There can be fewer things more troublesome to the workplace than the introduction of a new IT system. Quite apart from the expense, a new IT system could have a significant impact on the culture of the organisation – it could dramatically change the way that people do things. People tend to be resistant to change, even change for the better. Thus it is important to secure buy-in. But how to do that?
It is simply not enough to introduce a new system, and then to compel everyone to get on with using it. People need to be convinced of the merit in it. Even if the new system is significantly better than the one it replaces, we should not underestimate the value that people place on things that are familiar. However inefficient the old system may have been, it had the advantage of familiarity, and this is a difficult quality to displace.
Let’s be clear – even with the best IT system in the world, there will be bugs. No matter how well and how thoroughly you have tested the system beforehand, some issues will manifest themselves only when the system has been rolled out. You want to make sure that, should this happen, your employees will take this in their stride, and not see this as ‘further evidence’ that the new system was not necessary in the first place.
So, how do you sort out any teething problems while keeping your people onside? Here is some guidance.
Be upfront and honest. Do not downplay the problems. People are not fools. They want to feel that they are heard; that the problems that they are experiencing are acknowledged by you. Explain clearly what has gone wrong.
Explain what you are doing to resolve the problem. This is very important. You need to give your people hope that the problem will not persist, especially if it significantly affects their work. Without this hope, poor morale could set in. If the problem can be fixed immediately, all the better. However, if it would take some time to fix the problem, tell them so openly. Do not try to trick them with false assurances – you will be found out and resented for it, and the IT system will probably never gain full acceptance.
Limit the damage. As mentioned above, it could well be that the problem could take a while to fix. Try to limit the damage. You could continue with the new system, but slow down the pace of work, so as not to put pressure on your employees, and on the system itself. However, sometimes you may not even have this option, for example, where the new system is so unusable that it has to be taken temporarily out of service. Ideally there should be a back-up system in place. One way to ensure this is not to decommission the old system altogether. Where there are serious problems with the new system, the old system can be revived temporarily. This ensures continued productivity, and avoids any potential stress on employees while the problems with the new system are being sorted out. A note of caution about bringing the old system back into service: there is a message that this could send to your employees, namely, the ‘confirmation’ that the old system is sturdy, reliable, and, overall better than this interloper of a new system. Be prepared for that. Find a way to address this perception. As stated above, it is best to be upfront and honest both what is going on. That goes a long way to dispel conjecture and false perceptions.
And finally, continue to emphasize the benefits of the system in its properly working form. The thing is, there should be a very sound business reason that you opted for the new IT system. It should be your conviction that, once the present difficulties are overcome, this new system is the best one for your organisation. Continue to tell that story. Continue to sell that message.
It is not always easy to secure buy-in, but it is essential to do so. Open and honest communication is the main thing. It builds trust among your people, and gets them over onto your side.