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.


Harness Knowledge via Technology

As yet, technology in business has hardly been used to harness the knowledge held by talented high-performing individuals. Why not? Well, it’s funny that you should ask. We are now great at storing data – check on any company you like and you’ll find shared hard drives with data trees up to your eyebrows. But in most cases if you ask the users where they access essential information on the best people’s progress and what they have learned in the last week, they’ll seldom tell you – Oh that’s right here.” It just does not seem to happen. This kind of organisational change, although being used in some cases, is still some way off.

What would you need to do in order to be able to do it better?

  1. Firstly, you’d need to have a system where you could design a database of internal smarts, probably categorised by area, and which uses a kind of hierarchy to capture information design.
  2. Then you’d need to define the “Key” areas and who knows the most about them – a talent identification and management process. In other words, you would want to have a series of “Internal Experts”.
  3. You’d need some way of downloading in each area a series of what really matters e.g. in a projects environment, it might be meeting schedules, quality of pre start meetings, project knowledge, resource management, major supplier relationship building etc.
  4. As the database was built upon, almost certainly you would want to have some kind of tags or “Meta tags” where the information in each file has a meaningful link to a user searching for it.
  5. Finally, you’d need to understand how, why and when people would access these smarts.

Have a listen to some of the world leaders discussing problems in the workplace. They talk about the new collaborative technologies and their deployment, and the effect on business processes. How are they affecting our use and definitions of what is public and what is private, our intellectual property? What about the way that language affects how we use these technologies?

Test small first, and test as you design, as part of the organisational change process. Find out what works and do more of that! Most often, the IT people get carried away with technology that no one else cares about or knows how to use, so the money is wasted.

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!

Time & business results

I have friends you can’t meet for morning tea for 8 weeks because they are booked out. Others, you can consistently book a catch-up with so long as you give them 7 days notice and that’s that, every time. Then there are people who will be available tomorrow at 3pm or Friday at 9am and any further out than that and you can forget it!

TIME – Why is that the case?

Is it true that the person booked up for 8 weeks is more important, successful or has more happening in their lives than those you could get an appointment with tomorrow?

INTERESTINGLY IN OUR EXPERIENCE, NO!

Funnily enough, some of the leaders of the biggest organisations in the country operate very much in the now. If it weren’t for some very smart assistants, things would look very different. How might this information influence you and your team’s ability to get results?

Is everybody different around time? What kinds of people are similar and why? We will deal with only one part of this major body of work that up until now been badly under-researched.

How do I know? Well, all the time I see organisations facing people issues where certain portions of populations are extremely reactive and others are the opposite, far too slow to react. Where do you sit? How about your best people when you are “Managing Your Talent”? Are they reactive or more strategic? What’s needed more in your environment?

“Your interpretation of time is not a right or a wrong one. However, if you are too extreme either way with regard to your specific work context and what’s required, you can really lose out.”

What should you do to ensure your thinking around time fits with your business role? Here are three suggestions to consider with regard to the people in your workplace.

1)In a fast-paced sales or back office production environment, you probably want to be able to move quickly and hence timeframes are almost certain to be shorter.

2)In a strategic planning or IT implementation environment, it might pay to have a medium-term time perspective. However, watch out! Get this to be more a long-term perspective and that $500 million dollar IT rollout can easily blow into costing twice as much.

3)In Strategy & Planning roles in major organisations, the people involved are better to have a really good understanding of time in the long term. But they still need to be able to partner with the people on the floor conducting the rollout.

So what if you’ve got people in completely the wrong place?

What if you have people (even managers) on the floor who think learning a set of specific behaviours will take 3 months when your best manager considers it can easily be learnt in 24 hours? A problem in many IT, HR and L&D departments is that when major rollouts occur, the third parties always talk about giving things some time… until the budget’s blown and the business is locked into making even tougher decisions!

When sick where do you go?

The other day for the first time in my life I could not breath while I was going to sleep, I had been to the swimming pool that day and the chlorine was incredibly strong in the children’s pool where I’d been. My symptoms were almost exactly like that of an Asthmatic shortness of breath and no matter how hard I tried no air was getting in?

At the time I though wow – that’s interesting, then what am I going to do, not wanting to wake my partner I got up and Google’d the symptoms. Amazingly I found at least 5 websites with some really serious detailed and well researched answers.

One of these explained a breathing technique which it said worked wonders, having nothing to loose I tried it and within minutes was back to sleep. A couple of days later I was speaking with a client about this and he said wow so did you go straight to the hospital and or a doctor?

I said no actually, I turned on the Web and did some research found some answers and alls well!

You might be asking so what, how does this relate to me and my team? Well have a think about it, you think the people in your team are either good or bad, average or superb.

But maybe they are just missing some of the crucial links they need in order to perform at their roles. Often we go running to the doctor or the hospital when sometimes the best possible thing to do might actually be to sit down with some of the smartest people in our own business or teams and ask them questions or log into the web and start google’ing for answers. How do you identify and manage talent in your organisation?

By then linking up the answers your team finds to expert knowledge based information systems often you can then deal with the same problems 100’s of times faster.

Ironically often we rush off to places for solutions when they lie right at our fingertips, what’s your organisational change process and who do you have internally to role it out.