best Practices for Implementing New Technology
on July 20, 2022
By Leah Homeister, Technical Project Manager, VGM Group, Inc.
Change is inevitable, especially in the technology space. Adoption of technology doesn’t always happen as quickly as we would like. Whether it is incorporating new technology, such as e-prescribe, into your business or upgrading an existing system, full adoption is critical to get the full benefits of your investment.
Create a Compelling Vision
Even before the project kick-off, start planning for adoption. To get buy-in early, create and communicate a compelling vision so all employees understand what the future looks like. They need to know how the new technology supports the company vision, mission, and strategy.
New technology causes disruption, and inevitable process changes create employee anxiety. Acknowledge and address their anxiety from the very start with honesty and empathy. Reassure employees by communicating regularly throughout the project.
Be intentional about transparency and sharing the vision. Have a feedback loop for employees to provide input and get access to information. Offer various communication channels and tailor responses to the audience. For example, have one-on-one weekly touch bases, use Microsoft Teams or Slack chat, or provide a shared document where questions, comments, and concerns can be listed anonymously. Build trust by providing responses to their feedback. It is important for employees to feel heard.
The goal is to have a consistent, well-crafted message that drives priorities, creates urgency, and inspires employees at all levels of the organization to embrace the change that comes with implementing new technology. Keep the vision front and center by sharing it throughout the project and celebrate successes along the way.
Get the Right People Involved
Get the right people involved in the project from start to finish. Identify stakeholders from all levels of the company for the project team. Promote and encourage sharing ideas. Flatten traditional hierarchies within the team to inspire diverse thoughts, identify potential issues quickly, and improve buy-in especially for those directly impacted by the new technology.
When selecting the project team, understand how individuals adopt technology at different rates based on the Diffusion of Innovation Theory. Identify individuals and determine what role they play on the project by understanding key traits of the five groups across the innovation adoption spectrum.
Include innovators and early adopters. These “tech enthusiasts” are curious and adopt new technology quickly. For example, innovators will camp out overnight to get the newest iPhone on day one. While early adopters won’t necessarily wait in line, they are influential leaders that will pay a premium to have the latest version of the iPhone.
Every project will have challenges. Innovators and early adopters make good testers because they don’t expect perfection with a new release. Include them from the start and plan for opportunities to celebrate successes early and often. Seeing quick results will keep them enthusiastic and energized. The objective is to have an agile mindset: Fail fast and adjust as needed to keep moving forward to build and keep momentum throughout the project.
Getting full benefits requires “mainstream” groups to also buy in, starting with the early majority. Continuing the iPhone analogy, this group will purchase the latest version once kinks are worked out. Win over this practical group with logic by showing them advantages of new technology.
The early majority may not be leaders in the organization like early adopters, but they have strong social networks and will champion new technology to subsequent groups. Persuading this group is a key step toward full adoption. Identify influencers from this group and include them early in the journey. Help them visualize what the new technology can do for them.
To win over the last two mainstream groups, late majority and laggard, seek their input as they will likely identify issues others may overlook. It will be key to have a fully functional and bug-free minimum viable product (MVP) at implementation. Otherwise, you risk fueling these skeptics and elongating the technology adoption window.
The late majority group is cautious and skeptical. They are persuaded by economics and peer pressure. They will purchase an iPhone that is a few versions removed once they go on sale based on recommendation from a friend. Use the influencers in the previous groups to help pull them along the adoption journey.
Laggards are an important group, so consider their viewpoints when designing and implementing new technology. (Recommended read: Forbes, July 23, 2020: “Technology Laggards:” 14 Important Lessons They Can Teach Tech Leaders). They are opposed to change and will continue to use an old iPhone long after contract expiration. Create urgency for laggards to adopt. Duality of systems (maintaining the old and new system in parallel) is costly and disruptive due to extra licensing, hardware, and maintenance costs, as well as employee frustration. When replacing an existing system, limit the adoption window by having a plan to retire the old system.
Empower and Engage Employees
Once you have all seats on the bus filled, empower and engage employees by verifying that all project members understand their role. For example, senior management champions the initiative across the organization. By removing barriers, they allow those closest to the processes, customers, and technology to focus on how to implement changes.
Clearly define and articulate the project priority. Set aggressive, yet realistic target dates for implementing new technology. Have others take on extra responsibilities to free project members’ time. Incentivize, recognize, and celebrate the teamwork required by all who support the project whether directly or indirectly.
Seek input to define the MVP with enough functionality to be relevant and without frills that create complexity, keeping focus on what is most important. Keep a parking lot list of requested enhancements to prioritize later.
Finally, don’t let off the gas too soon. Fully integrate the new technology into your culture. Monitor adoption rates, report on value realization, and adjust as needed based on feedback from stakeholders.