Managing Tech Transitions
A comprehensive implementation plan and frequent communications with all parties can ensure your IT transition goes smoothly.
By Regina Ludes Any transition comes with growing pains, more so when it involves new technology that could impact work roles and responsibilities. Some people may resist the proposed technology, fearing it would cause them to lose their jobs or that they won’t be able to learn the new software. Facilities managers face a tough battle, but by working with various groups within their organizations, they can develop a comprehensive implementation plan and communication strategy to ensure the change process goes smoothly.
“When adopting new technology that affects multiple constituencies, you have to plan for its implementation,” said Todd Brinegar, Executive Vice President of Sales and Marketing for ENTOUCH. “If people are not part of that process from the start, they will not adopt it. If you don’t get buy in, that change will likely fail.” Change management is the process that occurs when new technology or software is introduced that alters the way people work. Any adoption of technology will involve a change management plan, Brinegar added. That plan should identify who is affected by the new technology, how they’ll be affected and what is expected of them in terms of time or training. It should also define how these individuals can be involved in the change management process.
Once implemented, it’s important to monitor and measure results to determine the plan’s effectiveness and make adjustments as necessary. “The change management plan is a living document. It has to grow with your company,” Brinegar said.
Meeting the Challenges
Change can be especially challenging for facilities managers because they have so many responsibilities. They also have fewer support staff to help them than they did a few years ago, Brinegar explained. Today’s technology is better equipped to help facilities managers “automate to facilitate,” to work more effectively and efficiently with fewer employees.
Choosing the right supplier and solution for their facility is a huge issue, Brinegar said. Ask for referrals from other facilities managers, who can speak about their experiences with the product and implementation process. Make sure the provider can offer support during and after implementation.
“If the solution doesn’t work, facilities managers must decide whether to make it work or go back to the drawing table to find another solution,” Brinegar said.
Another challenge is addressing the various needs and concerns of different departments. Frontline workers will be more concerned about how the new technology affects their jobs while executives may be more concerned about the time and money invested into the solution. Get executive support from the start and provide frequent updates to them about the project’s status. One good option is to include people early in the process. Get front-line teams involved in the discussion so they can weigh in on the best solution, and provide adequate training so they feel comfortable with the new technology.
To overcome resistance from some workers, frequent communication is critical, said Clinton Fairbanks, Solutions Sales Director with SMS Assist, a facilities maintenance tech provider.
“You must have a vision for how the change will work,” Fairbanks said. “If you can articulate that change in a way that they can visualize it, too, they’ll be more likely to adopt it.”
Provide frequent progress reports to show where you are in the transition process and what the next steps will be. Identify early adopters — individuals who are excited about the technology and are eager to experiment with it.
Doing a pilot program on a smaller scale can help FMs see what works and what needs to be modified. “When you release a change program in increments over longer stretches of time, it may be more effective than trying to do it all within a couple of weeks,” Fairbanks said.
Successful transitions take time. When America’s Car Mart, a national used car dealership, adopted the SMS Assist platform several years ago, Fairbanks recalled that the managers at the dealership’s 150+ locations were reluctant to accept the new platform initially. “They were handling the whole operation—from facilities maintenance to customer relations—and they perceived the platform to be a scaling back of their responsibilities,” Fairbanks recalled.
The SMS Assist team came in with a long-term implementation and communications plan, which America’s Car Mart followed. “Over time, the company showed steady progress,” Fairbanks said. “The company went from a mostly in-house shop with a more decentralized management model to a more integrated, centralized facility management organization that operated more efficiently.”
Change management is a complex process, and facilities managers can take a proactive role, starting with the due diligence process. “Make sure you’re able to select the right solution and the right provider for your company,” Fairbanks said. “Also understand your own limitations and leverage the expertise of the provider. Put trust into creating that partnership for the long term.”
Most important, keep communication lines open. “Change can be good or bad depending on how you communicate and execute the change management plan,” Brinegar said. “You can never communicate too much.”