Top-down software rollouts will sabotage your best efforts
Leaders evolve. We’re always thinking about mission-critical, game-changing technology that will give us an edge and help us achieve our goals. When it’s time to drive new technology adoption across the organization, leaders are faced with two questions: How do you inspire your team to change the way they’ve been working for years? And how do you implement change as efficiently and quickly as possible?
Change takes time and creates uncertainty. When the changes involve technology, it can temporarily slow things down. Training, onboarding, and a steep learning curve can make the process feel painful. And resistance from the front lines will significantly slow down the adoption process.
The reluctance to adopt new technology is universal, but it’s even more pronounced in the construction industry. Historically, technology was not built with the end-user in mind, so you ended up with technology that was difficult to use, which led to low adoption, which led to an industry viewing technology as an expense rather than an investment. However, with technology designed for the end-user, you get high adoption and transformative results. In a report by the Boston Consulting Group, the authors wrote that full-scale digitization will lead to huge savings in the industry worldwide in coming years, “For nonresidential construction, those savings will be $0.3 trillion to $0.5 trillion (10-17 percent) in the operations phase.”
In construction, time is money. Any and every delay can send a project over budget and derail profitability. This time-sensitive industry needs time-saving technology more than anyone, but the fear of temporary productivity delays can fuel their hesitation to implement the tools they need the most.
There is a way to implement change efficiently and get buy-in before you even begin the process: start with the boots on the ground, and let the end-user lead the way.
Suits in Chairs vs. Boots on the Ground
Encouraging your front-line teams to test, adopt, and fall in love with a new tool is a lot more effective than making decisions and cascading them down from the corner office. Zoom, Slack, InVision, and other tech solutions across multiple industries have proven just how well this works.
A top-down software decision in the construction industry goes something like this: The office executives need data, and they want it in the form of daily reports from the field. Field data protects them from costly litigation and provides project managers with actionable insights so projects are completed on time and on budget.
In their eagerness to get the data they want, the executives select construction management and reporting software with little if any feedback from the field, and without understanding what they need. They might even be persuaded by an all-in-one software provider that they should eliminate whatever tools the field workers are currently using — even if it’s a tool they love — to “save money.”
After six to nine months of training and software deployment, the new technology might see some use in the field. But it’s too complicated. It actually makes reporting more difficult for the field. Eventually, the team stops using it or reverts to previous processes, and all that money and time is wasted. The field doesn’t feel heard or respected by the office, and the gap between the suits and boots just got bigger.
Get Buy-in Before You Buy
This scenario, common in construction, can occur in any industry, and the lessons apply to all of us. Before implementing a new process or software solution, it is essential to get buy-in from the people on the front lines who will actually use it. If it is too difficult, if it adds too much time, or if the user does not see direct benefit, the initiative will not survive.
Leadership still needs to come from the top, but decision-makers should shift their thinking. Don’t just think about the data. Instead, think about what it will take each person in the chain to get that data to you. Will the technology make their work easier and faster?
A pilot program or software with a free trial is a good place to start. Before committing to the expense and time commitment of a company-wide rollout, test the software in the field on one or two projects. Look at the results and listen to the feedback you get. If the pilot projects didn’t go well, ask the end users what they didn’t like, or what they would like to see done better, and then find a new solution that addresses those pain points.
While this approach may take a little bit longer in the discovery and selection phase, it can save months (and many headaches) rolling out to the company while ensuring you’re implementing software that people will actually use.
Your front lines — where the product is being built and implemented — is the heart of your business. What happens there will make or break a company, so those employees should be your first (and not your last) consideration. Getting insight from the front-line workers who will use the technology daily is vital to your company’s success, and the success of any transformative change you’re trying to make.
Put your front lines first, and you’ll get the positive results and return on investment you’ve been looking for.
Written by: Kyle Slager, founder and CEO of Raken
Before founding Raken, Kyle Slager was a research associate in the investments group of Brandes Investment Partners, a leading global value-based investment management firm. While at Brandes, Kyle was responsible for making investment recommendations to Brandes’ portfolio committees, which was responsible for investing more than $120 billion in assets under management. Mr. Slager grew up working on his father’s construction sites, and that experience was the inspiration behind Raken. He holds a bachelor’s degree in economics from Brown University and was captain of the varsity football team. He also completed the Tuck Business School Bridge Program at Dartmouth College.