Open-access content 20th April 2010
Adopting new technology into daily working lives can be a daunting prospect for workers across the board. But done in stages, introducing new systems needn’t be so arduous.
By Iain Maclachlan
22 April 2010
When you are the managing director making change decisions; there are risks and concerns. When you are the engineer, technician, gardener or cleaner the change decision can have a far deeper impact. Whether they feel uncomfortable, anxious or just fearful of the consequences; the adoption of new technology into the daily working lives of those of us used to clock cards and paper can be a very daunting prospect.
For many years now the use of technology within the FM and social housing sectors has been firmly the remit of the back office staff, those taking calls from service users, booking work to be carried out and maintaining asset registers. Vendors are skilled and capable of delivering this type of back office project. However due to the ever changing demands and the drive for technological innovation those providing the service on the ground are becoming increasingly involved in the technology and its use. The lack of awareness of this dimension has led directly to many failed or prolonged projects. Getting all stakeholder groups fully engaged after the fact is far more difficult if not doomed to failure.
With the convergence of highly reliable, high speed mobile communications and effective, easy to use PDAs (Personal Digital Assistants) we can delivery a greater degree of efficiency, accuracy and accountability within the workforce.
“Top down push or bottom up acceptance?”
The top down push strategy may seem like the easiest route for management to take but the risks to the overall project are far greater. Bottom up acceptance will take longer, involve more resources and be a greater challenge; but ultimately it will be more successful.
When introducing new technology in the workplace we must take one step at a time and do so in an inclusive fashion. This may seem like common sense but as so often happens the first time the operative sees a mobile device it is in the classroom during a training session a few days before the system goes live. This is also often when users start to express their fears for the first time:
• Is this thing tracking me?
• Can you see where I am?
• Why do you want to know when I start work?
• I don’t do my job that way?
• The screen is too small?
• I have never used a computer in my life?
• Where are the games?
This list can go on and on. The management teams and project teams from both purchaser and vendor must be aware that user acceptance is as important, if not more important than any other aspect of the project. To ensure successful acceptance you must:
• Engage early
• Engage fully
• Stay engaged
This will ensure that the users are involved, one decision they can help with is the device choice. The range of devices available is growing almost daily with manufacturers updating device capabilities as new features become available. Fit for purpose given the needs of the business, the functions required, ease of use and the conditions in which it is used should be the main drivers in choosing a device.
Setting up a forum where users can ask questions and put across their concerns to the management team will continue the early engagement. Remember that many users will have very genuine concerns that they may be embarrassed about. Work with users both as a group and individually where necessary to overcome the concerns.
Acquire a small number of devices well before the planned go live and allow users to handle them, this will ensure that those members of staff who are anxious about the technology can be given assistance early on and overcome any fears well before they need to use the device in a live environment. A number of the main software vendors today have the ability to design customer forms on the PDAs this can allow for changes in font size, different screens for different trades etc. Getting the end users involved can overcome many of the potential barriers later in the project.
Build on early “look and feel” sessions by introducing a functional overview of the total solution. Ensure that there are benefits to the end users and that they understand the benefits. Creating a win-win mentality at this stage is essential to the success of the project.
By continuing the involvement of the end users throughout the users acceptance testing phase of the project and by appointing super users before going live will start to create a feeling of “ownership” within the group.
Ownership of the solution also has other well-documented benefits. In studies carried out where employees take ownership of working processes and practices, day-to-day management of the workforce is reduced and employees demonstrate more personal control, have greater knowledge (of their job and organisation), and invest themselves more extensively into their work. Results from these investigations suggest that psychological ownership (especially feelings of ownership for the working processes and practices) leads to a closer relationship of the working environment and will dramatically increase employee ownership behaviours towards the organisation.
In summary, a well run project that takes into account all the concerns of the end users and fully engages them in the decision making process will lead not only to a successful outcome but can strengthen the employees commitment both to their own job function and to the overall aim and aspirations of the organisation.
Iain Maclachlan is an independent consultant advising FM companies on the adoption of new technology and implementation processes