HIT Think

How to make 'people time' mandatory for every tech investment

At its core, technology is an enabler. That’s great in many cases, but it also brings unique challenges. Specifically, technology needs to be understood and leveraged in the context of what the organization needs and in the context of each employee’s role.

Many companies make the assumption that technology solutions are all they need to invest in because they’ve hired smart people. There’s an expectation that their employees will just figure things out. This is despite the fact that people have day jobs, so it’s not easy for them to make time for something new in addition to meeting their existing responsibilities in a timely manner. The result? Time- consuming and inefficient training and onboarding processes that reduce employee and technology effectiveness.

Another area where technology-acquiring companies fall down is when they haven’t made such an investment previously. In these cases it is not uncommon to get sold on a piece of technology without a proper set of expectations. And then there’s the lack of executive-level commitment to training and onboarding, which is all too common.

There’s a better way to do this.

Maximizing a technology investment and ensuring its smooth adoption starts with a “people time” investment. As with any investment, the results being sought won’t kick in immediately. Companies that play the long game will, however, have a significantly better chance of experiencing the ROI they are seeking by providing their employees with the time and resources necessary to learn new technology solutions and being strategic in how they do it.

Of course, it’s not a simple task to find hours or days to carve out for employees to learn a new piece of technology. Trust me: I get it. But I wouldn’t be writing this article if I didn’t know that it is not only possible, but a critical component of business success in 2019.

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Allow me to use cloud computing as an example since it is a huge driver of the tech industry. In Forrester’s 2018 “Ten Key Developments Will Drive Continued Growth in Cloud Usage and Spending” report (summary here), they include “Immersive training programs will skyrocket to drive cultural change” on the list. Not a surprise, and pretty hard to be “immersive” without a real “people time” commitment and executive buy-in.

Here is some battle-tested advice from someone who has been doing this for more than two decades.

  1. Ask the vendor up front what the timeframe for implementation, training and change management has been for its customers.
  2. Ask for access to reference customers that have implemented the same technology. In addition to the questions mentioned above, take the time to understand the total cost of ownership for these companies.
  3. Segment out how much “people time” is required and then build that into the overall plan. Don’t assume that an implementation will simply just fit into their schedules.
  4. Related to the above point, impress upon your company’s decision-makers that there is a ramp-up curve in getting people trained and that the initial time investment will pay off in the long term. Additionally, the amount of training and onboarding time will drop off considerably as the new technology becomes ingrained in everyday processes.

Beyond the customer advice above, there is also a critical vendor piece to this puzzle: doing a better job setting customer expectations. Every technology vendor gets excited about their product; if they didn’t, they wouldn’t be in business very long. And, in many cases, there is enthusiasm about increasing their customers’ productivity, solving a problem, accomplishing some important task and/or saving them money. That’s all great, but it’s not enough.

What I’ve seen work best is to combine this enthusiasm with thoughtful conversation early in the sales cycle about capabilities and outcomes. This conversation should include the total cost of ownership, not only for the software but also for the implementation and training. It pays to be forthright about the amount of time it will take people to genuinely understand the technology and use it efficiently. This is the best way to enable the customer to make a truly informed decision. Nobody likes surprises.

It’s human nature to discount the amount of time it takes to do pretty much...anything. This is especially true for adopting new technology. We want to believe that it’s going to save us time, money and aggravation and that our work lives are going to be easier. And, with most technology, that is certainly the goal.

Reaching this goal is possible, but investing in “people time” – in addition to the technology itself – must be an integral part of your plan. It will go a long way to making projects more successful and employees happier in their jobs.

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