Jesper Frederiksen: Implementing technology? Make sure you have the right culture in place first

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When it comes to technology implementation, CIOs and other senior staff will have identified a specific business need and the technology that offers a solution. However, it isn’t simply a case of CIOs choosing an option then handing over the operational reins to staff – with global rollouts in large organisations, the teething problems could prove catastrophic. Instead, there should be wider consultation with HR departments throughout the business to ensure the right culture exists for a solution to roll out smoothly. It’s the HR professionals who prove key to successful technology implementations within a business.

HR must take the lead

CIOs will spend vast amounts of time picking and choosing the right software or hardware, before selling it to the board. Once this is complete, usually over extensive timeframes, it falls to the COO to sell in the new solutions to staff. Communication between the two can prove vital. In large businesses you often find that staff may have been operating in a particular way, adhering to specific workflows and technology, over many years. This human factor can’t be changed simply by informing staff: ‘Here is a new solution – use it now and forget the old methods’. This is where the COO and HR departments step in to communicate the benefits, methodology and reasoning behind new technology to staff. HR departments lead a wider change in company culture before, during and after a deployment. Without HR engagement, businesses risk wasting millions on technology that will never reach its potential.

The global conundrum

This can be a tricky task. Multinational businesses with 30,000 global users spread across different geographies recognise that HR departments are critical in providing ongoing support to staff. Meanwhile, the technology must not disrupt the business as users get to grips with it. It’s already a financial investment to deploy the technology – any further delay could accrue unexpected costs.

There are ways of handling these complexities. HR departments can work to identify if there is the need for an extensive culture change to handle new technology. They should view it as a 70:30 split between human and technological change when it comes to a software rollout. To achieve this human change, HR staff should make use of technical expertise within their business. Often, HR departments will brief senior staff across geographies on new software solutions, expecting a trickle-down effect in knowledge and expertise. An alternative way of managing rollouts is to instead identify where technical expertise already exists and utilise these staff members. It may well be that a junior member of staff has vast expertise or may just be very passionate about new technology and is willing to take a lead as an advocate, coach and mentor to others. This could come from their own knowledge or the fact that previous solutions have proved so difficult to work with that any change in their mind is good news.

Create staff evangelists

HR departments can capitalise on these skilled and enthusiastic staff. Senior staff might not have enough technical knowledge to comfortably oversee staff adoption, or worse, provide introductions to software that are incorrect. Technical staff, on the other hand, can be briefed and trusted to oversee correct adoption. In this regard, communication once again proves key. Finding the right staff is the first step, but properly briefing them and introducing them to technology is the second. HR departments, working closely with service providers and IT managers, should provide staff with the time and resources to get to grips with software. This could come in the form of trials for specific projects, prior to a company-wide rollout. Show them the benefits and make the results tangible. These enthusiastic, tech-savvy staff might even become company evangelists via this trial method.  Staff members who see how much more streamlined processes and workflows can become though the new software may encourage all their colleagues to try it. They may even identify other areas of the business where the solution could be implemented. This human touch can’t be underestimated.

Tackle early issues and look to the future

The role of HR extends beyond just the implementation stage. In large organisations, there will be staff members who are not as confident with new software as others. Following this business investment, you don’t want to frustrate staff or see them try to circumvent the new process. The earlier this can be addressed, the better, as you avoid letting frustrations amongst staff grow. HR departments can communicate issues to management swiftly and work with staff to provide extra training as appropriate. Listen to concerns and staff can be kept satisfied and productive at work.

Organisations should utilise the HR department to build a company culture which is ready for change. This is particularly key in global businesses with staff spread across geographies. Only when staff are ready to adopt new technology will you see implementations reach their full potential. Look to the future and say goodbye to outdated business processes.

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About Jesper Frederiksen

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Jesper Frederiksen, VP EMEA at DocuSign

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