IT Success = Psychology and Planning

Installing a new business system or switching from old legacy systems is always going to be a challenge. It has been referred to as the business equivalent of heart surgery.

Understandably, any organisation embarking on this wants to get it right, but is success all about software and technology? How much of a part does psychology play? And what about the need for careful planning?

Wanting to change and being prepared for change are not the same thing. Often, it is not just the system that is changing, most often, everything is changing, from the structure, organisation, roles and culture through to working methods. If the outcome is to be successful, there are a number of factors businesses must consider.

The fear of change
Uncertainty, loss of control and a fear of greater transparency of roles and information are some of the psychological barriers people face when embarking on new business system projects. It is natural for business owners to remain circumspect, perhaps based on previous experiences or “what if it all goes wrong?” scenarios. The danger here is that the fears create a self-fulfilling prophecy.

For many businesses these days, cloud-based solutions are most appropriate for their needs. Whilst it is good practice for a business owner to evaluate and manage risk, data security is commonly sensationalised to the point where fear of “hacking” and “cyber-crime” is irrational in the context of legitimate enterprise-class cloud business solutions. It can manifest itself as ‘fear of failure’ and stop the project before it starts!

So how can psychological barriers be overcome?
Change requires good leadership and significant change needs additional trust, support and confidence. A clear vision for the business needs to be well-communicated to key stakeholders if the project is to be navigated successfully.

Good research and frank discussion by business owners and (sometimes) key stakeholders is also important for addressing any potential psychological barriers before a project is attempted. Many technology firms are used to these situations and are available for face-to-face meetings with team members and customers where open dialogue and shared credentials help to lower barriers and engender trust.

By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail
As well as the psychological considerations of change, there are also practical aspects too. By the very nature of the project, implementing a new business system is likely to impact every area of an operation. Risks as well as rewards are real, and proper preparation and planning is important. It is one thing to know that a business needs to change in order to flourish, quite another to achieve a state of readiness.

When preparing for a project, it is prudent to prepare well, especially as disagreements between stakeholders about how the business currently works, could work and should work in the future are common. Businesses much document as much as possible, from organisational structure, definition of roles and workflow (current and future) through to accounting codes, products and services for sale and contact lists. It’s a lot of work but most organisations start to benefit immediately.

Once the business is prepared for change, planning can take place.

“Diligence is the mother of good luck”
When running a successful business, taking on more work is always going to be a challenge so it is even more important to plan well, set realistic budgets for time and money and adopt an AGILE approach.

When researching technology solutions, the business needs to make sure the chosen solution has a strong pedigree and is suited to its needs both commercially and functionally. It also needs to be secure, scalable and future proof.

In addition, choosing an implementation partner needs to be carefully considered. This will be a collaborative exercise and so the business should expect good advice from the partner – it is not about being sold to! The partner’s track record and certifications need to be properly checked before a short list can be drawn-up of the top two or three – these will then need to be visited. A good partner will be helpful and constructive, will warn of the pitfalls and have no problem in suggesting customers that can provide references.

What does success look like?
Success can manifest itself in many forms and ‘what success looks like’ must be determined from the start of the project and then measured. For some, simply having all their data in one place is success, for others, it’s having an e-commerce site that is linked to inventory and accounting, or being able to get business information via the internet instead of driving to the office.

To achieve project success, addressing psychological barriers and being well-prepared for change are absolutely key, and yet these factors are all too often overlooked by businesses as they embark on their IT journey.

Andrew Peddie is MD of cloud solutions company, FHL. For more than a decade, the FHL team has utilised the NetSuite technology platform to transform business, working with small family-owned companies and global PLC’s. With experience of more than 150 projects, Andrew has experienced many of the common pitfalls that businesses experience when undergoing change.

Credit to Ambition Magazine

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About Andrew Peddie

Andrew Peddie, BSc, CEng, MIET. Managing Director, First Hosted Limited. An engineer who has successfully built a number of new businesses, Andrew’s skills in sourcing and commercialising complementary technology products continue to provide value to FHL’s customers in terms of increased performance. Specialisms: Business Development, Sales Performance and Marketing.

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