Volume 1 Issue 4 January 2004
Quest for Adoption…
Now that you’ve got the software how do you get them to use it?
By Darryl Praill, Senior Vice-President Marketing
I’ve been involved in Enterprise software applications for almost 20 years. I’ve lived all sides of the equation - as a user, a consultant and a vendor. Regardless of my role, regardless of the maturity of the technology, regardless of the vendor and consultant claims and promises, the actual rollouts never seem to go as smoothly as you expect. And that’s frustrating … for everyone. You are left wondering why this is the case since, after all, everybody agreed that the investment was worthwhile and the initiative was strategic. And, most importantly, as we continue down the road of economic recovery, these initiatives must be successful if we are to challenge for, or sustain, market leadership.
At Adexa’s recent customer events in Las Vegas and in Kuala Lumpur, it became quickly apparent that these same issues continue to exist. During the event, numerous Adexa customers presented case studies of their own supply chain initiatives, for which Adexa eGPS was a single component in an overall corporate strategy. Consistently, the case studies revealed that their biggest challenge was getting their employees to embrace change. By that I refer to process changes, the data required to support the process changes and the solutions necessary to manage the new processes (such as Adexa eGPS). Change was not only a challenge; it was often the major roadblock.
The customer forums provided a tremendous opportunity to share ideas and tactics to combat these issues, however it still left me hungering for greater insights into how we can overcome the issues associated with new, strategic, enterprise-caliber initiatives. During my research for more answers, I came across an excellent article from the Harvard Business Review (www.hbr.org). It was a case study and commentary written by Eric McNulty and entitled “They Bought In. Now They Want to Bail Out.” Sound familiar?
In this case study, the main character is the CTO who is responding to a demand from the CEO for their retail men’s wear chain to better understand their customers. The CTO believed a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system would accomplish this. Although not the same as Supply Chain Management (SCM), both CRM and SCM represent significant change and potentially significant upside. The CTO did all the right things: polled the users, polled the customers, polled the executives, researched the market and the vendor offerings, had an initial assessment done on their needs by an independent third-party consultant. From this he was able to “blue-sky” with the executive team all the possible benefits they could gain. This exercise got them onboard and provided seed funding from each departmental budget to pursue the idea further. However, when the time came to present the rollout plan, along with real timelines, real expected benefits and real costs, which included things like systems integration, training, sourcing and cleansing of data et cetera, everyone objected and began changing their minds about the initiative. You can imagine the frustration of the CTO, and his uncertainty concerning how he would explain this turnabout to the CEO. Careers are often made or lost on these types of initiatives. So why the sudden change of heart by the executives?
The CTO became a victim of the blue-sky paradox – the process of getting people to dream big in order to sell a project but sets them up for disappointment when they have to come to terms with what’s really achievable for the price and in the associated timelines. The internal participants lose faith. As the article says “You were asking these people for money as well as ideas. It’s funny how attached people get to their ideas when they are paying for them. Technology is the easy part. People are a whole other challenge.”
So what could the CTO have done differently? How could he now save the project? The Case Commentary from this paper had four experts provide the following insights:
· Opposition cannot be overcome until the CTO breaks this lengthy, complex project into segments and stages that can separately demonstrate value and gain the confidence of the system’s ultimate users.
· The CTO must become a salesperson: be responsive to the concerns of each user, and be willing to sell the resulting plan before important meetings or decision points. Meet with the members individually to ensure that he understands their requirements and criteria for success. Consider asking the question, “If a series of 90-day trials were run, what would they have to show to earn your support?” In each one-on-one, obtain the commitment from each executive to support the project if each stage of the plan delivers the agreed-upon capabilities.
· The CTO must share his intentions with the CEO. The CTO should be the first person to tell the CEO about the users’ initial reaction. If the CEO hears about it from someone else, the CTO will be less credible when he claims he can address the current opposition.
· Initiatives like this should be phased in by functionality, by geography, division, or in a combination of those factors. Implementations become a series of small experiments or incremental iterations.
· These types of initiatives will go wrong if the primary participants consider it theirs to do with as they feel. These people need to understand they will not get everything they want, that they will not have input on all aspects of the project, and that they will not be able to choose the final schedule. Such a company-wide project must be led and sponsored from above – by the CEO. Otherwise, resistance to the project will only grow.
· Every large-scale initiative requires a sponsor who will directly benefit from the results, and accordingly believes in it blindly. The CTO is not this person, as they are there solely to support the corporate strategy and goals, as documented by the line-of-business owners and the CEO. Without these sponsors, the project will fail.
· Projects like these require four key elements. Collect the best available data; Mine the data; Use the data to simulate the best plan of attack; Arrange the structures, incentives, and metrics to place the original corporate objective – as dictated by the CEO – at the center of their initiative (which, by the way, is exactly the philosophy behind Adexa eGPS). These four elements will not happen overnight. Models get better with age. Operations need extensive refinement and ‘soak’ time before they can optimally use the insights derived from the models. Users need to understand this.
· The CEO must mandate the objective to the company, or the project participants, and not just the person assigned with the project – in this case, the CTO.
· A proof-of-concept is an excellent way to boost confidence in the overall initiative.
What’s remarkable is that these issues are consistent across industry, geography, and strategic initiatives. It is not just a supply chain problem. Go to www.adexa.com and look at the current poll. It asks participants to identify the biggest challenge they faced when rolling-out these initiatives. Guess what? The results are consistent with everything we’ve just talked about. Take the poll yourself. Understand how you are not alone. And then use the advise of the experts to overcome your challenges, avoid the “Blue Sky” paradox and march confidently down the road to successful implementations with rapid adoption curves and faster times-to-benefit.