Technology Implementation GOTCHAs!™

By Emerson Human Capital

In today’s economic climate, companies ranging from one-man shops to the Fortune 500 have something in common: they’re looking for ways to save money. Many decide to save by updating or overhauling their enterprise software. Yet this solution often fails. Miserably.

We help clients implement enterprise software smoothly. In our experience, these are the nine most common mistakes made by technology implementations. We call them Emerson Human Capital’s Implementation “GOTCHAs!”™

  • People. Remember that software is an enabler of business solutions and results. It is of no value in and of itself — it’s a tool that’s only as effective as the people who use it. The people. People use software. People execute new processes. Focus on the required behaviors of your people – their need to embrace and understand and build skills to use the software – and your implementation will have a much better chance at success.
  • Behavior. Begin with the end in mind. Identify what your employees need to start, stop and continue doing in order to achieve the benefits you want. Next, make sure your teams have both the ability and the motivation to perform this new set of behaviors.
  • Measurement. How do you know you’re getting there? How will you know your implementation is a success? Set goals and measure regularly. Where results fall short of targets, dig deeper, figure out why and try again.
  • Truth. Technology makes life harder, causes productivity loss and doesn’t do the work you thought it could. At first. But we often don’t want to say that to our people. So employees have unrealistic expectations, get disappointed, and check out. People only sign up, mentally, for programs they think will win. If they understand that the struggle is a step on the way to victory, they’ll stick with you.
  • Losers. Successful tech implementation teams need smart, driven people who understand the business. But the business often doesn’t want to give up their best people to the project team! Minus a star player, day-to-day work might suffer. And managers worry that, working with the implementation team, their high performers will burn out. So, they give the team their losers. If this change is important, give it your best and brightest and make it a rewarding and career-building experience for them.
  • Culture. Culture comprises the unspoken set of rules by which decisions are made. Every organization has one dominant culture. It also has subcultures within every business unit, location and department. IT organizations often live by a “ruler/hero” archetype – in short, “I’ll tell you how to do it, you do it, and if you won’t, I’ll die doing it for you.” And IT groups often assume their culture is the organization’s dominant culture. Most likely, it’s not. So they build their project teams and deployment plans in ways that disregard culture. This sets up the project team and the implementation for rejection by the organization at large. The smart program manager will do some cultural assessment and make sure that everything, from team structure to communications to implementation plans, works with the dominant culture and not against it.
  • English. It sounds like just common sense, doesn’t it? Speak to people in their own language. But this is one of the most common missteps of IT implementations. Explain what you are doing and what you need from people, in simple terms that they understand. Use existing words and metaphors. Avoid new or technical terms. Don’t inundate people with information they don’t need. Compare what the new system does to terms and concepts that they already understand.
  • Myopia. Often the team assumes their program is the only thing going. They overlook other initiatives that might have competing (and distracting…or more important) deployment dates. They fail to explain how their project relates to other things going on in the world of their stakeholders. Employees receive communication that is ill-timed or that contradicts messages from other areas of the organization. Here’s a tip: Employees assume there’s a master plan or sinister plot, even if there’s not! The solution? Early on, get the lay of the land. Identify other projects ongoing or within your project horizon, and make one map with all key milestones. Keep in regular touch with other program managers and their team leads, throughout your project, so that you don’t unwittingly undermine each other. You might even find opportunities for synergy!
  • Strangers. It usually takes an insider to understand how to work effectively in an organization. But organizations often bring in a new hire to spearhead a software implementation. The organization builds up antibodies to the new person responsible for the foreign software it doesn’t understand. A new hire can work but it’s slow and painful. Consider choosing a wellpositioned, influential insider for your lead. If that’s not possible, support your project leader through peer coaching on company culture, methods, business practices and communication.

Your enterprise technology can be a huge success, offering efficiencies, cost savings and quick, tangible business results. Don’t risk success by falling prey to these mistakes. The answer to each one is simply foresight, planning and putting some key tools and processes in place. A GOTCHA can’t get you if you see it coming.