Managing Change: The Human Element of Software Implementations

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In software implementations, there are typically three areas of focus. The first, concerns itself with the technical requirements of the implementation. What kind of hardware does the business need? What hardware do I have and need to buy? The second, focuses on business processes and how they relate to the software being implemented. How will this process be achieved? The last, area is concerning human capital and change management. How will I manage this implementation? Are the right people involved? The first two areas, process & technology, are arguably the most complex. As a result, they often receive the most attention. However, which area is the most important? You may be surprised to find out that managing human capital is the most critical component of a successful implementation. After all, business processes are of no use if no one effectively performs them. Technology isn’t valuable if users refuse to adopt it. So how does one ensure that they’re effectively managing change in this area? With three simple techniques: communicate, engage, and incremental change.

Communication

We always hear that communication is important, but it’s particularly important with WMS implementations. What do we mean by this? Well, there are several components of excellent communication. Firstly, communicate openly with the team about what the goal is. Why are we doing the project? What do we stand to gain? Secondly, communicate with the right people about project. Who needs to know this information? Who do we publish project updates to? Lastly, communicate about ownership. Who owns this project? Who owns this function? At the end of the day, if the team is communicating properly, it will appear as one organization that is completely aligned on the goal, with a clear voice leading the project, with defined project stakeholders who own their piece of the project, and regular updates on project health published to all.

Engagement

Engagement is closely related to communication but it’s more about who you’re communicating with. Too often, software implementations are a small team of internal stakeholders locked in a room or isolated from the rest of the organization. Engagement means communicating effectively with all levels of the organization. This means different things to different organizations, but one powerful tool is to involve someone in the project from all levels. This means the entire organization has a voice. Note, this does not mean that everyone person in the organization needs to be communicated or consulted with, but someone representing every kind of person in the organization should be allowed feedback. Too often, implementations occur without this type of vertical representation. Usually, this results in “Going Live” and someone on the floor, who knows the work intimately, noticing problems or inconsistencies with the process or technology. If you make it this far without consulting operators on the floor, you’re not engaging properly. If floor-level personnel notice too many inconsistencies, you may not achieve user adoption.

Incremental Change

The last technique for managing change with your personnel is to embrace the notion of managing change incrementally. Organizations often approach new software with the “now is our opportunity” attitude. Individuals, eager to take advantage of new capabilities will often try and impart wholesale change on the organization. This attitude should be applauded. After all change and growth is good, and your WMS partners want to walk that path with you. However, too much change is overwhelming to the organization. The other techniques, communication & engagement, become impossible to manage if the organization attempts an overwhelming amount of change. Individuals get frustrated for changes they weren’t consulted about, for changes that had an unforeseen circumstance, or for changes that don’t make sense to them.  It’s easy to notice that when this technique is not properly utilized, incremental change, communication and engagement suffer. The right amount of change is change you can communicate & engage effectively about. Too much negatively impacts communication and engagement.

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