New Technology Implementation Tips from Simeon Cathey
Our Marketing Director Geoff Talbot recently sat down to talk technology implementation tips with expert panelists Simeon Cathey and Harout Katerjian, for a webinar we hosted just the other day (You can find that webinar about implementing new technology in the age of digital transformation here). Their insights were so good we had to share them again! Here is what CEO and Co-Founder of Content Panda Simeon Cathey had to say. And be sure to look out for a blog post with tips and strategies from Emgage’s own Harout Katerjian.
When you hear the term digital transformation, what does it make you think of in terms of the organizations that you work with?
The word “digital” is very technology focused. But at the end of the day digital transformation is really about people, right? It’s really about people leveraging these new digital tools to transform how they connect, collaborate and communicate with each other (the three C’s of digital transformation). That’s really the problem we’re trying to solve with our current clients: how do we get people more connected with each other. Where I see success instead of failure, is with people who look at technology as a way to use some of these new tools to work better together and become more efficient.
I think you’re really on to something when you talk about not being confused by the word “digital” and still seeing that it’s really about people and connection. So then how do you discover what piece of technology is the best fit for not just your organization but the people of the organization?
I don’t know if there is one process that always works. It depends on the cultural and social environments within an organization. But there’s a gap that I see a lot of the time between the IT team and the business side of the company. The IT team is usually pretty up to speed on what’s going on in the industry in terms of technology and what tools are available. And the business side is just trying to check off the things they need to do to have a successful day. That’s always the gap we are trying to figure out: getting the IT team to partner more closely with the business to really look at what technology is available and how it can be applied to what the daily needs are and what the business needs are.
What are the factors you value or look for when choosing technology. What is the main priority?
The main priority is how is the technology going to impact the end user’s productivity and daily experience. There a lot of other things to think about too as you’re looking at which technology to choose. But you should start with the end user and the business goals. Do some surveys to find out how the new tech will align with those factors.
And then step back and look at the upfront costs, the maintenance costs, and the support costs. Ask yourself how much of a change is it from what your already doing in the organization with technology? Because there is definitely going to be change management costs and training and support costs. If you don’t take these factors into consideration, then it’s pretty easy to trip and fall. Then you end up with a big basket of tech that no one will use.
There are five common challenges when implementing new technology: complexity, resistance, cost, politics, and legacy systems. Which of these have you most commonly seen within your organization or with your clients?
I think historically the most common challenge has been complexity; how everything fits together inside the firewall. But I think now with how things are changing and evolving, the challenge is resistance. Change is a huge deal. Bringing people in and having them become part of the change is one of our bigger challenges now. Having a tech person or someone in the C-suite come in and say, “hey were going to change the way you do your daily work,” generates a lot of resistance.
Cost I think is starting to go away since you can subscribe to technology and even do a pilot or a trial run. I think politics, at least in my experience, has sort of fallen off a little because everyone is realizing the value of keeping up to date with technology. Otherwise you fall behind and it’s going to costs more later.
Do you think resistance is decreasing as the generations within the workplace are changing. Because there are a lot of younger people coming into the workplace (Millennials, Gen X’ers) that really don’t know life without technology. Are they any less resistant?
I’m probably not a good person to make a judgement on that because I do a lot of consulting in healthcare. There are a lot of people who have had their jobs for 15 plus years in that industry. So the younger generations aren’t really there. I see younger generations in some of the non healthcare companies and they seem to be a little more open to change.
But boy, if you’re going to change the way they do work, you really better think about making it simple. The younger generations are used to having less complex systems in front of them, meaning something that can fit on their tablet or phone. So I think they’re more open to change. But you better think about how they are going to interact with technology, rather than throwing something like SharePoint in front of them and expecting them to pick it up.
Do you have any big failure stories? How did you overcome the failure?
I’ll share a story without saying names. One of the largest retailers in the U.S was managing their global real estate footprint. And they were using Excel to manage their huge real estate portfolio. So they wanted to build a SharePoint solution. I asked them in the beginning to justify the use of SharePoint and they did. So we went about business.
After a while, we built a really elegant solution for them and they presented it to the business. The business said, “What are you guys doing? You can’t bother us with this now, it’s not completely done.” It really started going downhill fast after that. So we sort of stepped back and slowed down a bit. We sat down with the business and asked them questions. We wanted some insight into what their work day looked like and what the biggest pain points they experienced were.
What we found was they were having a really simple problem. People were getting sent the wrong version of Excel. They just needed a single location where they could all look at the same data. It was kind of enlightening that this was really just a simple business problem that IT tried to over-architect a solution for. We were able to find a solution just by sitting down with this business and having them become a part of the design.
The fact that they were a part of the conversation and had input, emotionally connected them to the outcome. They felt like they were a part of the solution. I think that’s a really important thing that we forget about. It goes back to the word “digital.” It takes us away from the human factor. Business really is human to human. And it really just comes back to: what are the human problems we have on a daily basis?
Is it ever justified, after spending a lot of time and resources and money, to look at a piece of technology and say it’s not going to work and to get rid of it?
With cloud technology today, there is a new opportunity to be able to put your toe in the water. You can spend a little money and test out the technology with a small group. You can have the end users evaluate something like a pilot program and get early adopters to look at some of the new technology. Or you can go buy a few licenses just to try it. That way, if it doesn’t work, instead of spending millions of dollars and then having to feel like you have to keep buying to make your investment worthwhile, you can turn it on and off.
I think that at the department level within a lot of organizations, they are already doing that with things like Drop Box or the Google Suite. It is easy to go out and try these things now. On the IT side of the house, we definitely have to think about making some of those smaller investments and turning it off if it’s not going to work culturally, socially or demographically.
You mentioned a couple of great things here with pilot programs and also with getting early adopters in. Do you have any other wisdom to offer us in terms of things an organization can do to prevent technology from failing.
I’ve done a lot of traveling, around the U.S and globally, talking about this. It’s not just one thing that you can do, it’s a series of things. I think it starts with asking what kind of value do you expect to get out of this technology? Build that justification and then take that to the executive team and get sponsorship. Make sure you have stakeholders and executive level support. I think that’s really important. You can also do a grassroots program, where you get business users changing the way they do business. Then present the data to the executive level to get sponsorship. But you need to do that quickly. Without executive sponsorship and the right stakeholders behind you, you may run really fast into a brick wall.
I think the next piece is really aligning to the business use case; make sure it is useful and that it works. People are not very forgiving. Especially if you put something in front of them and ask them to change, and then it doesn’t work. They’re not going to be very trusting when you come back with a new solution. The other thing is to provide training. Get feedback and make changes quickly. Be responsive to early adopters and their input. They are going to be your champions who will tell people about the new technology. Don’t just say we’ve got this amazing solution, drop it in place and expect everybody to change. Train and support, train and support.
Let’s have one success story where someone successfully implemented a piece of technology and it really helped an organization.
I’ll share one with you really quick. The business goal of this particular company was to get people to change from old shared folders/public folders on Exchange or Outlook, and move to SharePoint for their business processes. The challenge was just getting people to come over and understand the technology.
We really focused on training because we knew that at some point, there was going to be a mandatory shift. We knew that trying to bring all of those end users in and walking them through the change was impossible. The organization was too large and users were too busy. So we just made sure there was really good training in place. And we put it in context so that when people landed in SharePoint and needed to understand, things were available so people could just click through and self learn.
What should people take away from this conversation?
Start with business goals and end users first. Take your time in choosing what technology to implement but fail quickly. Take your time understanding the end user and if it’s not going to work, cut it off quickly. Go back to your end users and figure what will work.