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Paul Leonardi


Managing the Human Aspects of New Technology Implementation

All companies implement new technologies to help people work better. Sometimes managers request specific tools for their teams. Other times, IT departments roll out new technologies as part of an organization-wide strategic initiative. Sometimes managers want to use new technologies to radically re-shape the organization’s structure or culture. Other times, the goal of implementing new tools is to help people work faster and more reliably.

No matter who is in charge of a new technology implementation or what changes are intended, the results of these efforts don’t always live up to expectations. Research indicates that about 75% of all new technology implementation efforts fail to deliver desired changes. And these failures occur despite the fact that the technology is working – functionally – just as it should.

For over a decade, I have worked with many organizations, both for-profit and non-profit, struggling to implement new technologies effectively. The problem that most organizations face is that they leave new technology implementation efforts up to the IT department. IT departments are great at making sure the software gets installed and works as it should, but they are not in charge of developing a plan to get people to use new technologies and managing the work-related changes that accompany their introduction. In short, most organizations lack a clear plan for managing the human aspects of new technology implementation.

My approach deals with an issue at the core of all new technology implementations: People only use new tools when they perceive that they are valuable for their work and they will find ways not to use them (even if they are supposed to) if they can’t see the value. Also, people are not quiet about what they think of a new technology. They talk to their co-workers and these unmanaged messages can make or break a new technology implementation.

To deal with these issues, I work with organizations to develop a comprehensive technology management plan. Through interviews, observations, and surveys of workers I develop a messaging strategy to accompany the new technology implementation. Through pilot testing, I refine and tailor the messages so that the new technologies will appear attractive and valuable to the right people. Then, using social network analysis techniques, I identify the key “influencers” in the organization whose endorsement of the technology will have the most impact. Finally, I create and employ a number of metrics to assess the effectiveness of the new technology implementation.

For more information about this approach please contact me.

Below, you will find brief summaries of some of my recent work with clients.

Improving Knowledge Transfer Through Social Media Use

DiscoverOrganizations have a tremendous amount of knowledge distributed amongst employees. When people draw on each other’s knowledge, they work more efficiently and their outputs are higher quality. But employees don’t often know who among their co-workers has knowledge they can use in their work. Discover Financial Services found that it had this problem. Employees often spent time and money re-inventing the wheel, only to find out later that some co-worker had knowledge that could have helped them. To deal with this problem, I worked with Discover to implement a new social media tool that employees could use to develop a more accurate awareness of “who knows what” and “who knows whom.” After only six months using the tool, Discover employees improved their ability to find knowledge by 36%, which translated into faster and more creative solutions to problems at less cost.

Restructuring Communication for Innovation

Better Business BureauEach department within an organization specializes in different tasks and has unique knowledge. But if people in those departments don’t talk to one another, there is little chance that they’ll be able to pool their insights to come up with new ideas. The Better Business Bureau was having problems developing new initiatives involving multiple departments, but couldn’t figure out why. Using a variety of techniques, including social network analyses, we determined that there was virtually no communication among the organization’s departments. By developing an understanding of what kinds of information certain departments had that others did not, we were able to develop strategies to help the departments share related knowledge. The result was that the Better Business Bureau was able to begin several new initiatives that were possible because of departments sharing information with one another – both formally and informally – that added value for customers and to the organization.

Implementing Simulation Technologies to Change the Focus of Work Activities

GMOne benefit of new information technologies is that they allow organizations to produce information that was previously unavailable. Computer-based simulation tools are a great example. They allow engineering firms to generate detailed data on product performance that would be too costly or difficult to obtain otherwise. General Motors (GM) recognized this value could come from adopting a new suite of simulation tools for performance engineering. But workers were resistant to using the new tools because they thought their work was going just fine with the old tools. Consequently, even though GM required that engineers use the new tools, many of them did not. To help transition engineers to the new tools, we conducted a series of pilot tests to learn what work-related changes the tools would have to help instigate for engineers to switch to them. After building the right messaging we tested it with one group and measured the work-related changes they experienced. We then used this data to start a wider strategic messaging program to convince engineers from other parts of GM to switch to the new tools. Today, these new technologies are widely used and helping to cut product development costs.

Using Knowledge Management Technologies to Increase Customer Satisfaction

National Center for Atmospheric Research Customers evaluate service-based organizations on how quickly and completely employees respond to their needs or solve their problems. One of the IT departments at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) was receiving resports of unsatisfied customers from across the organization. Although the IT department was small, management believed that technicians had the accumen to solve customer problems. So what was wrong? Our analysis revealed that technicians were often assigned to solve problems outside their area of expertise. And, it turned out, because technicians were always away from the office working with customers, even they didn’t know who among them was the best equipped to solve a particular problem. We worked with NCAR to implement a knowledge management system that would allow technicians to learn each other’s area of expertise and to assign customer service requests to the best qualified technician. An independent audit revealed that customer satisfaction with the IT department was up over 60% after technicains began using the new tool effectively.

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