Lessons Learned during Software Implementation

When I was single, I thought my dog was like a child. When we had our first child, I thought that books on parenting made me an expert. When I ran my first race, I thought things would go according to the training plan. (And, the Seattle Seahawks thought that pass would be caught.)

 

As you’ve no doubt guessed, everything went exactly like that, due to my thoughtful research and planning! (Get your autographs at my “Winning at Everything” book signing, due out right after I get those five loads of laundry done and make the snack for Wednesday and visit the principal…my child said what?!? and call the electrician and…)

 

In this spirit, I talked with Angela Harrill at Birmingham Southern College about her recent experience managing a large implementation, the implementation of Trakstar.

 

Let’s start with this. Angela is extraordinary. She’s a working mom, she’s an HR Manager, she’s friendly, she’s collaborative, and she’s highly organized.

 

And, she just worked with her team to change a process that BSC had always done another way, their appraisals.  BSC decided to go online and automate the appraisal process.

 

This story relates to Trakstar, but it isn’t about Trakstar. It’s about Change Management within a Large Institution with Multiple Stakeholders (who are totally receptive and excited about change, ha ha ha) and that presents a challenge for everyone.

 

What did Angela learn from it all? What might help the rest of us?

 

  1. Be transparent.  Involve others in the decision to change. In Angela’s case, BSC formed a committee to determine needs, and the committee reviewed a variety of options.  This helped bring others into the fold.
  2. Share information along the way.  Let others know what is being explored and why. In Angela’s case, this meant sending emails saying, “We are gathering a committee to review options to help us improve our appraisal process and go online.”  Other emails included information about the reasons for change.  People knew change was coming before it happened. Angela says, “Use your newsletter. Use your leaders. Put up signs in your work area. Keep others involved by sharing information. Transparency is crucial.”
  3. Give contact information of someone who can answer questions.  Some people will be worried about change, even before it happens. Invite them to contact you, and when they do, welcome the inquiry. Provide information that will help. Angela said, “We told them they could call, and we meant it. It was a positive exchange.”
  4. Read their minds. If someone asks a question, there are probably 10 others with the same question.  Track the questions and develop an FAQ, or use them to know what to cover in your next training session.
  5. Set realistic expectations. Expect that things won’t go perfectly. When you get those calls or have users who are confused, it’s normal. It doesn’t mean you’ve failed, it means they are human and so are you. When that part was covered in the training, they were daydreaming. Cute cats on the internet don’t lead you astray sometimes, too?
  6. You can’t train too much. You know you covered it in training. You gave them the handout. True! But, people explore.  They’ll have unique situations. They’ll find a button that you didn’t notice. Be ready to do a second round of training if necessary.
  7. Do it yourself first.  Do a dry run of your new process all by yourself, or with a teammate. You’ll see things from the user’s point of view.  Angela notes, “It’s important to see things as a user will see them. The administrative perspective is different.”
  8. Position the first year as a learning experience, for you and them. They’ll grant themselves (and you) some leeway.
  9. Create word of mouth.  When you share what you’re doing, people will spread the word.  And, many times, it’s better for a group of employees to talk positively about the benefits of a new process to other employees rather than having it come down from HR in the form of a mandate.
  10. Repeat the benefits of change to yourself and to others.  In the case of BSC, it turns out that note taking is a huge benefit of going online.  The more notes users took, the easier it was to do the appraisal. Also, managers loved not having to print multiple copies of appraisals for their files. People were excited about these things. Share these stories.
  11. Work with your executive team. Make sure the executive team knows what is going to happen, and when.  Call a meeting and give them the highlights. They’ll look informed. So you’ll look amazing.