Technology may be changing the world for the better, making our lives easier, allowing us to be more productive with our time and even reducing costs - all in both a professional and personal capacity. Seems like it should be perceived as a positive thing all-round, right? Resistance to change is a common term in many organisations trying to digitally transform processes - the terminology may vary slightly but I can guarantee you’ve heard of it recently. Whether it was in the news, in your own organisation or possibly from some of your peers who are experiencing it in other organisations.
Introducing new technology, similar to any change being pushed upon us, is a break away from the status quo - it's changing a process as we know it or the way it “has always been done” and often the thinking process can be “if it’s not broke, don’t fix it”. I bet you’ve heard that phrase before in one context or another! Ronald Reagan summed up the Status Quo perfectly in a speech during his presidency describing it as “Latin for the mess we’re in” while Seth Godin suggested, “organisations that destroy the status quo win...it gives you the opportunity to be remarkable”.
Had it not been for technology and people pushing away from the norm - we would still be purchasing individual music records but thanks to Spotify, and other streaming services, now we now have instant access to all the world’s music from the convenience of our mobile phone. Think back to the days of the VCR tape and how Netflix has transformed the home entertainment industry or how Google Maps has turned our phones into a virtual map book. Looking back we wonder how we ever got by without this technology, but at the time resistance to change was every bit as evident.
With all that in mind - what causes resistance to change, especially in terms of technology, in an organisation, and how can it be managed effectively?
Stepping away from the status quo and to some extent into the unknown makes up for a large amount of resistance in one way or another but it is all about the change management process and getting buy-in from the employees from the outset. If they are involved in the process and kept up to date on progress they are more likely to have an invested interested in the new technology as opposed to it being mandated into their daily routine. Communication isn’t a one-way activity and you should be listening to grievances, both before, during and after deployment. While most decisions about technology in the workplace are made on a rational basis, what is rational to one may not be rational to another and communication is the key element there.
As well as the communicating the change effectively, the timing is also extremely important. Often there is a tendency to introduce new technology too quickly without first getting to the root of the issue. There may well be a problem with processes that must first be rectified before implementing new technology. Often this will be discussed in a discovery workshop meeting with the technology vendor where current processes will be examined and suggestions made on how they can be improved during implementation.
Training & Education:
One reason for resistance to new technology is the “deploy and run” type scenario where management deploy new technology and the users don’t receive adequate training on how to use it or education on the business and employee benefits realised by implementing it. Not receiving adequate training makes using the technology a burden and it is seen as additional work - not making their life easier! A “train the trainer” system often works well if the technology is being deployed to staff in a number of different areas while also reducing training costs from the provider.
Don’t forget, the employees that will be using the technology are the ones that are experiencing pain points on a daily basis - a simple brainstorm session with them may help you decide the features that are necessary and nice-to-haves as well as give you information on the fundamental areas that need to be changed. Employees should also be involved in testing stages to ensure it covers all the issues they raised, is user friendly and if necessary suggest edits.
In GeoPal, we have mapped every stage of our implementation plan to tackle resistance to change and ensure all users are getting the most from the solution. Firstly, field users are invited to join the discovery workshop so the team can ascertain a detailed view of the current situation from all sides. Often what the office users suggest should be happening and what the field user tells us is actually happening differs quite a bit so it is important to align this process before implementing GeoPal.
The field users are also involved in mapping up a prototype which feeds into the build cycle before testing and suggesting revision edits to the next UAT version. This is repeated until the test field users and other business representatives are happy that all requirements are covered. Given that GeoPal can be used on any standard smartphone, users are generally quite comfortable with the technology and the test users will comprise of both ends of the tech-savvy spectrum to get a true representation of users.
Implementing technology into a business is often necessary to remain competitive and managing resistance to change is entirely possible, it's all down to communication, attaining user buy-in and ensuring that there is a plan in place!