New Guy (fresh out of business school): We need to implement this new software program that will save us tons of time, tons of money, and will help the company operate more efficiently. Here is the cost-benefit analysis that shows how much money it can save us (face beaming with pride at his own genius).
Industry Veteran (New Guy’s manager): Yeah? How much does it cost?
New Guy: $20 a month per person. But take a look at the cost-benefit analysis…
Industry Veteran: Sounds interesting. Let me think about it.
Does this scenario sound familiar to you? Have you been in New Guy’s situation, either as a new or longtime employee? You want to use your tech savvy skills for the benefit of the company you work for, but less-than-tech-savvy upper management just doesn’t see the big picture. You make a great suggestion, a couple of months go by and you don’t hear anything from your manager aside from the awkward hallway meeting during which all he says is “I’m a… still looking into that program you asked me about.” You inevitably get frustrated knowing you suggested a solid and beneficial plan, and you then complain to your colleagues about the company-wide lack of innovation and creativity that has become apparent to you. It is easy to get discouraged when you are forced to use old outdated technology for work especially when you are aware of so many superior solutions.
Well, you’re not alone. Many bright new employees have felt the sting of being shut down by a manager. However, take a moment to consider the fact that it’s not entirely the fault of the extremely busy and not-so-tech-savvy manager. New technologies come to us at breakneck pace these days, and it’s extremely difficult to navigate through it all in order to determine which technologies will be most beneficial for your company. Therefore, although you have the best of intentions, you must carefully consider the approach you take in attempting to convince your manager that employing the latest technology is in his or her best interest.
Rarely do mid to upper-level managers immediately see the potential of a new technology in its entirety because most of them have been working a certain way for the last 20-30 years. Not only that, almost nothing sounds more painful to a manager than changing something about the way the entire company works. Therefore, a different tactic must be taken. This is where the “pilot” comes in. Just think about how television networks use pilots. They advertise a pilot of a new show, build anticipation and then broadcast it to see what kind of response they get from viewers. If a show does not generate the interest they need in order to be profitable, they’ll yank it. Developing a pilot program to introduce a new technology is a great way to help determine if this new technology you’d like to adopt will work well for your company. Here’s how you do it:
Step 1: Recruit a team within the company that will be able to test the new technology. I recommend including a not so tech savvy co-worker to join your team, as this person will be able to give you an idea of how well the other slow-to-adopt employees in the company will handle the product. Remember, this team needs to see the vision so give them a clear and concise explanation of what the tech can do for the company and what you expect them to do.
Step 2: Approach your manager with the idea of your small group testing the new technology, reassuring him or her that productivity of the pilot team will not be affected. If your manager is ok with your team testing the new tech to do work real work, then great. If not, go to plan B. Ask to test it with fake information and fake scenarios. You may ask to run it side-by-side with your company’s current solution. There are so many ways to get the the wave started. At this point you are just trying to soften your manager up and get him or her to consider your proposal.
Step 3: Assuming you get permission to do a pilot, test the product. Put it through the paces and make notes along the way. Be sure to engage the others that are piloting the product and have them provide brief reports. In so doing, you may find that the product does a lot more than you first realized.
Step 4: Write an honest review/analysis of your team’s experience. If you include the good and the bad, you will see that your manager and others in the company will trust your judgement. You should also be prepared to realize that the solution is not right for the company; nevertheless, don’t be concerned with having wasted your and your co-worker’s time. You have proven that you can help the company make decisions on new technology, and you can be relied on to make smart decisions.
Step 5: Don’t stop learning and trying new things. If you are like me, learning about something can be just as fun as using it.
I’ve had the opportunity to help many companies transition to new technologies, training their workforces and aiding in implementation. Rarely did a company go for company-wide implementation right off the bat. Most companies do a pilot run with a handful of trusted employees to determine whether or not the tech is a good fit. It takes patience and determination to introduce something new, so stick with it if it’s a product you believe in. It might be a rough road, but they’ll thank you in the end.