You have decided to introduce a brand new communications platform, but how will you manage the implementation to ensure it’s a success? Spare a thought because research suggests a vast majority of IT rollouts fail.
If new IT system rollouts were aeroplanes, we wouldn’t let them fly: more than half of them would career off the end of the runway, bang into mountains or fall apart in mid-air.
The specific numbers vary from analyst to analyst - one often quoted study by Deloitte suggests that 75% of enterprise IT projects fail - but however you look at it, it’s clear that many perfectly sensible investments don’t make it to their destination.
If we look at the example of changing your voice to a modern communication system; we know that your project will streamline the business, delight your staff, improve compliance, save costs, and deliver improved customer service.
But how do you ensure nobody flies it into the sun?
Before you even switch on your new platform, here are five areas to consider to improve your chances of a successful rollout:
1. Offer a clean slate, not scorched earth.
This is an opportunity for you to reboot a crucial part of your business, but think of it as a soft reboot rather than a factory reset that wipes out everything useful as well. If the project appears to be a huge step backwards involving masses of extra work or taking away things people have come to depend upon, it’s going to be perceived as a hindrance rather than a help.
One of the most famous IT rollout disasters was in Australia, where the supermarket giant Woolworths was crippled when its new system prevented executives from getting the weekly reports they depended on. The problem was partly due to a lack of documentation of how the business operated: as CIO magazine reports, “the root cause was a failure of the business to fully understand its own processes.”
It is not uncommon to find an ad hoc manual or Heath Robinson workaround in place to solve a point issue, but these aren't always fully understood or documented. People often assume that something is generic or 'normal' when it's actually bespoke and unique and are astounded as these issues are uncovered when the platform is changed.
It’s key you understand what your business needs are from the outset, and who the key stakeholders are. Identify those in the business who care about your communications systems, your customer service, and internal use. Understand their requirements and lead on these as you sell in the new system.
2. Be honest about the issues
The amazing benefits of your project may not be obvious in the short term. In fact, many projects appear to be going backwards because it takes time for people to acclimatise to the new way of doing things.
There’s a learning period with any new system and Hosted Voice is no different. Starting off is akin to getting into a different kind of car: the basics are in the right place, but the climate control appears to be beyond human comprehension. If everyone is aware that it’ll take time to get up to speed and work out where the wiper controls are, they’re less likely to perceive it negatively.
Also, if you are honest about the changes you can plan for them. A small bit of training, a simple user guide, or possibly some floor walking services on the day of rollout can make all the difference to user adoption and give your users confidence.
3. Don’t take hostages
We’ve all had the water cooler talk about daft things imposed from on high, and now we are in control we need to ensure we are not talked about in the same way. Your users aren’t a captive audience; they are internal customers to whom the system needs to be sold. And to do that, you sell the benefits of a proposed change.
Never mind what it’s going to do for compliance or operational efficiencies. What’s it going to do to remove pain points from their everyday experience? Is it going to cut down on irrelevant calls, missed messages, or “voicemail tennis”? Will it ensure customers aren’t put through to their direct number when they are on holiday or will it facilitate flexible working?
4. Forget the cookie cutter
Take any room, shop floor, or canteen, and you’ll have an incredibly diverse range of people encompassing different skills, different levels of experience, different expectations, and different learning preferences. That’s why one-size-fits-all training or communications can be ineffective: what gets the message across in the best possible way to one group of employees might not be as effective for another.
This is particularly important when you’re planning training. Some of us are fine with presentations, and some of us actually need to press the buttons or make the calls to discover what happens, and not everyone reads the user guides.
5. Include everybody
It’s tempting to focus on the admins, the people who’ll actually run the system every day. But if your system is going to affect everybody, then everybody needs to be included. That applies to people who might be included indirectly as well.
For example, a change to the system used by a sales assistant or customer support agent might also mean a change to the procedures followed by somebody in logistics or finance. Changes at a system level can have far-reaching consequences: for example, unexpected network problems or the implementation of old firewall rules can seriously ruin an end-user’s day and create a lot of negativity towards a new system.
Five key steps to successful training
Let’s get specific on the key area of training - when you’re planning sessions to accompany a roll out, it’s wise to follow these five steps.
1. Know what you need
What needs to be communicated and with whom?
2. Know what you want
What do you require the training to actually achieve? Specific, measurable objectives are always useful.
3. Know what you’ll do
Which methods will you use? What resources will you need? How will you structure and deliver the training?
4. Share why you’re doing it
Don’t just deliver the training. Promote it, get people to buy in and make it clear that you want (and will pay attention to) their feedback.
5. Look at what you did
Evaluation is also important, not just in terms of your defined objectives but also related to user satisfaction. This is particularly important if the training will be ongoing or part of future employees’ induction.
The rollout of any new system takes time and effort, with complexity increasing proportionately as the number of users increases. Upfront planning is time well spent to achieve strong buy-in, to get the platform up and running and fully optimised, and, ultimately to look back on the investment as an initiative that has delivered a significant and ongoing return for the business.
- 75% of all IT rollouts are estimated to fail.
- In many cases, systems being implemented are good, but the project is rushed or communicated and planned poorly.
- There is no such thing as a ‘one-size-fits-all’ solution.
- Even the smallest amount of training can make all the difference.