On our last skype call we spent some time having a very interesting discussion about how technology has often been less than successfully implemented in the educational realm and we all spoke from personal experience. Lack of support, lack of training, lack of motivation, fear of change, decisions imposed top-down with little or no consultation with the end-users, lack of alignment with educational goals, lack of leadership and lack of accountability were just some of the reasons cited for less than stellar outcomes.
Based on my experience in the private sector, I would also add that these contextual issues bedevil all software implementations, regardless of the milieu, and it is amazing how often they get overlooked by project managers, program planners and other stakeholders – in spite of the fact that they are such well-known issues!
Here is a sobering statistic:
“Research highlights that only one in eight information technology projects can be considered truly successful (failure being described as those projects that do not meet the original time, cost and (quality) requirements criteria).”
Despite such failures, huge sums continue to be invested in information systems projects and written off. For example the cost of project failure across the European Union was €142 billion in 2004
The basic reason for this is that anytime a new technology is introduced into an organization it will result in a need for (often signifigant) human change at some level within that organization.
It still leaves me dumbfounded (after years of seeing this play out in software implementation projects running the gamut, scope-wise) that we do not place primacy on the human factor, above all other considerations.
During our residency this summer, as we struggled to absorb new information which sometimes challenged our assumptions, we were reminded of the fact that change is sometimes uncomfortable. Many of us do not like being outside of our comfort zone even though it is vitally important to do so if one is to ultimately grow intellectually and emotionally. However, change is the only constant so as program planners, we have to do a much better job of helping stakeholders navigate through it. The problem is that “Even when the change is a good idea, if it is inadequately explained, led or managed it can produce negative impacts such as disruption, conflict, inefficiency, increased costs and ultimately, project failure.”
Therefore, collaboration is extremely important. “The greater the degree of collaboration, the more knowledge is gained and shared by staff and the greater the likelihood of common committment and follow through by the staff.”
In terms of software implementation best practices (which equally apply to planning a program reliant on TML), Colin Walter makes the following suggestions:
1) align the software implementation with the strategic business goals
2) provide a practical, simple framework for change across dimensions including stakeholder management, communication, the impact of change, organisational structure, job-design, skills and training, benefit delivery and transition management
3) work with individuals to help them understand, adapt to and develop their skills for the new software
4) drive leadership and team development to support the desired change
5) coach both change and program leaders, as well as line managers
6) provide tailored training in leading, managing, delivering and coping with change
I am very optimistic about using social media in some of these change management contexts to improve this much needed collaboration/communication and I have seen it work well. For example, I have been involved in a few projects where wikis were successfully used to greatly increase collaboration and communication amongst team members which resulted in much greater project buy-in, which increased team members motivation, etc. etc. – establishing a virtuous circle. Furthermore, this kind of collaboration often unleashes creativity with stakeholders feeding off of each other’s ideas to come up with novel solutions to unforeseen roadblocks typically encountered in any kind of tech implementation project. Potentially great ideas have a spotlight shone on them through the use of social media that may not otherwise ever see the light of day. This is the power of social media in terms of improving collaboration. We can adapt or perish. If we have new tools at our disposal, let’s figure out how to use them for the maximum benefit. The printing press, the telephone and the telescope were all demonized before their true value was revealed. The latest technological tools are no different in that regard. Let’s get creative!Let’s not be afraid of change, let’s EMBRACE it!