Communication with Employees

There is much more to introducing a new software system than just selecting a software package and a supplier, then installing it. The impact on your staff is significant and should not be underestimated. Of course, those involved directly in the implementation of the new system are the ones who are impacted the most. Often they have to continue to do their “day job” while they work on the implementation project—identifying & specifying changes; providing test data; providing test cases; performing User Acceptance Testing, and controlling Cut-over & Go-live. But these staff members are normally already sold on the need for the project, they have probably been involved in the business case preparation and software/partner selection. However, there is a risk that while this core group is committed and beavering away to get the new system implemented, those who have not been directly involved are not sold on what is happening around them and might, at the least, fail to do their best to make the new system successful, and at worst become unhelpful or obstructive.

Those who have not been directly involved and are not sold on what is happening around them might, at the least, fail to do their best to make the new system successful, and at worst become unhelpful or obstructive.

The earlier company management starts to “sell” the new system to the staff, the lower the risk of the system outcome being compromised by a lack of acceptance by its users. Communication is the key. The company’s project plan should contain a Communication section that details how the staff will be informed, initially of the decision and the benefits that the system will bring, then on-going communication of system progress as the implementation work proceeds. Early in the project, there should be one or more workshops aimed at discussing any fears that people have; the perceived deficiencies of the existing system; recognition of the current state; and agreement of a future state to be achieved with a combination of the new system and improved processes.

There are a number of ways to communicate—a road show by a senior member of management might be appropriate to present the initial decision to choose and implement a new system; choosing a person in each area or location of the company to be the spokesperson who is involved in the implementation and responsible for keeping colleagues informed of progress; forums where people can ask questions; a regular newsletter in hardcopy and/or electronic form. Most of these should be used to get the message out and get the staff on board.

Additionally, the company should also have a change management strategy—see my post: The More Things Change 

A good flow of information to employees and discussions with them will decrease risk and increase the likelihood that the new system will enjoy a smoother implementation, be successful and deliver the business benefits being sought.

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Written By Peter R Hill

Peter has been in the Information Services industry for more than forty years with broad experience covering a number of industries working in both Australia and New Zealand. He holds an MBA from LaTrobe University. For seventeen years Peter headed and was a director of the International Software Benchmarking Standards Group (ISBSG) a not-for-profit organisation with a mission of improving the performance of IT through the provision of project history data. He has served on a number of Boards of IT companies. In 2010 Peter became an non-executive director of Fenwick Software. Peter has been a speaker at conferences in Australia, Asia, Europe, Brazil and the USA.   He has had a number of articles published, covering key aspects of the Information Services industry.  He is a past Chairman, Secretary and Fellow of the Australian Computer Society. He is a member of the Committee of Management of Writers Victoria. Peter has compiled and edited five books, including: "Practical Software Project Estimation"  published by McGraw-Hill. In his leisure time, Peter enjoys motor sport and writing.

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