When no-one wants to use the new technology (you spent a fortune to provide)

Bryce Sanders has some advice for those resistant to change.

Everyone’s been there. You roll out a new technology platform while maintaining the legacy system. Few if any members of your sales force make the transition. Higher-ups wonder why we even bothered spending the money. The training department looks bad.

Two ways to guarantee failure

Inertia is powerful. People are comfortable with the old systems. Sometimes senior management thinks of the company like a Roman galley. You bang the drum and they row. Everyone follows instructions. They also wonder why retention is a problem.

Here are two ways to roll out technology that are guaranteed to fail:

  • Take away the old system overnight. Now you see it, now you don’t. People who haven’t been trained and given the chance to take baby steps can make expensive mistakes.
  • Roll out technology without adequate testing. It needs to work. If it runs slow or crashes on the first day, word spreads like wildfire: The new technology doesn’t work. The Obamacare website, heathcare.gov had this problem.

You know what ‘The 5 P’s’ mean

You’ve heard Prior Planning Prevents…. before. Let’s assume your firm took the logical steps in the technology design or purchase process:

  • Survey the field. Learn what the people who will use the technology want it to do.
  • Focus groups. Try out the prototype on groups of employees. Get their feedback.
  • Pilot the project. Choose a few offices. Introduce the new system. Get feedback. Stress test it. Have human trainers available.
  • Rollout gradually. Do one section of the country at a time. Move your teams of trainers from site to site. Setup a help desk.

What if we gave a party but nobody came?

You did all that. After the initial excitement from employees who want to impress their managers, usage drops off. It’s back to using the legacy systems. What now?

Consider Facebook. It’s estimated there are 2.20bn monthly active users. Did they need to convince people to use their social media platform? No. Publicity spread by word of mouth. Your cool friends were on it. You signed up too. You taught yourself how to use it. 

Maybe you don’t use all the functionality, but you understand enough to get the majority of the benefits. In short, the user ‘got it.’

Some technology trainers teach functionality. ‘This screen does 40 things. Let’s talk about each one…’  The user wants to know how the new technology could do two things:

  • Make their job easier. The new account screen preloads client information. Previously it needed to be typed in every time. The new client needs to sign forms. The online form function prepares and prepopulates them.
  • Makes them money. The financial advisor schedules a portfolio review with a client. The system compares their current asset allocation to the model portfolio consistent with their risk tolerance level. The portfolio needs rebalancing. The client is also overweighted in some sectors, underweighted in others. There’s business to be done.

How do your employees learn?

People may learn, but they forget. Your employees likely want to learn at the exact moment they need the system to do something for them. Consider four requirements.

  • It must be intuitive. Technology is too complex for manuals. No one is publishing a ‘Dummies’ guide for your company’s proprietary system. You should be able to figure it out on your own. When you rent a car you’ve never driven before, the pedals and basic controls the driver needs are usually in the places you would expect.
  • Short, on demand help. If you want to load a PowerPoint presentation onto WebEx, you would put those words in the search field and find a short video walking you through the steps. The firm might provide short webinars taking an everyday function and showing how the new technology supports that activity.
  • Help desk.  Many people don’t want to watch a video. They want someone to hold their hand. You need someone at the other end of a phone or chat function who can answer questions in real time. Availability during extended business hours is fine. If they have a question at midnight, it can probably wait.
  • Early adopters. You want lots of them. They are likely your focus group folks. They learned the technology and it works for them. They are the equivalent of the cool friends who got onto Facebook early. Hopefully there’s at least one in each office. They talk up the technology. Managers put them on the agenda at sales meetings.

The five stages of acceptance of new technology

As usage increases, the firm will gradually take the old technology away. Let’s look at the five stages of technology adoption life cycle. These tiers came from an unlikely source, agricultural research done in 1957.

  • Innovators. They understood the practical application of new technology.
  • Early adopters. They might be those focus group members, trying out new technology before it becomes popular.
  • Early majority. They see the benefits because they have an open mind.
  • Late minority. They’ve always done it the old way, but they realise change is inevitable.
  • Laggards. You know at least one person who doesn’t use email because they don’t own a computer. They are resistant to change.

Counter to the culture

Many people in sales quickly saw the benefits social media brings to the table. They taught themselves the technology. Many firms were resistant because communications can’t be screened ahead of time or archived afterwards. Firms came around as monitoring and archiving technology became mainstream. 

These employees who embraced the technology built it into their jobs and business strategies. Yours should do the same if they see the value.


About the author

Bryce Sanders is President of Perceptive Business Solutions Inc.  




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