Tech trap #5: Have enough time and resources been allocated
BY MIKE ODE
A few months ago, my wife and I decided it was time to get a new puppy. We did our research, which was both exciting and stressful, and very time-consuming. In the end, we decided what kind of dog we were going to get (a boxer), found one in our area, and brought him home. It wasn’t long after we got him into our house that I realized how much of an adjustment having a new puppy was going to be, and how much work was going to be involved. The training was constant, and I had no idea that I’d have to be home every two hours to let him out, or make sure he wasn’t tearing up the furniture.
Implementing new technology, after the hard work of finding just the right product, is a lot like adjusting to having a new puppy. You’ve done your research, you’ve weighed your options, and you’ve located the perfect system that you believe will carry your business to the next level. Unfortunately, most people tend to rush the move and underestimate how long the “training” stage will take to get their new product running efficiently.
The weeks and months following a new technology purchase are often the most critical stage. As flawless as your research may have been, there is no guarantee that the implementation process will sail along without a hitch, especially if you have neglected to allocate enough time and resources.
Set a realistic timeframe
Let’s pretend that you’ve already chosen a technology solution, tested it, checked references, and made sure that it fit the specific needs of your company. The next step, before that software is shipped or you take delivery of the product, is to develop a feasible implementation plan.
Most software vendors will oversee the implementation of business software, but there are things that owners or managers should do to minimize risks and simplify the process. First, ask questions and consider what is involved. Implementing a new accounting software program, for example, will involve the transfer of historical data. But how exactly is this done? Is it manual data entry, or can it be automated? Perhaps the number of jobs or vendors in your current system will affect how long the process will take. Depending on your technology solution, there are many variables that may affect initial setup and implementation, as well as the time it takes to complete these tasks.
Training and user support are other key areas that must be scheduled realistically (and, of course, should have weighed heavily in the decision-making process). But even before setting a timetable, you must make sure that employees will embrace the new system. Chances are, if you’ve chosen a product that will vastly improve efficiency and save time, most new users will be eager to use it. More time may be needed, however, if you have employees who struggle with change, or have varying learning styles.
The key to a workable timetable comes down to the obvious, “time.” Underestimating how long training will take is a common, and costly, mistake. It’s simply unrealistic to expect employees to learn a new system in a day or two of training, especially if these new users must cover their ongoing duties at the same time. Without a clear message from management that training is important, an employee will simply decide, “I don’t have time for this,” and will give up on the solution before even trying it.
Set a realistic budget
The total cost of your new technology product is usually not limited to a one-time purchase price. More sophisticated programs will likely include maintenance fees as well. But do these costs include regular updates to the program? Do they cover unlimited tech support? And what about costs for adding new users, additional modules
or customized training?
Working with your vendor to devise a realistic budget should be easy. A good company will make every effort to give you ALL costs upfront and won’t make promises that they can’t keep. Unfortunately, I’ve heard from far too many contractors who have abandoned new technology products because the costs escalated out of control or the product they received was nothing at all like the one promised. Sorting through the various vendors is tough, but, ultimately, it’s the owner’s job to find the vendor that cares as much about the long-term relationship as the short-term sale.
We’re settling in with the puppy now, and we’ve found a routine, but I’ll never forget that expectations and reality are often years apart. And when it comes to significant investments, such as technology, trying to rush by skipping ahead or neglecting certain steps will only put you further behind. BXM
Read Tech Traps in subsequent monthly issues of BX
Magazine. Mike Ode is president of Foundation
Software, email@example.com 800-246-0800.