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Why new technology can feel like it’s uncovering more than it’s fixing

Technology-collaboration
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To be successful and remain competitive, it’s essential that businesses embrace new technologies. There is no success without progress – and by extension change – but unfortunately change comes with inherent challenges. Whether the new technology you are implementing is customer facing, back-of-house or both, you are bound to come across some difficulties in the process.

However, that’s not a bad thing, and should not be seen as such. And while it can feel daunting, trepidation about getting started certainly shouldn’t delay the implementation of new systems. Instead, lean into the opportunity to identify sticking points and design better processes that will support customer and employee satisfaction.

Being open to change 

Whether you are implementing cutting edge technologies – machine learning, for example – or switching from one apprenticeship delivery system to another, the changes that come up whilst implementing new technology are often far reaching. Everything from where and how information is stored, to the types of communication that should be sent via new channels, needs to be addressed.

It is a big job, and requires an openness to change from staff. This openness needs to be cultivated which is why it is important to view – and frame – the identified challenges as chances, rather than problems. Yes, new technology will reveal ‘broken’ or dysfunctional aspects of existing processes, but this is a positive part of the journey and generates opportunities to improve how things function – and therefore business efficiency, competitiveness and profitability – as well as to design processes that are smoother, ultimately enhancing the employee experience.

Collaborative reflection 

Bringing new technology into a business requires some serious reflection. In order to introduce any new product successfully, you – and your team – have to be willing to reinvent processes that might be well established. Asking staff to change habitual behaviour can be tricky, but it is worth the effort. Be aware that this process requires careful management to ensure that staff don’t feel like they or their work is being questioned, only the processes they’ve been working with. What’s more, this is also a great opportunity to reinvigorate or build a strong team culture.

Inviting employees to contribute their opinion and ideas is essential for the effective integration of a new system. Employee buy-in is paramount and opportunities to collaborate in the process should be built into the implementation project from the get-go. And this should not be a one time thing. As a new technology is integrated into daily workflows and adopted by greater numbers of staff, different challenges and sticking points will arise. Feedback loops should be built in to enable employees to flag any difficulties or questions that arise through their use of the new technology, and a phase be included in the implementation plan that allows for iteration and problem-solving.

Before getting stuck-in to the implementation process, taking the time to reflect upon how things are currently done and why will help to reveal where the chosen technology can be most effective, and where processes will need to be redesigned or even scrapped altogether. Again, including staff in this process can help to get them on-board and secure their willingness to stick with the transformation through any difficult patches.

Framing change 

Despite technology having come a long way, the challenges facing people in charge of implementing new technology have not changed at all.  

Workforces are increasingly digitally native, at ease with all types of technology. And user experience is a focus point for developers, making new technologies easier to adopt.  

However, despite all this progress, change is always a bit uncomfortable. Remember though that the advantages far outweigh the difficulties when it comes to implementing new technology. And there are many strategies business leaders can implement – some of which we’ve already explored – to smooth the process.  

In 1985, a still-relevant article on digital transformation printed in the Harvard Review stated: “Perhaps the easiest way to accomplish this task [the implementation of new technology] is to think of implementation as an internal marketing, not selling, job. This distinction is important because selling starts with a finished product; marketing, with research on user needs and preferences. Marketing executives worry about how to position their product in relation to all competitive products and are concerned with distribution channels and the infrastructure needed to support product use.” 

This framing can be really helpful. As we explored earlier, when preparing to introduce new technology into a business, it’s wise to involve internal teams. Employees are the customers of this change and without their support, the implementation will be a failure, even if the ultimate goal is customer, rather than staff, satisfaction. As the new technology is introduced, staff should be invited to participate in focus groups to identify the processes that they believe the technology will impact, to explore how those processes could be improved to fit with the technology, and to raise any concerns they have. Being asked to contribute their worries about the new system early on will enable management to address these fears as the implementation is carried out, resulting in greater staff confidence with both the technology and management teams.  

Given the heavy emphasis on uncovering inefficient or perhaps broken parts of internal processes and systems, it can feel like the implementation of new technology is merely revealing cracks. However, this is an extremely valuable part of the process. By the time new technology is being implemented, it’s already been identified as the solution that will enable the company to grow, reach more customers, or outperform the competition. That is step one. The second step is allowing the process of bringing that technology in to reveal other areas of the business that could benefit from being improved. It’s a hidden advantage to new technology that feels uncomfortable, but will make all the difference to business success.

What we’ve learnt: Insights from the Aptem Implementation team 

Working with our customers to integrate Aptem products into their businesses, we’ve learnt a lot about the sticky patches you can go through introducing new technology. More often than not however, these challenges turn out to be lightbulb moments for the business.

A Higher Education customer created a core team of Aptem Champions, that was made up of the central apprenticeship team and representatives from other parts of the University. This proved to be invaluable as it enabled buy in while establishing a feedback loop and understanding across all areas the technology implementation would inevitably touch.

A College customer initially scoped Aptem to bring the administrative functions together, whilst still maintaining face-to-face for all student contact points. The pandemic forced them into a remote delivery model. This has proven to be so effectively delivered using Aptem that based on student feedback around convenience and availability, elements such as reviews will continue to be remote Zoom meetings within the system.

An ITP customer decided to adopt Aptem in order to drive efficiencies, and wanted it to be balanced with delivering a great learner experience. Through the implementation period, the Aptem team worked with the provider to critique and improve processes. By the end of the project, a clearer, cleaner and more data-driven process was in place.

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