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How to implement largescale IT programs without losing your mind

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Posted by Matthew Goubar - 29 August, 2019

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Even in the most well-equipped organisation with all training up to date, largescale IT implementations are still a necessity. Whether you need to rollout a significant new software version, update security protocols, or even introduce a whole new resource or way of doing things, it’s a process many IT staff dread. And that’s when everything’s going well. How would your company cope if a massive change was needed quickly because of a security breach or other emergency? If the very thought fills you with dread, there are a few simple things you can do to make your next implementation easy on everyone.

The first mistake many system administrators make is thinking that the problem is all about the technology. With many steps and processes involved in any implementation, it’s easy to get caught up in the technical details and forget what the real challenge is: how people will handle the change. Often, you’ll be asking non-technical staff to make huge changes in their everyday processes. How do you ensure that staff don’t ignore the email entirely or treat it as just another boring message from IT that they don’t understand? It all starts with understanding how people tick.

Many successful implementations start the process by getting HR on board. This achieves two things: framing the message as non-technical and providing reinforcement by repeating the message from two teams of management. Why HR? The key to any successful implementation is changing people’s behaviour. Changing a company’s culture is one of the hardest things you’ll do, more so than any technical challenge you’re likely to come across during the transition.

Here are three steps you can do right now to ensure your next big project is a success.

Inform Everyone

Step one is to get everyone on board with the required changes. And I mean everyone. Each person will have a part to play in a company-wide project. What you need to address upfront is why now? What is so important and what’s in it for them? Maybe you’ve had a cyber security breach and need to tighten up email and data access protocols. Maybe you’re trying to implement a new logging program or customer management database. Whatever it is, start with upper-management and work your way down through to individual departments. Staff at every level need to know why these changes need to be made urgently in a way that will make sense to them. We all make decisions with both our intellect and emotions. Without that connection to the why, any attempt to change company culture is likely to be met with resistance or outright failure. A great tip is to find a champion, someone well-liked in each department that you think understands and agrees with your core message. Pay special attention to educating them and they, in turn, will influence others.

Rollout Carefully

So everyone now understands why the changes are necessary and most are on board with the process. Don’t wait until you’ve convinced everyone to start the rollout. There will always be some dissenters, but if you’ve managed to convince around seventy percent of staff, the transition period will be much easier.

Whatever you do, don’t dive in with all the information at once. Pick the most important step and roll out slowly or you risk overwhelming staff and losing that critical support. But how do you decide which is the most important? Sometimes it may be obvious, but not always. As well as considering technical needs, think about what’s going to get the quickest positive result that staff can really appreciate. You might be in for a long-haul implementation, but to keep staff engaged and on board they need to see an early win, something good to show them all that effort is worth it. It doesn’t have to be huge. Celebrate someone reporting a phishing email, thus removing it from other’s inboxes, or that leads are up because people have been following the new script in the CRM system. The possibilities are almost endless. Celebrate small wins often and you’ll keep staff motivated and often even convert some of the holdouts to finally join the cause.

Measure and Report

Everyone breathes a sigh of relief when a large project wraps up. All the bugs are fixed and everyone has the access permissions they need. But now is not the time to sit back and congratulate yourselves on a job well done. To truly make the project a success, you need to permanently change how the task is done. Stop reinforcing the message and it’s far too easy for staff to slip back into old habits. Here’s where introducing larger, more involved wins can be excellent for morale and keep the new way of doing things forefront in people’s minds until, eventually, it becomes a habit. Some ways you could do this is to circulate a weekly digest of positive things that have happened since the change, or display posters with reminders of the new way your task is handled.

Remember, everyone in the company, no matter what role they have, influence the success of your entire project. Measuring results and then reporting both to upper management and end users will keep things on track for weeks, even years to come.

 


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