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Desiring change, but being fearful of it—tips for implementing new technologies

Introducing new systems and technology to your team can come with its share of challenges.

It’s no easy feat getting people adapted to a change in operations, especially when it includes the unfamiliar territory of a new system. You might be wondering where you can even begin… 

In our recent webinar, we spoke to AEC industry experts to find out what advice they had for implementing changes in operations and technology. Here are some of their thoughts:  

Fear of change is inevitable

As is the case for implementing any major change, there can be pushback from staff—especially in creative environments. Tanya Quelch, Head of Business Systems at Grimshaw, noticed staff were worried that new systems might “take away” creativity.  “I noticed a real resistance against systems when I joined Grimshaw,” she said. “I really wanted to change this because I see things quite differently.” 

Tanya believes that systems are here to help us become more creative, rather than diminish it. Good technology can help staff manage projects more efficiently, giving them more time for design.  

“It’s helpful to think about it like a new phone,” she said. When you buy a new phone, you may have some reservations about using it and the unfamiliarity can be daunting. However, once you get used to using it, it becomes second nature. “Systems should be the same. It should be easy to transition and adopt.”  

Best-of-breed systems and “breaking the monolith”

Tanya also believes the concept of “one system does all” is outdated. With so many specialist functions to serve, so many specialist systems to fulfil them, and so many opportunities for integration, there’s no longer the need for a single “monolith”. 

This is something Joe Emanuele, Head of AEC at CMap Software, echoed: “We’re moving away from the idea that one large ERP system is the best solution.” An accounting system that also offers a project management bolt-on, for example, may work well for the finance team, but is unlikely to be embraced by creative-types in operations. 

“CMap is a good example. It’s not an IT system, nor is it a finance system. It’s a system for the architects to help them manage their projects.” This means you can find systems that work for the staff that’ll be using them, allowing them to take ownership of it, and integrate the relevant touchpoints.

Creating a roadmap for successful adoption

As Customer Success Manager for Open Asset, Kyle Bryant has noticed that firms who are consistently winning new business have extremely clear processes in place. “It’s important people don’t just understand their roles, but also their responsibilities,” he said. When these roles and processes are clearly communicated throughout the team, it makes for a successful change in operations. 

He also noted that it’s important for staff to understand the differences between their current system and the new one they’re adopting. This can be achieved through a clear understanding of the different processes. 

“We don’t want to run into a situation where people have no idea what to expect when getting into a workflow.” By having everything clearly communicated, it yields better end results for whatever you’re hoping to accomplish with these changes. 

Owning and rolling-out the change

When you’re implementing new technology, it can be helpful to consider how you’ll approach ownership and roll-out. Whether you opt for senior leadership (top-down), boots-on-the-ground (bottom-up), or somewhere in between, there are pros and cons to any method. 

For Tanya, the top-down approach brings the most success. She puts this down to senior leaders being more decisive and not being afraid of owning a change. “They actually tend to join you in driving that change.” 

Fear of change is something Tanya’s found to be a barrier when using the bottom-up approach. “At the beginning, they’re really excited,” Tanya said of junior staff, “but when it comes to execution, they tend to step back.” This is typically because the sense of responsibility can be overwhelming. 

Joe suggests a “middle-up/down” approach. This is because the most senior staff often don’t have the time to run the project... and they rarely see the need as they’re not at the coalface. “Very often, it’s the middle staff who see and feel the benefit of it,” he said. From there, they’ll drive the change upwards and downwards. 

Of course, it’s all dependent on the business, its structure and its characters. The key is to stay flexible and avoid laying down a prescriptive method. It’s up to you to identify who’ll be using the new system, what they'll need to do, and so on, and driving forward with that knowledge. 

Tackling anxieties around integration

Tanya reveals that Grimshaw are enjoying an integrated tech stack. Updating data within one system means that data is then pushed everywhere. “For me, that’s the most important part—that information flows.” 

Despite the efficiency that integration has brought them, Tanya recalled there being a lot of anxiety around integrating systems. People were worried that data wouldn’t be consistent. “It was a bit scary to break that monolith down into multiple systems all those years ago.” 

However, the cloud-era has ushered in advanced integration possibilities, and her users today have zero appetite to return to a compromised, monolith-style approach. “In fact, many of the newer users will have no idea that one part of their data is stored in a finance system, another in a HR system, another in CMap. It all feels like one environment, which makes for a great user experience.”  

“It’s important to have one source of truth,” added Joe. "Today’s modern cloud-based tech stack will enable you to get that. Instead of being forced to use a jack-of-all-trades ERP, you can combine your best-of-breed systems of choice.” 

To watch the full discussion, click here.