Whether you are in HR, Sales, Logistics, or Construction Contract Admin (the list goes on), there are numerous new web based tools/software products that can boost your productivity, increase your collaboration between coworkers and customers; and just outright keep you organized. If you are working for an established company, finding the right software product is only half the battle, you most likely have to convince your superiors (or your colleagues) that this is the correct course of action for the company. Not only is there usually an investment required to use the product, there’s always some type of training and onboarding required when adapting to a new product. Here are a few things to consider should you want to ‘sell’ your idea to your organization, especially if the culture is more “old school”:
1. Do your research.
The most obvious place to start your research is Google but depending on the keywords you search for, the results you get could be too vague and not targeted enough for your industry. I recommend using review sites like Capterra.com that have a wide range of categories for you to search through and compare between products. For example, they have a category specifically for Construction Bid Management Software, this is great when you are looking for a niche product.
Once you find a product with positive reviews and the features that you are looking for, check out their website, is it current? Other things to consider are whether they are thought leaders in the sectors and whether or not their pricing is upfront?
Once you’ve identified which products are of interest, ask for a demo. After the demo you can also ask the salesperson if you can play around with a demo company profile to get a feel for the product and whether or not it would be easy enough to use. It’s important to use a sample account so that it has some dummy data in order to give you context.
2. Put together a business case.
There are 3 key components to consider while building your case:
- How many resources are you currently utilizing to accomplish the company’s duties in question?
- What is the investment required to switch your entire company from current processes to the new technology?
- What are the time savings you can enjoy after your colleagues have adopted the new system and it becomes part of your culture?
Speak to your colleagues and gather all the relevant data required to complete your case:
- How much time do they spend on these specific tasks in a given week?
- Are they missing other deadlines because these tasks take too long?
- What are the missed deadlines costing the company? How does it affect your reputation?
- How much time would it take to train all employees to use the new system?
- How much time would the company save?
- Is the current method frustrating in any way?
- Would the new method save frustration? Improve turnover?
Assemble all your data in a spreadsheet in order to compare the plus and minuses of the new software.
Web based, collaborative software is the way of the (near) future.
3. Start lobbying your office.
As you are gathering data about your current process, listen for comments like: “Huh! I wish there was a better way to do this” or “this system is so frustrating and takes so long” or “I’m always so far behind”.
If you hear any of these comments, chances are these individuals would be more than willing to consider a newer way to operate. Get their buy in one on one prior to presenting to a large group, that way you can comfortably field their questions one on one. The more of your colleagues you can get to buy in before a company wide presentation the better since they will spread the positive gossip about it, instead of being negatively influenced by the ‘No-Nos’ in the company (not that your company has any, of course).
4. Present your solution to your superiors.
Ask all relevant decision makers for 20-30 minutes of their time as a group for you to propose your idea. You might have to give them the elevator pitch in order to secure the meeting slot and make sure they prioritize the meeting; make sure you have one ready.
You have to thoroughly explain your business case but ensure you don’t criticize the current method, as they may have come up with it. Focus on the positives of the new product you are proposing, and explain your business case and why it’s important. Getting into some of the problems others are currently facing and their relevant costs is important as well.
At this point, it’s important to stress that you are willing to take full responsibility for the vetting the new software and on-boarding colleagues so that you aren’t adding more work onto your their ‘plate’.
5. Use it on a small project to start
There’s no denying that technology is expensive. Any company is right to be skeptical of an expensive offering that is largely unknown to internal stakeholders. Any product may seem great in a sales video or a demo, but this doesn’t guarantee that the product will work in your company. Sales demos are often scripted to show ideal use cases that occur in ideal situations. But real life applications always get dicey. Circumstances change and a project doesn’t always follow the perfect business logic that a software product might expect.
One way to mitigate risk is to try new products on a small scale first. Buying a complex product without a test run is an extremely risky proposition. As such, many vendors will offer a trial in some form or another. And if they don’t, we recommend steering clear. Pick a project or a small subset of your work that is large enough to cover your various usage scenarios but small enough that you can bail if things go south. If your small project is a success, you can use it as a proof of concept to convince others that your idea will work on a larger scale.
6. Share results visually.
Many companies have established metrics known as KPIs (key performance indicators) which are numbers or formulae that reflect the company’s performance in one particular area. A useful characteristic of many KPIs is that they may be visualized on a chart. Trend your KPIs week over week when you’re trying to introduce technology into your business. If your KPIs are improving as you make technology changes, you can establish a defensible position to your superiors. It’s hard to argue with improving KPIs as KPIs are success measures defined by your company’s management. Establish your KPIs prior to trying a new technology. Here are some ideas to get you started:
For Engineers & Architects
- Estimation quality (what % are we off on project budgets?)
- Project deadlines (on average, how many days ahead or behind schedule are your projects completed?)
- Contract scope (how much does the cost of the project change after it is awarded ie. due to change orders?)
- Project deadlines (on average, how many days ahead or behind schedule are your projects completed)
- Work quality (how many man hours do you spend fixing deficiencies as a fraction of total man hours on a project?)
- Collections (how long on average does it take to get paid for each dollar that has been invoiced?)
Of course changes in many of these KPIs are only noticeable over months or years. So you will have to use your judgement to determine how to present these change or whether to try to measure short term changes in these KPIs. It will definitely take some creativity but KPIs are excellent tools in proving that your technological changes are working.
We have better things to do than redundant data entry and paperwork!
7. Take responsibility for onboarding others. (Volunteer to be product champion in the office)
Change within an organization (especially technology changes) requires willpower. Product champions provide that willpower. A product champion is an employee within an organization who advocates the usage of that product to other employees. These product champions understand the value of a new technology to the extent that they are willing to take a leadership role in the adoption of that technology. This means becoming an expert to the extent that they can teach others.
8. Follow through and re-evaluate
If you’ve clearly defined your expectations before trying a new technology this step should be easy. Measuring your KPIs regularly should allow you to build graphs and other visuals to present to your superiors. If decision makers are still not convinced, present the results in terms of cash flow which can be more tangible than KPIs. If management is still skeptical, propose a slower rollout schedule for the new technology. If your KPIs don’t improve then you may simply be using a product that isn’t the right fit. In this case, suck it up, admit you were wrong and try again (but gather more feedback).
We understand that convincing your superiors of changing a process that they`ve lived with for so long can be difficult, but we are the next generation. We have better things to do than redundant data entry and paperwork! Web based, collaborative software is the way of the (near) future.
Be bold! And good luck!