I was recently invited to tag along at three large scale technology implementation projects in existing facilities. On these trips I went with the purpose of observing and assessing the end users perception on how we impact workflow and process, rather than evaluating the technology itself. My goal was to see how effective, or disruptive, systems integrators can be when implementing new technology, seeing firsthand what assumptions we make and what lessons can be learned. I was observing the “human challenges” of training and implementation.
I got a dose of reality and took away a heightened sense of how we (technology lovers like me) tend to increase employee stress levels, add tension and cause conflict within their organization when we fail to properly engage the end users during system training. I found that we often do more to intimidate, than educate. In one case the new technology actually shifted the balance of power within a department as the experience of the traditional methods became less important when compared to those having knowledge of the new technology. I’ve learned that we have no proven methods to measure (facts/data) our performance on the implementation and training piece. I’ve learned that even the best technical implementation teams often don’t know exactly what the customer was promised… and that can be a big problem.
Here’s a list (in no particular order) of the most common and overlooked issues brought to my attention by some very high-level end users, and then some suggestions from this organization’s best and brightest members on ways to improve performance.
- Integrators overlook that a significant percentage of end users/operators didn’t ask for this new technology, don’t want to learn anything new and prefer you not be there. Your presence can be seen as an undue burden and the new system as a disruption to their existing methods and workflow.
- Many of the system operators don’t share the same enthusiasm that the final decision-maker did and believe that the expense of the new technology could have been redirected to something they feel is more worthwhile to their job.
- You disrupted the process and workflow that they have spent years learning and perfecting (in their mind) and could possibly expose weaknesses to their co-workers. Most end users are not clear on the intention and purpose of the new system prior to them actually using it, which makes them skeptical from the start.
- Some feel that technology is being forced upon them and will resist proper learning. You have a portion of the end users who prefer to stick with the older technology (in some cases none) as they felt comfortable with it. In these cases, the techno-speak needs to stop and make a shift to the human elements and benefits that will have a direct and positive impact to them clearly communicated.
- Even when end user “technology implementation teams” are formed to help with the integration process, that doesn’t mean the systems operators had input. We often deploy technology that creates a new measure of accountability, so we should expect that some system operators may resist learning in an attempt to discredit the systems effectiveness.
- There still remains some skepticism that the traditional AV and security integration companies have the proper knowledge and expertise to work at the server, cloud, or enterprise network level. This creates a sense of uncertainty for IT personnel, which seems to filter down to the end users/operators.
- Our passion for the technology doesn’t always translate well to the end user. They are often confused by our overuse of techno-speak and find it to be more harmful than helpful when doing end user training and orientation. This makes them uncomfortable which leads to resentment. Good technicians and project managers don’t always make the best trainers.
- All three venues mentioned wanting short video clips for common operator settings, start-up commands, getting back to the main menu, default settings, etc. They want these videos done using their terminology, not yours. They don’t like constantly calling your customer support even more than you don’t like them calling. They prefer to be trained and supported by someone who understands their workflow and processes, someone who has done what they are doing, or someone who can easily relate to the situational procedures and challenges they face.
Solutions and Advice (from the best of the best at NSCA):
- Little operational issues can easily become big problems when the end users have a lack of training, or a reluctant attitude towards the new technology. They want to be left with very clear procedures and support materials to guide them through the situations that arise after you leave. The key to this is establishing a great rapport so that while you are still present at the facility they have run through every scenario and demonstrated proficiency in a friendly and comfortable setting.
- When the Integrator walks away from the installation – the training is complete we are all thinking, “Whew! Now they’re all ready to run with it.” At the same time the end user is thinking, “Yikes! Now I’m supposed to be able to run with this?” One extra “we all good to go?” might be the difference in numerous call backs. Stick around just a little longer if you sense this.
- Frankly it’s not really possible for a systems integrator to train a user to the level required to truly use all the functions/features/power of the system they just bought. The magic comes when they can get the real “power-players” in the facility own the system and drive the changes and trainings required. It’s a partnership and a transfer of knowledge in both directions to make a truly successful installation.
- Schedule a follow up systems optimization day. This is an opportunity to follow up with new customers and get in touch with existing ones, and do a day watching their workflow related to their system. This gives us the chance to provide feedback on what functions they use and don’t use, and further bond with management and key staff.
- The “non-product specific” services we supply make us memorable. Try doing that with different service models and consulting offerings. Wrapping products into services which can be a key user satisfaction factor and combine this with pointing out the advantages of the solution they purchased for driving add-on business opportunities.
- Most integrators operate on the belief that once we sell & train it we leave and think that a simple system checkup (basically doing nothing) once per year is good. Using the opposite approach can differentiate your business and show your customers that you really care about them.
- From a training side – it’s all about how you say it and train it – use their words whenever possible. Find a key champion on the team and in leadership – sometimes we pick the grouchiest systems operator and target him/her to be the biggest fan – give them tools to make their jobs easier. Set up a schedule for follow up site visits after the implementation
- Always provide your key decision maker/ buyer the ammunition to prove to their peers that their purchase gained ultimate value – ROI or improved outcomes. This is after the implementation is done but it really does make a difference to them that you are wanting to assist them with it.
- From a cost perspective – the hard part is valuing the relationship and loyalty, so how much overhead do you use to provide the services because not everything can be accounted in a project – there is always a limit to what they will pay for (high value). That is an on-going evaluation.
- Work as hard as you can to have the entire end user operations staff in place and trained well in advance so that the day of “Go Live”, they are into it big time… this is key! Also have the staff responsible for holding their team accountable for knowing and using the system present whenever possible during training.
- Communications; up and down the entire client team is the biggest “human challenge”. From the first meeting to hear what they really want, so everyone can see and remember from the onset until the final assessment. Involve PMs and IT people in the bid process, initial site visits/meetings for large projects, and get their buy-in and sign-off on the smaller projects as well.
- Equip them with easy to use and easy to access video clips. Better yet, have one of them help produce and record the video.
“Tell me, I’ll forget. Show me, I’ll remember. Involve me, I’ll understand.”
I’m not sure who said that but it seems to fit pretty well here. CW