Sometimes the biggest stumbling block in moving up from legacy technology isn’t a technical issue. It’s that employees prefer the old system and don’t want to change. A transition that faces a lot of resistance won’t go well. The adoption plan needs to include addressing employees’ concerns and winning them over during technology upgrades.
Reasons for Employee Objections to Technology Upgrades
What if the employees are right? They know their jobs. If they think the existing system works really well, is there really a reason to replace it? Newer isn’t always better.
There may be issues which the people using the system don’t see. The old technology may be heading for a dead end, and it’s better to change course early rather than waiting for the last minute. On one hand, it might be a maintenance nightmare, expertly held together by engineers who are on the verge of nervous breakdowns. On the other hand, it might all look good right now to the employees who use the system, but not so good when the whole system falls apart.
The problems with a legacy system aren’t always intractable. There may be ways to improve it without scrapping it for technology upgrades. Perhaps some custom development will get around existing limitations. If there’s really a lot of opposition, this could be a compromise worth considering.
Understanding Resistance to Change
Sometimes opposition to change is just based on laziness or fear of something new. Often, though, there are real concerns that need addressing.
- The new product may have been poorly presented. Employees may not understand how much it can do. If they’ve only been given sales pitches and not serious technical explanations, people who need something that works may not be convinced.
- They may be afraid they’ll lose their jobs because the new system will do so much more.
- They may have invested a lot of learning in the existing system. Becoming as fluent with the new one will take just as much effort.
- The transition period could involve a lot of work in addition to learning. During that period, they may not be able to handle their normal tasks. Quality of service could decline until everything is worked out, making customers unhappy.
- Some things may really be harder to do with the new system. The old one could have special functionality that the new one just doesn’t have.
Making the Transition Easier
There are ways to reduce employee anxiety and ensure a smooth transition to a new system.
- Talk with the people who have doubts. Understand exactly what they’re concerned about.
- Have people who actually understand the system explain it. They’ll be in a better position to answer questions than someone who only knows how to sell it.
- Provide lots of training, and figure it into the transition schedule. People don’t know what a product can do until they have some detailed knowledge about how to use it. They’ll discover ways to do their work which they hadn’t previously realized were available.
- Anticipate the rough spots and find ways to make them smoother. It may take some custom work to add needed functionality. Perhaps there are third-party modules that will help in doing important tasks.
- Be honest about how the new system will affect people’s jobs.
Get Everyone on the Same Side
If people feel that an upgrade has been imposed on them, it won’t go well. A good transition needs the support of everyone involved. Sometimes the change is a mistake, but more often the problem is a poor transition plan or a lack of understanding.
Replacing a legacy system should make it easier for employees to do their jobs. They may have real concerns that need addressing. They may have mistaken impressions. Both managers and employees need to know what the issues are and how they can address them. With a good transition and training program, the upgrade will make everyone happier in the long run.