Some people embrace change, and some people hate change. But change is only one of several reasons organizations find it difficult to get their whole workforce on board with adopting key technology that improves their business.
Most organizations go through a series of transformations as they grow and expand. As this growth plays out, there can be numerous clear indicators that their underlying systems and processes are buckling under the weight and complexity brought on by the growth. Errors, slow performance, system crashes, endless ‘workarounds’ for features that just aren’t there, and massive cobbled-together spreadsheets requiring duplicate entry and missing data; are just a few examples of common indicators. According to a ZenBusiness survey, 71% of employees surveyed said their software systems are out of date.
While a company is still in its early growth stage, it’s not uncommon for teams to develop their own spreadsheets or homegrown systems that function reasonably well as project management tools. At least, they work for a while. Once projects get bigger, more complex and teams expand, these homegrown systems start falling apart and mistakes get made. As a result, the idea of onboarding a new system takes shape and gathers momentum. Typically, this is initiated by the individuals closest to the problem as they’re the ones suffering the day-to-day challenges of outdated and inadequate solutions. They’re also the ones whose necks are on the line when things go wrong. Presuming the management team is open to the idea of supporting them in their initiative to implement a new system, there begins a process of evaluating and short-listing software solutions that will meet their growing requirements.
This process can take months as they learn what’s on the market, refine their own set of requirements, attend software demos, and start getting themselves, and all the affected teams, prepared for the changes to come.
It’s at this point – the final stretch – that an organizational paralysis often sets in. It’s starting to get real. For some people, a little too real. And a groupthink anxiety sets in, making it difficult to make a go-forward decision. The team pursuing this system upgrade can present a compelling business case, point to numerous real-life failures due to the lack of technology, show compromised profitability, and many more persuasive reasons to move forward.
They can demonstrate that the cost of inaction is clearly astronomical, and the situation dire – however, the status quo nevertheless prevails despite the evidence before them.
As a software vendor on the other side of this very common situation, we’ve heard all the reasons and justifications in the book as to why they delay. It’s so predictable, we’ve factored this “goal-line paralysis” into our sales forecasts. The last 5% can often take 90% of the time. So, why does this happen? We thought it would be helpful to do a little digging and share our findings on the topic. We’ve come up with the following 5 main reasons why companies resist or hesitate to upgrade out-of-date technology.
Organizations will often point to cost as the reason for not pursuing a system upgrade; however in the same breath, these same companies will spend enormous amounts of money on many other things. It seems easier to hire several more staff, for example, than to implement software at a third the price. Our experience shows that citing cost is more of a delay tactic than a real reason.
Nevertheless, there is a valid concern that the implementation and integration of the new system will end up being significantly more expensive, and take much longer, than originally quoted. It’s rarely the software license fees that are the true source of the hesitation. To mitigate this concern, it’s important to ensure the software vendor quotes a fixed-price implementation and it’s clear what all is being done. Utilize as much out-of-the-box that’s included in the system, rather than considering any customizations.
2. Change is Hard
When a system has been in place and working for a long time, people get comfortable with that system, even with all its quirks and workarounds. The idea of replacing that system with something new, invites trepidation even among the people who hate the current system. People get stuck in their ways. They worry that maybe they won’t understand the new system. It took them forever to learn the current system, now they have to start again.
Many people have a fundamental fear of change. There’s even a scientific name for it: metathesiophobia. People have a tendency to stay in all kinds of broken situations, no matter how painful it is, because they have an intense anxiety about the unknown, and their ability to cope with it. They also have a very real fear that their job may be in jeopardy if a new system is brought in: their position may be compromised, and it could cause layoffs.
Naturally, not all individuals are quite so anxious about change and are mostly the ones spearheading the initiative to bring in a new system. Throughout the software evaluation process, therefore, they need to be hyper-sensitive to those that are more change-averse, and address their concerns early-on, so that they don’t suddenly become a barrier at the last minute.
3. Enterprise Software can be Disruptive
Implementing a new system can be time consuming and cause disruptions in various business units. Implementations are not just about configuring the software and training people on how to use it: a software implementation is largely about process. When organizations take a step back and map out their current processes for how they operate, they are always shocked at how inefficient and error-prone they are. This is normal and a result of many years of a haphazard patchwork approach to getting things done as needed. System implementations create the opportunity to rethink and redesign things like workflows, movement of data, where to find things and, importantly, who does what.
All of this causes disruption. Even for people that have little to do with the new software, or little to gain from it, they can be affected by it. As a result, the new software system can cause a wide range of people to change how they do things. And we just talked about change. Take the example of the field personnel at the construction jobsite. They are often the least willing to adapt to a new system, as they’re not typically open to using technology in the first place, and getting them to agree to train on a new system can be a barrier. Facing these disruptions can cause a company to hesitate in their go-forward decision. They cringe at the thought of getting all these people on board and trained. They fear the resistance they will undoubtedly encounter.
We’re Just Not Ready Right Now
When companies only start thinking about the changes in process and the disruption that ensues at the last minute before choosing the new system, this can cause them to slam on the brakes. They feel very unprepared to face the disruption and decide they need to hold off for a while. They reason that they need to do some work internally before jumping into a new software platform.
We’re Too Busy Right Now
Organizations also express concerns about how implementing a software system will take too much time out of people’s core work. Time is a precious resource, and coopting time from your key staff is a very big ask.
Ultimately, any kind of organizational change will cause disruption. Companies need to accept this if they’re going to keep moving forward and embrace their growth. Change and disruption are best managed by good communication. Keep people informed about the many benefits the company will receive by implementing the new system. Even the most change-averse people can be surprisingly adaptable if they’re well-informed about what’s coming and what to expect and how it will affect them.
4. It's Impossible to Make Everyone Happy
It’s movie night on a Friday. You’re sitting with the family, and you have the remote in your hand, flipping through your various streaming services to try finding something everyone agrees on to watch. It ends up in arguments and debates – and you realize you could be there in limbo all night – so you get fed-up with trying to get consensus, and just pick something. Some might be happy about it, and some might scowl with the angry face through the whole thing.
Picking the right software system can be much like that. It’s important therefore to be very focused on what is fit for the current purpose – and not try to solve everything for everyone. Maybe this time, not everyone gets a new system. There is no one software system that’s going to be a fit for everyone.
Too Many Opinions
What can sometimes stall a go-forward decision is the stakeholders that have been quiet throughout the process, then swoop in at the last minute to assert their influence. While this can at times be valuable, it’s often just a distraction as they haven’t been present for the whole decision process. To plan for these scenarios, it’s helpful to set deadlines for input early on in the process. Lay-out the timeline and key decision points and clearly refine the objectives, requirements and decision makers. Define a RACI chart for responsibilities so that everyone’s role is clear. Everybody has an opinion, so entertain all the opinions at a very early stage so that the team can remain very focused.
5. Buyer’s Anxiety
It can be a pretty big deal to pick the right software system that’s the best fit for your organization. Construction software can be especially complicated, with a comprehensive suite of tools that cover the needs of multiple disciplines in the company. Whether you’re in the market for project controls, construction management, project purchasing, cost tracking, estimating or document management – there are a lot of things to consider. Not least of which, is how the systems integrate with your existing enterprise solutions.
Did We Pick the Right System?
Even after rigorous evaluations, multiple demos, reference checks, price quote, and a thumbs-up from the whole team – there can still be hesitation. Most people have one or more stories of software implementations that went very bad. There are a variety of things that can go wrong – from the system not working as demonstrated, to unanticipated costs creeping in. Nobody wants a failure on their hands, so they naturally stall. What’s really important in a critical solution is more than just the software itself. Also look closely at the vendor. How have they been through the sales process? Have they been responsive, easy to work with, and clearly demonstrate an eagerness to deliver quality? Are they a growing and enthusiastic company? Or are they perhaps a bit arrogant and relying too much on their brand, history and client base?
Do We Really Need This?
Especially when it’s reached decision time, people will invariably ask, “can’t we make do with what we have?” Many of the change-averse individuals will argue that the current system has been working for years, why is there a problem? By casting doubt on the whole initiative, those who seek the status quo can cause uncertainty and reservations about whether they need anything at all.