“I wish I had done this sooner,” is the most common response I get from business owners after I finish integrating new software, programs or electronic devices into their everyday workflow.
This is said, of course, after the harrowing transition when the kinks are worked out, the employees are trained up, birds are chirping and the sun is shining. Whether it’s a medical office interested in switching from paper charts to electronic charts, a construction company wanting to utilize a project management program or a design firm needing a solid CRM system to keep track of contacts and leads, business owners need to ask themselves these questions before jumping face first into the potential torturous project of integrating technology into their workplace.
Why am I considering the change?
If a business owner is considering making technological changes to business operations, it generally means there are gaps, discrepancies, disorganization or overlapping work being done by the owner or employees. Technology can equate to a more streamlined workflow – more work getting done by the same amount of people. It can also create a place within the company where necessary business information can be shared amongst responsible counterparts, rather than pertinent information being kept on file in the form of sticky notes, scratch paper or in the confines of the owner’s brain. Whatever the case may be, be sure to communicate the reasons behind the considerations clearly to the staff, who may be the individuals navigating the changes to their daily process.
How will this tangibly benefit my company?
Because this process may take a considerable amount of time, money and resources for both the owner and employees, it is worth determining what business metrics should be affected positively once the device or system is implemented and staff are trained. Will technology allow staff to work more productively? How so? Will this allow the business owner time to focus on other areas of the business? Can this strengthen the relationship between the business and its customers/clients/patients? Can the owner expect an increase in quality of services and/or products provided?
It is necessary to keep an eye on these metrics, once implemented, to ensure that this change was worth the cost and the manpower.
Which tried-and-true programs are being used in my industry?
It is easy for a business owner to feel overwhelmed by the number of programs, software and electronic devices that allegedly create the same results. It is not necessary to reinvent the wheel when it comes to deciding on five, 10, possibly hundreds of options. This is a great opportunity to reach out to owners within the same industry to see what types of technology they use, along the pros and cons of using that program or device. It will be easier to make an “apples to apples” comparison doing this rather than rely on reviews written by people outside of the industry.
What changes in protocols and procedures will need to be made?
In order to prevent chaos and mass hysteria within the business, it is crucial for the owner and the employees to take the time to map out all changes to each protocol and procedures affected by the new technology. This should allow everyone involved to ask questions, bring up any concerns, visualize and understand the long-term and short-term benefits in making these changes. Consider creating a new, developing procedure guide for people to follow while they are being trained on their new workflow.
When do I need this completed by?
This question is dependent on many factors – how established the business is, how adaptable the employees are, the number of changes being implemented, how complex the changes are, etc. Because these changes don’t happen overnight, it is imperative that the business owner sets a firm date of completion as to when implementation should be finished. This will keep everyone involved accountable for their role in the project, as well as get across that this is a required change on their part, not just wishful thinking.
Do I have the ability to complete this project alone?
There are business owners who may be tech junkies and thrive on putting these types of changes in place. There are also business owners who discover, mid-way through integration, that they have bitten off more than they can chew. The whirlwind within their business picks up, owners get busy, something more urgent comes along and the project slows to a standstill. All motivation to make any changes is lost, along with the momentum needed to get it done.
Rather than abandoning all hope, owners may find it more cost effective to bring in outside help to assist in the implementation process rather than shouldering the burden themselves. IT consultants, business consultants, as well as the vendors for the specific program or software may have hands-on, in-person, and online training and support that can assist in a valuable way.
Making sure all parties are willing and able to adapt to procedure changes is paramount. Integration of new technology can be a massive hurdle for a business to jump over, but once the owner sees the benefit from the time and energy spent, it will be easy to say, “I wish I had done this sooner.”
Cathy Baillargeon is an associate consultant with Salsbury & Co, a business management consulting firm in Vancouver. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.