Companies give a wide range of reasons for investing in technology: improve quality, reduce costs, shorten lead times, improve consistency, and improve communication are a few common ones.
Each of these reasons, and most of the other reasons that could be offered, have an explicit or implicit basis for the technology purchase decision. And, behind each of these decisions, is explicit and implicit integration of the new technology with the company’s people and processes.
This integration does not happen spontaneously. Quite to the contrary, effective integration of technology, processes, and people requires implementation experience, focus, and support at the highest levels of the company. High level support is required because the introduction of new technology changes processes and behaviors. Behavioral change does not come easily. It often meets with significant resistance. The nature of many organizations is such that resistance to change often receives high-level support itself. Without top-level support for the change initiative, the required behavioral change may not happen.
The most frequent process-related challenge is the failure to consider the impact of the new technology on specific processes. Sometimes this failure occurs because some processes are overlooked in the implementation planning process. The more common scenario, however, is that companies, even successful ones, don’t take the time to understand their processes.
At eProcesses, we begin with a thorough understanding of the organization’s goals and objectives, its expectations. We find it useful to start with the broad corporate expectations. The focus moves from the broad view to a departmental view to an understanding of the expectations for the new technology or other change initiative.
From an understanding of the expectations, it is then important to move to an understanding of the organization’s processes. Ideally, a company will always have current, detailed documentation on each of their processes so that whenever a company seeks to improve its processes, whether through technology or otherwise, the impact can be quickly determined. Most companies have inadequate documentation of their processes and, as a result, a poor understanding of how the work actually gets done. In the interest of time it is often best to focus only on those processes likely to be impacted by the potential changes.
Documentation of the processes must be followed by identification of where technology affects the process and where people, preferably by position, are engaged in the process. This information is needed so that the documentation can be used to determine the impact of technology on the process and the impact of process changes on the behavior and job descriptions of people.
Finally, with a knowledge of the technology objectives and the processes, it is time to understand current behaviors and behaviors to be changed, and then how to change those behaviors.
The processes and job descriptions are a starting point for understanding what people do and what they are told they are expected to do. Often there is a discrepancy. To understand what people are likely to do, the next step is to review current reward and recognition programs. If people are not doing what is encouraged by the “r&r” there is a strong likelihood that the “r&r” is not providing people with the necessary incentives.
In order for behaviors to be changed long term, people must recognize a valid reason or incentive for changing their behavior. It is rarely enough to make the change in behavior a condition of employment. In some cases, incentive programs need to be developed to encourage the desired new behaviors. In some cases, contests are appropriate. In most cases, managerial behavioral and technique changes are needed.
Change management coupled with the introduction of new technology should not be, but can easily be, underestimated. While most companies recognize the need for systems integration and, to a lesser degree process definition and integration, the behavioral element is frequently overlooked. What is often recognized too late is the fact that the benefits of technological and process changes will never be realized without successful behavioral change.