Technology Rollouts & Performance

Good technology rollouts really count. Many people I have worked with over the past few years often face the tough experience of having to make decisions around new technology that will fundamentally affect business results. In the past 18 months, I have noticed many clients have been pushed into situations where things must be upgraded urgently (due often to a merger).

Often this technology is something like a new platform, a best-of-class project management system or a set of core capabilities the business has never had. At times, these needs arise from a system that was put into the business 20 years ago and since then the IT team have been building bolt-on solutions. Eventually it reaches the point where there are so many workarounds for the users that everyone just considers the system a massive handbrake. Organisational change has to occur, as the focus for increased performance is greater than ever.

A good example of this kind of new technology is Oracle’s Seibel CRM product. AFG Group, one of Australia’s largest brokers, used this product with great success. They use it to source products, lodge applications, generate leads & manage clients, all from a single point of entry. Check out the video below – at 3 mins 9 secs, it shows how they are now using this technology to manage their teams and other overseas business development activities. This project has enabled AFG to stay ahead of the game in an extremely tough market.

The general solution is to spend up to hundreds of millions of dollars on new technology to consolidate workflows, reduce time taken to get information, or find the right information etc.

What often actually happens though is this:

  • The project goes way over time and budget and the change management process fails
  • Only specific users get the new technology right and they were the high performers anyway
  • The strategic planning done prior to implementation was nowhere near robust enough & so major gaps appear with the implementation & rollout to users
  • The final product offers only 60% of the capability promised and the system workarounds continue

If these were the only blocks faced after implementation, funnily enough the situation would actually not be too much worse. The problem is that this is only the start. What then seems to happen is that while the implementation occurs, sales and/or service levels drop significantly and sales managers start to get punished for their lack of results.

Many users get disillusioned and they start to either leave or look seriously for jobs in competing businesses in the same vertical. This causes increases in staff turnover and a need to then recruit more people at a time when training and reducing the time to competency for new team members is not the highest priority. Finishing the implementation and knowing the systems core capabilities actually collect “all” of the data accurately and can be used to get results is the priority.

So what’€™s the answer? Consider the following:

  • Who is on the rollout project team and why are they there?
  • Who is missing that should be there? E.g. possible managers of users who know what functions have to keep on going not matter what
  • Have you looked at who your absolute best talent is and how they can add value to the project?
  • What kind of mini pilots have you or are you intending to run prior to getting serious about the rollout?
  • If you have gathered groups of high performers to do the testing, have you then ensured these people are trained in knowledge-transfer and work-place training techniques to get your population back to its core results capability ASAP? How is this behaviour change actually going to occur on the ground?
  • What kind of knowledge-capture processes do you have around the more “€œtacit”€ or informal smarts the high performers have? How do these apply in the “€œNew”€ technology platform or world? How are these to be transferred? How is your talent management process taking this into account?

Making sure you have covered off the above at the very least will enable you to keep leveraging your best people to transfer their results across populations. Sometimes you may need to bring in technology providers you have never thought of prior to the project. In fact, this might not become apparent in any of the project design phases and might only be discovered during implementation.

The general solution is to spend up to hundreds of millions of dollars on new technology to consolidate workflows, reduce time taken to get information, or find the right information etc.

What often actually happens though is this:

  • The project goes way over time and budget and the change management process fails
  • Only specific users get the new technology right and they were the high performers anyway
  • The strategic planning done prior to implementation was nowhere near robust enough & so major gaps appear with the implementation & rollout to users
  • The final product offers only 60% of the capability promised and the system workarounds continue

If these were the only blocks faced after implementation, funnily enough the situation would actually not be too much worse. The problem is that this is only the start. What then seems to happen is that while the implementation occurs, team performance levels drop significantly and project managers start to get punished for their lack of results.

Many users get disillusioned and they start to either leave or look seriously for jobs in competing businesses in the same vertical. This causes increases in staff turnover and a need to then recruit more people at a time when training and reducing the time to competency for new team members is not the highest priority. Finishing the implementation and knowing the systems core capabilities in order to actually collect “all” of the data accurately often is the priority.

So what’€™s the answer? Consider the following:

  • Who is on the rollout project team and why are they there?
  • Who is missing that should be there? E.g. possible managers of users who know what functions have to keep on going not matter what
  • Have you looked at who your absolute best talent is and how they can add value to the project?
  • What kind of mini pilots have you or are you intending to run prior to getting serious about the rollout?
  • If you have gathered groups of high performers to do the testing, have you then ensured these people are trained in knowledge-transfer and work-place training techniques to get your population back to its core results capability ASAP? How is this behaviour change actually going to occur on the ground?
  • What kind of knowledge-capture processes do you have around the more “€œtacit”€ or informal smarts the high performers have? How do these apply in the “New”€ technology platform or world? How are these to be transferred? How is your talent management process taking this into account?

Making sure you have covered off the above at the very least will enable you to keep leveraging your best people to transfer their results across populations. Sometimes you may need to bring in technology providers you have never thought of prior to the project. In fact, this might not become apparent in any of the project design phases and might only be discovered during implementation.

The general solution is to spend up to hundreds of millions of dollars on new technology to consolidate workflows, reduce time taken to get information, or find the right information etc.


Tacit KM Transfer Mechanisms

Why can one mining site have 80% fewer people issues, or one team produce 200% more productivity than others? Six Sigma is a process used in certain environments to “reduce” inefficiencies. Even then, projects are run and there are still major differences in specific people’s performance.

The fact is that while procedures in business are essential, unfortunately the “Outlier” results – that is, the ones that really make the difference – are not written up because they are found by high performers who don’t spend all their time writing. They are busy getting results!

So how could you build a live system or process for capturing and then replicating the informal or tacit smarts of your internal talent? Check out this great little conversation on companies transferring internal smarts via technologies.

If you want to be able to propagate these kinds of smarts, you need to create a process by which to do so. In the age we live in, in most cases, this process is going to look like a specific technology – SharePoint or some form of intranet or capture system. You can do it manually to start with and this can work great also.

Consider the following five points to enable you to capture and propagate “Key Informal Business Smarts”:

  1. Have you looked at your top five major project issues /key deliverables/client issues?
  2. Do you know who is best at what and why in these areas? The cop out is to say, “Oh, John has been here for ages and she is just a natural.” The value is to work out what he does that makes him “a natural”. For instance, notice that when he has an issue with his work he calls Steve in product development and who resolves the issue within 5 mins. Compare this with the rest of the team whose issues go into a queue somewhere and take days to resolve. Hence he gets things done 5 times faster.
  3. How often do you have team meetings to discuss an area where someone is clearly much better than the others? By the end of the meeting, you can ensure that everyone now has access via new knowledge skills and behaviours to the strategy being used by the high performer.
  4. If you have these meetings, great! Do you then get one of your team to spend 5 minutes typing up the learnings, choose some keywords then putting them into a searchable database? This enables others who were not at the meeting or new people coming into the organisation to access these smarts. You can use a ranking system on the database so people can rank the value they get from each document or recording.
  5. Do you bring the smarts to life by using a forum/blog or wiki-type entry moderated by one of your best people? Not all high performers want to help, mostly because they are never asked. However, ask a high performer if they would like to help the rest of the team get better. If you have treated them right over time, they’ll jump at the opportunity.

The ability to transfer the “Intangible” smarts of your business – the ones that are making the biggest difference today – can transform your business. You need to be willing to acknowledge that there are better ways of doing things. Consider that in many cases team meetings cover current issues like what’s going wrong, who’s started or leaving, and focuses less on the things that are making a large difference to the results today.

Consider what you’re not doing and change it!