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Liz Murray
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Teaching New Tricks: Weaning Your Team Off the "Old" System


Congratulations - you decided to invest in a new database to better align your systems with your organizational goals! Your heart is full of excitement and joy (as it should be!), however, around the office, the sentiments seem cloudier. It is natural for staff to have mixed feelings when faced with an impending system implementation. No matter how positive the change, there will always be passive and active resistance, rationalizations, and debates, particularly when the change means finding new ways to work.

To ensure a smooth transition from your old system to the new, it is essential to consider the human-side of the project by forming an integrated strategy for promoting user adoption:

  • Start communicating early (and keep communicating). Staff inherently need time to process and adjust to change. To help prepare staff and keep them informed, project updates should start as soon as possible and continue throughout the duration of the implementation project. Developing a formal communication plan designed to familiarize staff with the new product and to keep them up-to-date on the project’s milestones ensures staff engagement in the process. The plan should include a multi-channel approach (e.g. emails, staff meetings, collateral in common areas) to collaboratively reinforce the concepts and appeal to individual learning styles. Share the good news about what the new system means to your organization’s operations. In particular, focus on how the system will be useful to the end user within the business context (e.g. what can the system do for YOU) to make the project understandable and relatable to all audiences.
  • Create excitement! Generate enthusiasm around the new system by finding ways to celebrate. Throw a launch party to mark the go-live date with a special event. Host staff breakfasts to share project updates. Leverage select staff as cheerleaders by identifying “super users” from each team to work closely with the database team on the project as subject-matter experts. These champions can act as influencers to their peers. Provide incentives such as treats, gift cards or awards for adopting the new system or displaying specific desired behaviors. Make the process fun by getting creative. For example, host a database trivia session where teams compete to answer questions about the new system. Try to engage as many people as possible in the project (as they say, “the more the merrier!”). There are many ways for even non-technical staff to participate in the project, such as by providing end user feedback, compiling a project newsletter, or planning an event. 
  • Be mindful. Put yourself in the end user’s shoes. For example, if the new CRM allows for greater automation with gift processing, the job descriptions for revenue operations will need to change to integrate the new technology. Be mindful about how this change will affect certain staff members by encouraging participation in the process redesign to provide an active role for staff in shaping their new work functions and solicit user feedback. It is important to collect and listen to feedback from staff and address any issues as they arise. Continue to monitor progress after go-live and proactively provide additional help to staff that need extra care adopting the new system.
  • Provide guidance. End user training is essential to user adoption. Staff must understand how to effectively use the new database and feel comfortable with the available tools in order to embed the new technology into their work. Training should be relevant to the specific business context and include any customizations to the system. Develop comprehensive documentation outlining new processes and policies. Centralize documentation and keep materials up-to-date so staff can access the reference resources as needed. Lead by example by encouraging senior leadership and management to become early adopters of the new system.

There is a lot to contemplate when planning for a new system. Consider the many faces of your organization when developing a multi-faceted implementation strategy to help lead your organization from the old to the new!