I’m sure all of us at some time have been part of an organization where new software, technology, and systems have been adopted, only to find that they didn’t deliver as expected, or that they weren’t used and eventually were discarded. Inevitably this has resulted in wasted costs and wasted time, even in some cases resulting in personnel who are annoyed, demoralised, or in some cases have left the organization. So why have these systems failed, and why is implementation often done so poorly?
What should we consider when implementing new systems and technology?
The implementation of new technology can often benefit the company, enabling it to be more efficient and productive. However:
- The technology must be appropriate to the company and their projects. Care should be taken when implementing systems and technology that hasn’t specifically been developed or modified for the construction industry.
- The technology must have suitable local back-up and support for both maintenance and training.
- It should be simple to use.
- Personnel must be trained in the efficient use of the systems.
- Staff must be convinced of the suitability and safety of the systems.
- It must be reliable.
- The new technology must improve the company’s operations, making it worthwhile to implement.
- Where necessary, it must be able to integrate with existing systems and be compatible with the current popular software packages. It is important to understand what other systems will have to change to accommodate the new technology and what the cost of this will be.
- The technology should be adaptable and flexible.
- The suppliers should be continuously evolving the system to keep up with technological improvements.
- If necessary it should be able to be expanded to accommodate future growth of the company.
- The technology must be robust and able to work in remote and hostile environments – or certainly in the environments where your current and future projects are located.
- It is important to consider what you are trying to achieve. Often companies adopt new technology because they believe it will solve their problems. Often new technology is just a platform which can help solve a problem, but it still needs management to implement solutions. Sometimes the problem can even be solved without going down the route of purchasing the new technology.
- It’s important to understand the workings and the requirements of all those who will be required to implement the system. Often each branch or division has their own requirements and the new system should be able to meet these requirements.
- Consider the timing of the implementation. For instance; we shouldn’t be implementing a new accounting package at the end of the financial year. Try and implement changes when there is some slack in the company when people have the time to implement the new system.
There are many different systems available and their prices vary enormously. Therefore, before deciding on a system it’s important to adequately research the various options, decide what you require from the system, look at where the company will be in a few years’ time (size, location, and type of projects), and consider the pros and cons of each system and how they’ll best suit the needs of the company in the future. Decisions must not be made solely on price, rather they must be made considering the benefits of the system and the ease of use. ‘Clunky’ systems often take time to use, don’t always give the desired results and end up annoying users.
Implementing new systems is time-consuming and often those implementing the system will have to work additional hours while learning new ways and to input existing data into the system. The implementation can also be disruptive to the overall running of the business. Invariably there will be ‘bugs’ and issues that have to be resolved. Often management underestimates the time and effort involved in converting to new systems and invariably unrealistic deadlines are set. Often these deadlines result in shortcuts being taken, existing data not being converted properly and ‘bugs’ not being properly solved. This can lead to long-term problems that can have negative impacts on the efficiencies of the system later. It is important to have deadlines otherwise some parts of the organization are slow to convert, but meeting a deadline should never impinge the long-term effectiveness of the system. Deadlines might have to be reassessed. Monitoring implementation is critical to ensure it’s done properly and is progressing according to schedule. Those in the organization needlessly delaying the implementation may have to be given a push in the right direction.
It is important to have a ‘champion’ to drive the process who is continually talking to those involved to understand problems and progress. Issues need to be swiftly resolved before they become a reason for some not to implement the system, or reason for employees to become disgruntled.
Management should show appreciation to that personnel who have been involved in converting to the new system and those that have had to put-up with the disruptions.
Why new systems fail
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