Selecting new software systems can be a time-intensive process for many municipal organizations, from the initial request for proposal (RFP) to the procurement. In fact, the RFP process takes about 57 days on average to complete, according to a report published by GovLoop. In transitioning to new technology systems, much of the focus is on major undertakings, such as issuing the RFP, choosing a vendor, planning the data conversions and preparing for the eventual go-live. However, these activities are only part of the formula that leads to a successful technology transition. The training portion is a vital and foundational process that makes the difference between a successful transition and one that could derail an organization’s operations.
Focusing on training can help to ensure a smooth transition and rollout while avoiding common mistakes that often arise during implementation, including miscommunication and unrealistic expectations, which can diminish the overall experience. When beginning the training portion of any technology project, organizations can avoid pitfalls by targeting the following key areas.
- Utilize time efficiently
- As technology transitions are time-intensive, it is important for the municipality’s project managers to utilize their time effectively during the training process. There will be plenty of training sessions over the course of an implementation. While some personnel may need to be present at every training session, not every individual will need to attend. Schedule staff to attend training that is relevant and necessary to his or her respective role. Taking the time to determine who needs to be at which training session is being respectful of their time, potentially preventing employees from getting frustrated with the process.
- Communicate with technology trainers
- Open and frequent communication with trainers is critical for any new implementation. It helps keep both parties appraised of what’s working during each training session, where people might need more assistance and how training methods can be improved for both the trainer and trainee. As previously mentioned, clear communication can also mitigate the chance that employees will spend valuable time attending training sessions that might not be applicable to them.
- Familiarize yourself with the software
- During training, it’s not enough to see how the new software is used. It’s important for individuals to actually use the software and familiarize themselves with it. Hands-on training has been shown to increase user engagement and retention while improving problem-solving skills. According to a study by Attune, hands-on training can increase the user’s retention rate by as much as 75 percent.
- Encourage buy-in from employees
- An important step in the training and implementation process is to acquire employee buy-in for the new technology systems, because employee engagement is directly related to positive business outcomes. A recent Gallup poll reported that organizations with higher levels of employee engagement produce better outcomes, retain better relations with customers and have employees who are more likely to remain with the organization. Making employees feel as if they are an active, engaged partner with the training process and communicating the benefits the new systems will bring to their daily workflows can help increase overall success.
- Set realistic expectations
- It is important for leaders to set realistic expectations as far as participation goes. No matter how large or small an organization may be, it is important to have more than one person guiding the training to avoid normal job responsibilities from slowing down or disrupting the implementation training. Shared responsibility for assisting with necessary trainings and answering questions from employees will encourage collaboration while preventing resources from being spread too thin and balancing the workload involved.
- Understand that training extends beyond the go-live
- It’s important to understand that staff will most likely need further instruction on using the new software once the official training is over. Project managers should raise any questions they have with the training vendor to ensure continuity of service after the go-live, for example, customizing modules to meet the unique needs of the organization’s workflows and processes.
Training is a critical part of any technology transition and municipalities must take an active role in this process. Though every technology project is unique, having a strong training plan in place will help municipalities achieve long-term success. The level of engagement put in throughout the process will manifest into greater efficiencies after the implementation is complete. For municipalities whose people succeed on their new software, the value they get from their investment is returned multifold.