By: Lee Jacobson, CEO – Apmetrix
Business owners and management are often mesmerized by the potential of new software and then flummoxed when the change initiative utterly fails. Despite a robust literature on the pitfalls and best practices of change management, there often appears to be a psychological disconnect when it comes to IT. The irony being that IT initiatives frequently require the most stringent application of change management principles to succeed. Big data and analytics 2.0 serves as a case in point.
There is no question that big data can transform an organization’s bottom line from adequate to excellent, simply by informing business activities with relevant data. If you see a sudden spike in customer attrition following every phone outreach campaign, the obvious thing is to drop phone campaigns in favor of something less intrusive. You lose fewer customers, which is always more profitable than new customer acquisition. You also don’t waste precious time and money on a counterproductive use of a call center.
Business owners and management hear examples like this and salivate, rightly, at the cost-cutting potential. They find a best-in-class or customizable analytics program and, for reasons that often remain opaque, shove it onto their entire staff with zero warning. Organizational culture, like regular culture, is obstinate. It doesn’t change on a dime and never changes without appropriate preparation. Introducing new software is always problematic, but analytics software represents a sea change from the old culture into a data-driven culture. That sea change can terrify employees and generate such entrenched resistance that no amount of coaxing will ever get them to use the software.
The data-driven culture is terrifying for employees for a lot of reasons. The primary one, however, is that data-driven is frequently read as a code-word for imminent downsizing. Employees assume that the analytics will reveal some weakness in their performance or the performance of their department. Alternately, they fear the entire purpose of the analytics program is to find excuses to let people go.
Change management best practices can help your business assuage some of these fears. One of the ways to avoid employee terror is to make the case directly to them about why you want to start using the program. In most cases, the idea is to bolster business, not cull employees. For an analytics program, specifically, remind them that the majority of analytics deal with external data sources, not the internal metrics that are much more likely to result in downsizing. Finally, make it clear that the analytics program is intended to streamline the usually agonizing process of data entry and analysis. The less time people need to spend on it, the happier most employees will be.
While the value of a given technology may seem apparent in the office of a business owner or management team member, the value is often less clear to rank-and-file employees. Before investing resources on an analytics 2.0 application, no matter how intuitive it might be, deploy change management best practices. It will limit employee panic and help to ensure maximum user adoption.