How to Train Employees on New Technology

Originally published Jul. 20, 2016, updated Oct. 11, 2018.

The best software on Earth is a failure if the team can’t use it.

Support employees throughout the training process by offering technical assistance, providing a variety of reference formats, and fostering a culture of communication and collaboration.

After all the effort of finding the right enterprise software package, negotiating a sale, and supervising installation, the new program is finally up and running. It’s time to relax.

Well… it’s almost time to relax.

Before companies can start enjoying the benefits of their new software, they need to get over the biggest hurdle of integrating technology: training employees. This is a make or-break-moment.

The best program on Earth is a failure if the team can’t use it. In fact, over half of enterprise software initiatives don’t reach their full potential due to low adoption rates.

The problem is that employees tend to push back against learning new software. They’re already comfortable working around the flaws in the existing system, and they get frustrated with the disruption that comes with even good changes.

This sometimes leaves the impression that the old way was better.

Making the training process as painless as possible encourages employees to get behind new software. Read on for a few ways executives can smooth the path for them.

Provide Quality Technical Assistance

Offering technical assistance is the most influential step companies can take to help their teams learn new software.

This should include both initial software training and supplemental references for troubleshooting issues that come up in the early stages of implementation. The impact of technical assistance is undeniable.

The Primary Care Information Project (PCIP) and Weill Cornell Medical College conducted a study of how health practitioners implemented Electronic Health Records (EHR) and found that small practices without sufficient training resources struggled the most with their EHR systems.

Medical practices that received eight or more training and support visits had the highest levels of success.

When interviewing vendors, ask about their after-sale support. Plan to have a variety of resources and technical references that everyone can use for ongoing training.

Focus On What Matters

As much as 60% of software features are never used. This happens so often there’s a name for it: “shelf-ware”.

To some extent, shelf-ware is inevitable. Commercial software developers need to appeal to as many users as possible. They’re constantly adding new features in a quest to widen their customer base and stay relevant.

The resulting software has a host of shelf-ware most users will never touch.

Don’t make the mistake of trying to teach every esoteric function in the program during training. Focus on the 20-40% of commonly-used features and just touch on the rest.

Leverage Influential Users

In every group there are users who adapt quickly to new software. They’re comfortable with technology and like helping others who run into trouble.

Leverage their enthusiasm by designating them as transitional training leaders.

They can solve low-level problems for their co-workers and maintain any reference tools. It helps to give them a small bonus or other incentive, as well.

Address Problems Early

Communication is key when the training is finished and the software goes live.

Even the most experienced companies experience bottlenecks and setbacks when integrating new technology into their workflows. The only way to overcome these challenges is through communication.

Schedule meetings once every week or two where the whole team can share what’s working and where there could be improvement.

Check in with individual employees between progress meetings. Keep the conversation casual and talk to a variety of team members.

Managers, supervisors, support staff, and even outside vendors have unique perspectives that can help identify problem areas.

Once those issues are identified, schedule additional training on a group or using the transitional training leaders. Early intervention keeps frustration levels down, so employees aren’t tempted to go slide back into the old system.

Use Online Training Materials

Many vendors have extensive training materials on their sites, including videos, walk-throughs, information guides, and downloadable reports.

Self-paced training like this offers another avenue for employees to build their skills and gain confidence in the new software program. Share vendor resources where everyone who works with the software can find them at need.

It’s not always easy to convince employees to use new technology, but the payoff is worth it.

Support the team with quality training options, step in when there’s an issue, and foster an environment of collaborative training. When the employees have the right tools to learn, the project is on the best path to success.

How can your sales, marketing, and finance teams get rid of spreadsheets and become more efficient with their reporting? Download our eBook How to Implement Business Intelligence in Your Company to find out!

Request a Consultation

4 Habits That Are Holding IT Executives Back

Habits-That-Are-Holding-IT-Executives-Back

The best IT professionals are passionate about their work. They read trade publications, hang out on forums, and contribute to code repositories and other shared resources.

That passion makes them good at what they do, but it can also lead them astray in the workplace. Sometimes developers become so fixated on their favorite aspects of technology that they make well-intentioned decisions that ultimately hurt the company.

It falls on senior leadership to monitor these IT obsessions to make sure they don’t get out of hand.

Here are some of the worst offenders:

Trend Hopping

Staying on top of the latest technology is part of being a good IT professional, and the First Mover Advantage is real. Investing in promising technology early has the potential to provide a serious competitive edge.

However, some take it too far. These people jump to adopt exciting new trends that aren’t quite market-ready, essentially volunteering their companies as test subjects for unproven technology. If they haven’t done their homework, there could be major issues that negate the first-mover advantage.

The highly competitive automotive industry is an excellent example. In an industry-wide survey, JD Power found that new car owners most often complained about the cutting edge features that were meant to be market differentiators.

Unfortunately, these features weren’t ready for wider use. Voice recognition, which is highly popular and increasingly reliable now, caused a full 10% of new car complaints in 2015. Waiting just a little longer would have allowed the technology to mature enough to meet customer expectations.

There’s another risk with trend hoppers. Without oversight they may discard tools that show promise as soon as (or even before) they achieve a respectable ROI in favor of the “next best thing”. Besides lowering the lifetime value of tech investments, this inhibits the adoption of future projects.

Staff become reluctant to use new technology for fear it will be suddenly replaced. They don’t want to be constantly learning new tools for novelty’s sake; they want to be using the tools that work best. A lack of support can kill even well-planned projects before they start.

To keep trend hoppers in line,  emphasize the need for more than the “cool factor” when considering new technology.

There must be other factors, such as:

  • Issues with the current process;
  • Demonstrated better results with a new solution;
  • Low risk to testing a new solution.

Hanging onto Hardware

There’s beauty in a well-built, well-maintained server room, but insisting on physical hardware can damage a company’s agility. New projects can’t begin development until construction on the necessary hardware systems is complete.

Plus, physical infrastructure requires significant investment. There’s the upfront cost of actually buying, installing, and configuring hardware. Maintenance and security (both digital and physical) raise operating expenses even more.

Equipment naturally becomes outdated and needs replacement. When the company expands, all that equipment has to be taken down, moved, and set up again.

In the vast majority of cases, these are unnecessary hurdles. Cloud storage and computing solutions are maturing into more viable solutions than maintaining in-house hardware for most purposes. They’re easy to set up and come with built-in vendor maintenance.

If the company moves, there’s no hardware to transport or interruption to workflows while technicians get the system running again.

Initial costs with cloud storage are relatively low, too. Companies can buy only what’s needed, then add capacity as required. Ongoing costs operate much like a utility. As a result, software built using cloud solutions begins paying for itself much sooner than its hardwired counterparts.

Data Hoarding

Data has the potential to find or create incredible opportunities. Hoarding data without putting it to work wastes that potential. It costs money together, scrub, store, protect, and maintain data. If it’s not being used, it represents a liability instead of an asset.

That’s what a frustrating number of companies are experiencing, though. 40% aren’t using their data to generate insights, despite spending an average of 20 hours a week gathering it.

What’s behind this hesitation?

  • Options paralysis: There are so many ways data can be used that it’s hard to know where to start.
  • Unusable data: Data is collected but never prepared for use in analytics.
  • Lack of support: Executive leadership isn’t backing adoption of data initiatives.
  • Data silos: Data gets caught in silos where only a small group of people can access it.

When data hoarding becomes a problem immediate, targeted action can shake things loose. Find specific ways to use data, encourage adoption, and leverage those successes into creating a wider data-driven culture.

Using Square Pegs for Round Holes

Sometimes IT professionals “fall in love” with a tool. It works exactly how they like to work, and they want to use it for every possible purpose. They try so hard to make it fit that they overlook a better solution.

The result is unnecessarily complex software and workflows. Even when the favorite tool works for an unsuitable purpose, it takes more time and money to compensate for the bad fit.

For instance, while enterprise apps are wildly popular right now there are some situations in which they aren’t the best  solution. A repair company’s dispatch app could reduce inefficiency in daily workflows, but trying to patch in all partner vendors as well as internal staff would probably cause the app to fail.

Those requirements are too broad for an app, which is meant to provide excellent service over a narrow range of operations.

This can be the hardest habit to break because executives rely strongly on technology recommendations from their staff. In the earliest planning stages of any project, make a point of stepping back and considering several options dispassionately.

Get input from a variety of stakeholders. Make sure the final decision is based on the best fit, regardless of whether it is the coolest tool.

Perspective

One thing to keep in mind: these habits usually aren’t conscious choices. While they can have serious negative effects, IT professionals don’t mean to damage the company. Their bad habits are merely blind spots.

Executives will get the best results by avoiding a confrontational approach when working around these issues. This philosophy has the double benefit of finding the best solution for the company and helping the developer recognize the potential impact of their habit.

The best way to avoid becoming mired in bad IT habits is to encourage active communication and cooperation within a development team. At Concepta, we have 12 years of experience balancing the strengths and weaknesses of team members during the web development process. To find out how our approach could work for your next project, set up your free consultation today!

Request a Consultation

4 Game Changing Tech Trends in Enterprise Data

tech trends

Not since the advent of the personal computer have you seen so much innovation and change in enterprise computing. The rise of mobile, augmented reality, smart personal assistants, business intelligence, social business, the Internet of Things, and more changes are sweeping through data centers like yours around the country. Here are four key tech trends in enterprise data to watch.

Mobile Security

Security has moved to the forefront of important tech trends in 2016. The previous year was a disaster in terms of enterprise security breaches: VTech toys, the FBI, Experian, Scottrade, Excellus BlueCross Blue Shield, CVS, Walgreens and many more companies were hit.

Companies are making a much more diligent effort to harden security protocols and protect corporate data. At the same time, hackers are moving on to smartphones and tablets as mobile computing continues to explode in popularity.

With more employees bringing their own devices to work (BYOD), enterprise security experts are facing a whole new slate of challenges.

Artificial Intelligence

According to a poll by Narrative Science, just over 60 percent of organizations expect to be using Artificial Intelligence (AI) by 2018. Similarly, IDC reports that a scant one percent of developers are adding cognitive computing routines to their apps today, but over 50 percent believe they will be doing so by 2018.

AI systems operate more like your brain than the computer on your desk — they understand video and photos, have languages skills and can use predictive analysis. It will be used everywhere: driverless cars, software that can learn new skills as it operates, household robotics and more.

A key driver of AI is the rapid growth of the Internet of Things (IoT).

As household appliances, clothing, tools, home fixtures, automobiles and a myriad of other objects become wired to the internet, AI will be needed to process the massive amounts of data generated.

AI will not only search the data for useful information, it will use machine learning to improve the data gathering process at the same time.

Social Business

As we move from the Information Age to a more connected, collaborative Communication Age, business is evolving as well. Organizations will continue to flatten as top-down hierarchies give way to a network approach.

Social software is fueling this evolution, helping employees communicate, share, collaborate and network with each other on a wide variety of projects, some reaching over traditional boundaries to create new synergies.

Engagement, feedback, real-time collaboration and rapid deployment of concepts and ideas are key components of the trend toward social business.

Heavily influenced by social media, social business is forcing business leaders to reevaluate the linear approaches of the past and embrace a new way of thinking that is highly networked and natively digital and represents a seismic shift in corporate culture.

Microservices

Many legacy systems are moribund, lethargic and costly to maintain. They survive in enterprises because they do the basic tasks required to run the company, and replacing an entire system is prohibitively expensive and would take years to complete. Yet consumers are demanding new services and innovation like never before.

Increasingly, enterprises are turning to microservices to rapidly develop and deploy new products, features and services. Instead of a monolithic system, microservices break down big applications into small, autonomous units. This makes it much faster and easier to develop, maintain and update programs.

Infrastructure needs are reduced, in some cases up to 50 percent, and downtime is decreased due to the lack of a single point of failure. All that adds up to better products, more engaged customers and increased revenue.

Mobile security, artificial intelligence, social business and microservices are four red-hot data science trends that show no sign of slowing down in the near future. As your enterprise data center looks to the future, one thing is for sure — change is the only constant you can count on.

For more information, contact us today or visit our website.