With technology always moving forward, and businesses always looking to grow and expand, every company needs to upgrade its systems sooner or later. Unfortunately, moving from old to new hardware or software – to say nothing of transitioning to a new website! – rarely happens without a few glitches. It is possible, however, to minimize the chaos.
Anyone who’s been working with computers for more than a few years knows the hassles that even a simple update can bring. The problems always seem to multiply with the number of users. That’s probably why the city of Chicago’s IT department said it would take until the end of this year to move its 30,000 employees over to a cloud-based computing solution for their e-mail and desktop apps. I wish them luck and patience; in my experience, they’ll need both.
Fortunately, there are a number of ways that any company transitioning from older to newer technology can make the change a little less painful on all of those involved. No doubt you can find multi-step guides to handling a company-wide upgrade; here, though, I’ll be speaking more from my own experience. And in my experience, technology glitches may be frustrating – but human glitches can make an upgrade not only expensive, but almost impossible. Since the human factor often looms larger than the technological one, here are a few tips to help manage those changes:
Get Everyone Involved
Make it clear to everyone at the company that they have a role to play in helping the transition go smoothly. Let them know how the new technology will change the way they do their job – not just that it will make it easier and faster, but what it will do concretely to help. Many people, whether they admit it or not, don’t like change; they need to see that there’s something positive in it for them before they will embrace it.
At first, a user may only see that the new system seems to be making more work for them. And very often it will – at first. After all, they will probably need to be retrained. But if you can show them that the new way is faster or more efficient than what it is replacing, you may raise their enthusiasm. Just be prepared to approach them in multiple different ways, as everyone learns new material differently. If you can reach them from where they are, so to speak, you stand a better chance of getting their willing help to move the transition forward in whatever way they can.
Be As Transparent As Possible
How much you can tell your employees about what is coming may vary depending on the size of your company. But if you’re a small- to medium-size firm, it’s not a bad idea to tell them that you’re looking for a better solution before you’ve settled on one. Chances are, they may have some useful suggestions for products for you to consider. They’ve been working with the technology you want to improve; they know all of its quirks, and may have had it up to here with the headaches. They may have already thought about what they’d want to see in an upgrade long before you did!
As a business owner, you don’t want to cut yourself off from all of that potentially useful input. And once you decide what solution to implement, the fact that you listened to your employees’ ideas will encourage them to work with you to make the transition a success; after all, they now have a stake in it.
Handle Problems Proactively
Yes, “proactive” is one of those words that appears on Dilbert’s “business buzzwords bingo” card, but all it means is to take care of issues before they BECOME issues. For example, not only should your employees receive complete training on the new technology; they need to know where to turn should they get stuck and need help after they’ve been trained.
But handling problems proactively goes beyond employee training. It means that if anyone spots an issue with the transition, they know how to fix it – or at least who to contact to tell them it’s a problem. Even more importantly, they need to be encouraged to report any issues as they see them, since usually a problem is easier to fix the sooner it is caught.
Any non-programmer might spot a strange behavior in a piece of software – but no programmer can fix something that isn’t reported if they don’t see it for themselves. And your IT department won’t necessarily see the issue, because they may not be dealing with the new software on a constant, daily basis in the same way that your employees who are users do. Acknowledge these reports positively, so users understand that they’re not really “nuisances,” but help the transition to get done correctly.
Change in any form is never easy, and upgrades and technology transitions epitomize that point for many of us. But they also shouldn’t be the end of the world. Get everyone working together, and a technology upgrade can help give your company a fresh new start – and make it ready for future growth. Good luck!
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