A mid-sized civil engineering company recently invested in Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software, only to be plunged into a period of confusion as the employees struggled with the changes that the ERP brought about, eventually leading to a 40% reduction in annual revenue.
You can be sure that the reasons for this included:
· Nobody did a good job of explaining to those impacted by the ERP why investing in this technology was the best thing to do.
· Although people were probably provided with adequate technical training, little was done to increase people’s motivation to use and persist with it.
· When employees, especially those from the ‘if it isn’t broke, don’t fix it’ school of thought, started to realise that ERP was going to change massively the way they did their job, nobody was there to explain why the new way was actually better than the old way, and the personal benefits that they would see from using the ERP;
· As staff started to use the software and discovered many ways of getting more value from it, their ideas and suggestions were not listened to and acted upon;
· No one person was given responsibility for discovering, through listening to the users, and then overcoming, with the help of the users, the barriers to using the ERP effectively that always emerge.
Getting useful feedback from users on a new system can be quite expensive (e.g. usability testing before going live, on-line survey and collection and analysis of the data, etc.) – but it doesn’t have to be. Instead, you can just ask some useful questions and listen carefully to the answers. Try this quick and easy approach. It’s called ‘Keep, Start, Stop’.
Decide which users you would like to get some feedback on the system from; try to get representation from all of the different user groups, including opinion leaders and people who you suspect will be most resistant to the change the new system is bringing about.
Schedule a quick chat with them after they have had a chance to use the system for a week or two, or simply wait for the appropriate moment to arrive during work. Ask them these three, ‘Keep, Start, Stop’ questions:
1. “You know the new ERP - what do you already like about it and what should we keep or develop?”
2. “What’s missing from it and what do we need to start doing to make it more useful?”
3. And finally, “What specifically don’t you like about it, so much so that we should put a stop to it?”
It’s important to ask for specific problems or limitations because if you don’t, people tend to reply with unhelpful generalisations like, “everything”.
Make a mental (or written) note of common themes that characterise the answers. Typically, there are three or four things that you will hear mentioned repeatedly. Once you know what they are, take action on them immediately and let everyone (including the feedback providers) know what has been done to make things better.
The value created by user feedback is not just that you get a more useful IT system, it is also that people see that they have been listened to; that their input was sought and respected and that action has been taken based on it. This is the type of leadership action that we all value the most.