how much can I push my coworkers to use new technology?

A reader writes:

My director (my boss’s boss) has tasked me with researching new software (project/resource management) for my team to use. She asked me specifically because I’m good with technology/systems/organization. I’ve found a few good options that seem to fall into the categories of (1) offering more features that we want but are more complicated, or (2) offering fewer features but are simpler/easier to use. In an ideal world, I would prefer option 1 because I know that the obstacles can be overcome with training, and then we have more features to use. But many people on my team are (a) not tech savvy, and (b) averse to any change at all. One of these people is my direct manager.

Part of me wants to say that I shouldn’t care how much people *want* to do new things; if they want to work in the 21st century, they should accept that you need to have a basic level of understanding of how computer systems work and be willing to learn new things as technologies change. But I know I don’t have the authority to push that on people, and I know that my manager won’t hold people to that standard because he’ll be one of those balking at having to learn a new program. I know that my director should then be the one to push this, then, but I’m not sure how much she is going to do that.

Do I guess my question is: when you know that people are going to balk at a new process/program, do you take that into account when setting up the process, even if it means not getting the ideal? Or do you just go with what you think is the best solution, and push it through?

It depends on a range of factors:

  • What your role is and how much authority you have compared to the people who will be balking. If you have authority over them, it’s much easier to say, “This is the system, and you’re expected to learn and use it.” If you don’t, those efforts are generally doomed, at least without someone who does have authority backing you up.What’s more, not only is it hard/impossible to insist people learn new systems when you don’t have authority over them, it’s generally not appropriate either. In that context, you should lay out the case for the system you think will best serve your team, and be clear about pros and cons, but then it’s up to someone else to decide if they want to prioritize making everyone learn it.
  • How essential the technology is to the goals it needs to achieve. If the technology is the only way of achieving what you need to achieve, then it’s pretty clear cut. But sometimes there are other ways of doing the same thing. They might be slightly more expensive, or less efficiently, or more unwieldy. But sometimes people are willing to tolerate a little unwieldiness in exchange for not having to teach 15 people a complicated new system when the old one does get the job done, just less elegantly.
  • How essential those goals themselves are to your team and company. If your team absolutely must achieve X, and that requires learning a new software, then it’s essential and that’s that. People might not like it, but if X has to happen, there’s not much room for argument. But on the other hand, if X is a nice-to-have rather than a must-have, your team (or its decision makers) might end up deciding that as nice as X would be, it’s not worth forcing people to learn a new and complicated system that seems likely to cause angst. So you have to balance the importance of what you’ll achieve over the price that will be paid for achieving it. And while you might think that people’s complaints about having to learn something new should never trump what a new system could achieve, there aretimes when it does – for instance, when their time is incredibly valuable and better spent on something other than a tedious learning process.

In your case, I’d go back to the director, tell her what the trade-offs are between the two types of systems, and ask her for guidance. You could even prepare a recommendation that offers two different systems – laying out the advantages and disadvantages of each. When you do this, you want to be very up-front about your concerns that some people on staff will balk at learning the new technology of the more sophisticated system. Don’t downplay those concerns because you think those people are in the wrong; if you do, and then the new system never takes off because people resist it, its failure might potentially reflect on you. You’ll boost your own credibility by being honest about the likely reception on your team.

{ 77 comments… read them below }

  1. Runon*

    Another factor I would consider is what is the problem that you are trying to solve and is it a tech problem or is it a people problem. If the problem is: Our projects aren’t very well managed, the director doesn’t really know what is going on with all her teams, and resources aren’t being used effectively. That is not a tech problem. The problem is people. The way they think about the work, they way the manage it, the way they interact.

    Now tech can be a catalyst, but if you are going to be the person who brings online the new tech that is the catalyst for the other changes you have to address those things outside of and apart from the tech.

    Getting people to understand there is a problem with the way the projects are being managed currently and come up with solutions and then offer the tech to help implement those solutions.

    If this is more of a hey we have new tech that can make things easier, find the person or two on the team who are interested in using it, get them on board, let them talk about it, make it more of a hey Jane is using it and getting more done faster issue than a you have to use it or else issue.

    1. clobbered*

      Oh god, 100 times this.

      I’ve seen people say “we need some PM software” as a proxy for “we need actual project management”. These are so not the same thing. To steal a phrase, using PM software doesn’t make you a PM any more than sitting in a garage makes you a car.

      The software you should pick is the one that maps best to your current PM practices.

      If you do not have current PM practices, solve that problem first.

      If you do have PM practices, you need to sit down with your PMs and understand their process, and try them out on different scenarios and get a ton of input on this.

    2. Jessa*

      I totally disagree on the hey Jane is using it method. If you’re implementing tech, you have to implement. You can’t play patchwork quilt of who is and is not using the new stuff. You bring it on board, you train and you set a deadline for everyone using it.

      The other thing though for the OP, all these new features are they useful or just fancy stuff. Training is important if you need the features or predict you will within a reasonable amount of time. But if they’re just there because they’re cool and do not serve a valid business need, go with the easier to use thing.

  2. Jamie*

    Good advice given already. As someone who has implemented two ERPs and a QC system and lived through the go-lives it’s basically an If – then – else type of situation.

    1. Will the software genuinely add value by increasing efficiency or accuracy in areas where this is important? IF yes THEN get serious buy in from upper management (if you need it). ELSE- drop project.

    2. Will you get support and full buy in from upper management for proper training and to make the new process mandatory even taking away historical options? IF yes THEN work up detailed training plan and schedule (consulting with other personnel as needed – or external training from software vendor) and work up a implementation schedule complete with costs and deadlines, etc. ELSE – scrap project.

    3. Is upper management still on board with making this a required change after seeing the time and resource investments required? IF yes THEN proceed. ELSE scrap project.

    Depending on the software and who is involved this will have varied degrees of complication – but it’s all a waste of time and money if people will still have the option of their old inefficient system. If it’s mandatory it needs to be sink or swim…but give them all the life boats and life jackets and swimming lessons they could possibly need – and then some – in the way of training. So if they sink it’s not because they didn’t have the proper tools to stay afloat.

    And dealing with reluctant end users I can just share my process. A LOT of patience in the beginning and a LOT of explaining, explaining again, and over explaining about how it will benefit them and make their lives easier, more efficient, etc. Stress the benefits over and over way past where you would reasonably run out of patience – because some people do get freaked out by new technology and they need someone to hold their hand and let them know that no it’s not optional, but they will totally get it and they shouldn’t worry and you’ll be there with them to make sure they learn it properly.

    Stage 2 is when people have gotten it, proven they can use it properly and it’s going well but they are still bitching about how it was better the old way because they are pissy their refusal was overridden. This will be a small handful compared to step one where many were legitimately nervous. At this point the attitude is “it is what it is” and ask if they need more training. No? Then let them wallow in their nostalgia for writing things on paper with pencils…but you don’t have to pay it any mind.

    If it’s truly optional, though, and it’s something being provided that they can use or not as they see fit then just train those who are interested. For the rest it’s between them and their bosses.

    1. fposte*

      “Give them all the life boats and life jackets and swimming lessons they could possibly need.” Yes! Please! And make clear that production expectations are temporarily looser as a result–don’t expect people to swim like Michael Phelps the day you drop them in the water.

      1. Jamie*

        Absolutely. The key is to make it safe for them to try.

        Assure them that you know there is a learning curve at first and metrics will take that into account…but that the benefits will come once they get the hang of it.

        Assure them that everyone will have questions and it doesn’t make one stupid if they don’t know everything about a brand new software immediately. That it’s okay and expected to have a lot of questions. It’s the people who never have questions that worry me.

        Keep the lines of communication open. Make sure the training wasn’t just done, but was effective and if not try it a different way. When it comes to software a big session where people see the overview that’s fine…but for actual training you’ll save a lot of time if you do small groups where they can learn hands on.

      2. Jessa*

        Oh yes, please please make it understood to the bosses that productivity might take a temporary hit. Particularly if your users are hourly call centre types with talk times and all that horrible garbage.

    2. Leslie Yep*

      Super smart.

      At Stage One, we also had success with the one-two punch of a judgment-free zone and also refusing to concede that it will be hard. Our changeover was to a new CRM, and yes you need to learn new ways of doing things but seriously. Where it says “start date,” you enter the start date. Where it says “employer,” you enter the employer. You will get it, because it’s super simple. This isn’t hard or complicated. It just takes a little time to internalize. Sympathy for the time spent, but no concession that it’s anything more than a very temporary growing pain (that will be relieved if you invest the time now!)

    3. The OP*

      OP here. Thanks for all this great advice–Jamie, the breakdown of decision making here is really helpful. Especially since training isn’t my area of expertise but I’ll probably end up handling it for this project–our problem (developing a resource management tool) was submitted to IT to develop into a project, but they came back and said it was a low priority for them, even though it is a high priority for us (a small department of a larger company). So my boss’s boss has asked me to look into off-the-shelf solutions, w/ minimal IT help.

      1. Jessa*

        Oooh…your boss may need to get with IT because you need to make sure your off the shelf thing plays nicely with everything else. Not having IT buy in could be an issue in the long run.

        1. Jamie*

          Count on lack of buy in from IT being an issue if you try to implement software without consulting them.

          That’s like implementing new accounting procedures without running it by Accounting.

  3. Chinook*

    Be aware that part of the issue with introducing new tech (I am looking at you, Office 2007) is not the tech, not the people but the training and the lack of opportunity to “play” with it.

    I have seen the implemenatation of Office 2007 in 3 different offices. Eventually, everyone was happy with the new program and the new user interfaces, but what really shortened the time for them to accept the changes was having good training that was flexible to meet different needs. Some people learned well by listening to a one hour workshop. Others needed one-on-one, on demand help with cheat sheets. Most, though, needed time to play with the program when they weren’t worried about a looming deadline and putting out a quality product. People need to be given the opportunity to make mistakes. In an ideal world, I would love to see new tech be taught in 2 workshops (with time in between to work with it in real life so they can come back to the second session with real questions), with plenty of food brought in, a “sandbox” environment that looks realistic but no one has to worry about destroying the data, realistic projects to play with and led by someone who knows how to answer questions without making the users feel like idiots.

    Allison, can I apply for the job of corporate trainer at the Chocolate Teapot Factory? I could split the time with being your Chaplain of Pastries, thus guaranteeing good food at the training sessions.

      1. Chinook*

        Cool – part chaplain, part of corporate trainer and willing to cover reception as back up. I think I have found my dream job!

    1. Jamie*

      For a pastry even I’ll sit through training off Office 2007.

      And a huge THIS to everything you said here. I love the sandbox analogy.

      1. Chinook*

        I learned the joy of the “sandbox” when we beta tested an on-line application process for one place I worked at. In order for anyone who answered the phones to be able to help those who called in, they let us “play” for an afternoon to see how many ways we could cause user problems. I think I set the record for crashing the login screen about a dozen times (only because I ignored every prompt on the screen on purpose.) By the end, even are staunchest critics admitted that the process was going to go smoothly.

        1. MeganO*

          OH MAN yes please to a sandbox! We just upgraded to a new info management system (ILS for library folks out there) and had to do it all in production.

          It was a learning curve for everyone involved, including our vendor, and things are much better than they were. But yikes.

    2. Ariancita*

      I’m super curious about why Office seems to be an issue to learn for many users. What are the issues? I know, OT, but I’m encountering this with colleagues. I just always assume being pretty pro at Office was a banal necessity and easy to accomplish. But now I’m dealing with files sent to me that are a mess because users don’t know even the basics. It’s a head scratch to me because the software is very basic and easy (except buggy–but those aren’t the issues I’m encountering).

      1. Lore*

        Some issues we’ve had in my (mostly fairly tech-savvy) office: 1) waiting a long time between upgrades, so we’re not going from one version to the reasonably similar next version, but to the more-or-less completely revamped three-versions-down-the-road version, which also means that in the interim we’ve been using idiosyncratic custom-designed tools and patches to mimic the functionality of the version we haven’t been upgraded to–so switching to the tools actually designed for those things becomes unintuitive; and also 2) not upgrading PC and Mac users concurrently or with the same version; right now all our PC users are on 2007 and our Mac users on 2011, which are pretty substantively different in a lot of the functions we use most–so every training has to be done twice, and colleagues can’t informally help each other as easily.

        I think also poor or limited training can sometimes make people more anxious about just playing around, searching help files and Google for tricks and tips; once you’ve made yourself believe something requires specialty training, it’s hard to break that habit and realize almost every problem has been solved by someone somewhere…

        1. Ariancita*

          Interesting. So it sounds like for you guys, a major component is the timing of upgrades. I guess in my environment, where we get all the upgrades as soon as they come out, it’s much more seamless. We do occasionally still get stragglers, but when I receive a file from someone in Office 2007 (and even earlier!), I send it back and tell them to upgrade their software and send back to me (because they’re supposed to send back).

          But I’m still wondering about basic software use. There are basic things that people don’t know that makes me shake my head (I know they won’t instinctively google for things, alas).

          1. Lynn*

            For any large program (and the Office suite qualifies), most individual users use about 20% of the program’s features, and consider those to be “the basics”. But everyone is using a different 20%.

            My mother-in-law is a playwright, and there are features of Word she considers “basic” that probably most people on here don’t even know about, because they’re needed for formatting a play at all properly. But creating a graph in Excel (which I do all the time, and would describe as “basic”) is like voodoo to her.

      2. Chinook*

        The way I explain it to those who struggled with the new Office interface is that Microsoft, for the last 20 years, has taught us to think like a computer and now they want us to think like humans (the enrve of them!). Once I pointed out that everything that was there before is still there but now easier to find if you think about it logically (i.e. you insert a picture or a table, so it will be on the “insert” tab). When they redesigned the Office Suite for 2010, they fixed the few non-logical items (like switching the “button” functions to a “file” tab (or wheatever it is – I can’t remeber off the top of my head).

        1. Jamie*

          It’s just the change that unnerves some people. Even if it’s easier and more intuitive – it’s different and some people get very freaked out by that.

          Kind of like if someone came to me today and said my car can now fly. It will save me time and money and I’ll be home in 8 minutes as opposed to 1.5 hours and it comes with a bathroom and a snack bar. As awesome as that sounds I would be terrified because my first thought would be what if I can’t learn to fly this thing and I crash and kill myself or someone else?

          Why some people had a similar reaction when moving from Office 2003 to 2007 I have no idea.

          1. Jessa*

            Oh change makes me crazy I’ve a processing disorder, and I’m a lot wedded to first thing I learned. Once I get past the learning curve and I have to learn by doing. I can’t get it from a book really, someone has to show me. Or at least a video I can follow, then I’m okay.

            But honestly I hate Office. I know how to use it and I do it all the time at work, but at home? Never. I’ve used WordPerfect since DOS. And there are some features of Word that just make me crazy that are so not intuitive.

        2. fposte*

          That’s a change that makes it easier for *new* users, though. Most stuff we do regularly we don’t do by signage. Our office has a door with a counterintuitive handle, so we have a sign. But nobody reads the sign, because who reads a sign to open a door? That’s how I (and, I suspect, many people) am about software stuff I’ve done every day for years, and why changing stuff (especially stuff that breaks keyboard shortcuts!) can throw off my speed for quite a while.

        3. 22dncr*

          AND after 22 years of learning to think like a computer it’s REALLY hard to now have to think like a human (: I truly hate the Ribbon feature and always turn it off. I AM happy that they finally put Excel and Word back on the same plain again so I guess there’s that. That’s really the only bene I see to the upgrade. IDK – maybe I just don’t use it enough anymore. Current Job is VERY, VERY low tech.

          1. Chinook*

            The biggest advantage I found with the newer versions of Office is all the formatting and layout type things you can do now, some of which you could always do if you knew which drop down menus to look in. I also like the ability to create a style and, if you use your preformatted headings correctly, how you can change every subheading to match without having to look for them. Now, if you misuse these things, that only causes headaches for others.

        4. Cat*

          I don’t know if that’s really true. I spent months trying to remember that the “insert comment” button was now under the “review” tab and God help whoever decided that the “strip authorship from redlines” setting should be buried somewhere under “trust center” if I ever figure out who it was.

          1. Cat*

            (Okay, to be fair, the latter might have been in the same place in the old one; it still annoys me though.)

      3. Chinook*

        I think the other reason we get some ugly looking documents in Word and Excel is because nobody is really taught how to use them – it is just assumed you know how. Even in schools, no one really teaches you how to format or use headings correctly so that you can create a table of contents that automatically updates itself (the BEST THING EVER) – the focus is always on the content. If you are a lazy perfectionist (i.e. I like things to be perfect but I don’t want to spend a lot of time doing it), you learn to google how to get Office to do some of this for you, but most don’t even realize what it is capable of.

        I am a firm believer that everyone who touches a Word or Excel document should have to take professional development workshops on the basic and advance tricks with these programs. I actually created lunch ‘n’ learns at one office (where I was the receptionist) and even the most advanced users learned something, especially because it was a true workshop where everyone was free to add their own tricks to the conversation.

        1. KellyK*

          Totally agree. (And once we get a new training coordinator, I need to volunteer to do the same thing in my office—it’s a fantastic idea.)

        2. Ariancita*

          This. I think the issue is no one ever learned to use it to begin with. I’m the Mac user on my team and almost everyone else is on Windows, so when they hit tab and space multiple times without actually setting a tab, it creates problems. I mean. Setting. A. Tab. Basic stuff.

          I never took any formal training, but I use and have taught much more complicated software, so learning Office on my own, even advanced features, was very easy. But I think you’re generally right about no one actually learning to begin with.

          I recently merged two cells in a table for a grant app and my colleague exclaimed: “Oh wow! I didn’t know you could do that!” *sigh*

          1. Chinook*

            I blew the mind of my supervisor last week who makes and uses amazing pivot tables in Excel (so very much an expert). She didn’t know that there was a way to search for information in a spreadsheet using Ctrl+F. Between that and showing her the trick with copying the information from the cell above (Ctrl+”), she suddenly understood how I was able to work so fast in her spreadsheets.

        3. Mike C.*

          I think a lot more of it has to do with the programs themselves. It’s so much easier for me to make a presentation or document look great in Keynote versus Powerpoint and Pages versus Word. Word in particular makes me spend so much time just to get a document to look right, and half the time I’m fixing something which was fine just a minute before. If I’m going to spend that much effort typesetting, I might as well just do it all in LaTeX.

          1. Chinook*

            Mike C, have you considered creating your own default template? I don’t know how to do it in the older versions, but the newest ones let you create your styles and set them as default.

            I am the opposite of you when it comes to Keynote and Pages vs. Word and PowerPoint. I find the Apple products frustrating but that is probably because I know the Mircosoft ones so well. I would rather do everything in Word and then copy and paste it into Pages and using Numbers just hurt my head.

          2. Ariancita*

            I use InDesign for any serious page layout. But Chinook is right, it’s great to create your own templates when you need to use Word.

          3. Windchime*

            This, for sure! Word is the *worst* at making simple things like bulleted lists. If I try to make a simple change, my bullets end up mis-aligned and there doesn’t seem to be any way to fix it. I always end up doing it in OneNote, getting it the way I like it, and then pasting it into Word.

            I was one of the people who used old-school Excel and Word for a long, long time till our office upgraded to 2007 and I really hated the ribbon. I didn’t like the fact that I now had to search and puzzle and discover things that used to be right in front of me on the menu. I’m accustomed to it now, but I really did not like it a bit at first. It wasn’t intuitive to me.

            1. Jessa*

              Oh man I do this, but I do it in WordPerfect and then move it to Word. I hate the way Word treats font changing.

              1. Chinook*

                Jessa and Windchime, I wish I could teleport to your office and show you how to use “format painter”. It is the paintbrush icon on the first or second tab. Google how to use it because it allows you to take something you formatted correctly, like one bulleted line, and “paint” that format on to something else (including different documents. There is also this icon in excel.

                1. Jessa*

                  I shall go look for this right now, but I must say at home? I’m waaaaaaay back in terms of upgrading Word. OH wow this thing is amazing thank you thank you. See in WP, all I have to do is insert a font where I want it to start.

                  Even in my oooold decrepit Word I found this painter thing. WOW.

                  FYI Word 2000 giggle.

                2. Chinook*

                  Jessa – here is a secret – a lot of the stuff you can do in the newer version of Word you could also do in the older versions but it was hidden in a menu inside a menu. I had Word 97 on my computer at home long after work had upgraded and was giddy to find out out what I could really do on it.

                  Format Paint, though, is very giggle worthy!

        4. the gold digger*

          I remember the time I was holding a ruler next to my computer screen trying to align the damn check boxes on a powerpoint and wondering what was wrong with me that I could not get them to be straight.

          I was very happy when I learned about the “align” function.

          1. Jamie*

            For me it was ages ago when I was new to working and someone taught me the joys of format painter.

            And when I taught my boss how to use the auto subtotal function I earned a whole lot of good will. It’s like magic when you discover new things that shave hours off tasks you’ve been doing forever the long way.

    3. Natalie*

      Argh, the one-size-fits-all approach to new software bugs the crap out of my.

      For whatever reason, my company has decided that the only way to train people on new software is to make them sit through a 2 hour webinar, which usually includes multiple points of listening to someone else’s hold music, people jumping in and out of the webinar with a corresponding robot woman who announces “Jane Smith joined/left”, and 30 minutes of Q&A where the questions are almost always specific to that user. My kingdom for 2-3 pages of reference notes and a few hours to mess around in the software.

      1. Chinook*

        I have always wondered how to get into the business of doing this type of training. It blows my mind that the people who do it don’t realize that humans learn in different ways. Don’t they remeber how boring high school was when the teeacher lectured?

        1. Natalie*

          In the case of my company, I suspect the people making these kinds of decisions learn best via a lecture and simply have never thought that among 300 employees there may be some people with different styles.

      2. Ariancita*

        I wonder if it’s an issue of groups being too big? When I used to teach Illustrator, Photoshop, QuarkXpress and currently InDesign, Premiere, and Atlas, I don’t touch the computer. The students sit with their computers and I walk them through the menus, tools, techniques, etc through exercises that they do on their computer. But this only works for small groups.

        1. Chinook*

          Groups being large also makes it hard to learn, but I think the problem is more that nobody can actually do what tehy are seeing. The ideal set up allows you to learn the program with your own computer set up in front of you, running the program. That way, you can see if you are interpreting their instructions correctly.

          1. Ariancita*

            Yes. Exactly. That’s how I taught–with small groups. You, in front of your own computer (so no issues with different operating systems–which of course meant I needed to know both).

            The only thing I insisted on was that everyone was on the same (latest) version of the software for their OS. Of course, sometimes that didn’t happen. :/

        2. Natalie*

          Unfortunately we are all across the country, so having a corporate trainer physically in the room isn’t a feasible option. However, I have noticed that things have improved since we’ve hired a corporate trainer – he keeps class sizes smaller and is generally a better teacher.

          That said, even with those improvements I would prefer written training materials to review, either in place of or to supplement class-like training. It just works better for me.

          1. Ariancita*

            What about going through the software’s provided tutorials? I find when I direct people to do that, when their knowledge is shaky and I don’t have time to teach them, it’s really helpful (wouldn’t recommend it as a first step–this is after you’ve either had training or used the software).

  4. Anonymous*

    Getting people to move their program, project and resource plans out of spreadsheets, MS Project, Access, whiteboards, back of napkins, their heads, etc and into a portfolio management tool is one of the hardest adoption tasks I’ve ever been involved in. Don’t underestimate the amount of time and effort this will take and the potential for failure whether you go with the full-featured/more complicated tool or the simpler yet more limited tool. If you don’t have across the board management support, may %deity be with you.

    One more thing… Vendors lie. 32 CRs later, some essential feature that you need still won’t work correctly, and the answer will always be “that fix is in the next upgrade”!

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Vendors lie. 32 CRs later, some essential feature that you need still won’t work correctly, and the answer will always be “that fix is in the next upgrade”!

      Yes! If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s demand to see the feature in action. Salespeople will tell you that you can do the thing you want to do, but that’s often wrong. Demand to see it in action — I’ve discovered all kinds of deal-breakers this way, on contracts I otherwise would have signed.

      1. Ariancita*

        But sometimes, it works doing the live action and then fails miserably to work consistently once you’ve purchased. Living through this now, on top of having very tech adverse colleagues who talk into a banana and wonder why their phone isn’t working. *head desk*

        1. Anonymous*

          I’m right there with you! Sometimes I think that if I hear “it’s an environmental issue in your system” One More Time, I’ll just start screaming!

          And the really bad thing is that some things *are* environmental from one instance to the next yet the vendor can’t seem to nail down what’s causing something to work in one environment but not in the other even when both environments are in the same company and are, on the surface, identical!

          1. Jamie*

            It’s interesting you bring this up. I was at a conference held by my ERP last week and I overheard a someone from another company talking to one of their reps about how they didn’t have an in house IT. When something isn’t working correctly they have to get their outsourced tech to work with the vendor and I can’t imagine that it wouldn’t be cheaper to have someone on staff who knows you’re system.

            The lovely game of volley ball where the vendor says it’s your servers and the network guy says it’s the vendor would never end.

            Anyway, it’s made me fascinated by companies of any size who are running complex systems without in house IT.

            1. Anonymous*

              I don’t see how they function at all because, no matter how small a company is, *someone* has to take care of the tech stuff in a timely manner!

          2. MeganO*

            Preach. Oh man so much frustration with those weird one-off “your system is just weird” issues!

      2. Jessa*

        Oh yes one company I worked for ended up in a lawsuit with a vendor who lied through their teeth that x y and z could be done.

    2. Jamie*

      Vendors lie. 32 CRs later, some essential feature that you need still won’t work correctly, and the answer will always be “that fix is in the next upgrade”!

      If I ever get a tattoo it will be this quote. Right across my forehead.

      And a million +1’s to Alison’s advice to see it in action. Live demos with real customers. Promo demos aren’t worth the flash drives they are stored on.

      That’s why good vendors have deals with customers. My ERP can send people to me to show them XYZ and I’m happy to work with them. And they are happy to work with me on maintenance fees to reward my generosity so that’s a win-win. And I’m honest about what works, what doesn’t work as well – and all in all they know I like the product but nothing that massive and all encompassing can be perfect and I know that too. A secure vendor will let a prospective customer talk to me. An insecure vendor will only let you talk to sales.

      1. Jessa*

        And contract terms that specify key required features. If that boss I had, had put in the contract must do x, y, z. It would have been a lot easier to get away from it.

    3. Jane*

      I’m in the same boat as you with the PPM tool. Everyone wants a tool to track progress, figure out costs, etc. But our bigger challenge is that everyone wants it done their own way to fit their custom needs

  5. College Career Counselor*

    As part of the higher admin buy-in, find out if they’re willing to go for the “customized” version or the off-the-shelf version. I’ve seen so many projects founder because it was “too expensive” to pay for the customized version of PeopleSoft, Oracle, Banner/Whatever. The result was annoyed people who had to maintain 2 systems at once, departments that never got launched (I worked at a college for EIGHT YEARS and never saw the implementation trickle down), wholesale re-engineering of how the entire place worked (just to fit the software), and ballooning admin costs when they had to hire the project manager as a full-time employee to babysit this project.

    1. KC*

      There’s also a danger of over-customization. In a situation where people are used to doing things in a certain way, or using software in a certain way (whether or not it’s most efficient), customizing software can turn into a nightmare. If customization is required across the board, you get into the “well why did we buy out-of-the-box software in the first place?” argument.

      Sometimes business logic needs to be tweaked, sometimes software needs to be tweaked. I think a smart balance of the two is a good way to start.

      1. Jamie*

        The best way to do this is go backwards. Don’t look at software and think of how you can use it. Look at the problems you’d like to solve first…then work from a list vetting software.

        I’m in favor of a little customization in most complex systems, because I feel so strongly the software should support the business and you shouldn’t have to change fundamental aspects of the business process to accommodate software. But yes, if you’re completely reinventing the wheel you need to make sure it’s needed, it’s do-able, and that they will support the customizations.

        And keep the steering committee when you decide what you need manageable. It should be about what’s best for the business over all and not 100 people’s bells and whistles.

  6. Jen in RO*

    Make a list of pros and cons for each of them and let the director decide. Unless the chosen option has her support, I doubt it can get properly implemented.

  7. dejavu2*

    “But many people on my team are (a) not tech savvy, and (b) averse to any change at all. One of these people is my direct manager.”

    To me, that is the key here, and also why you should go with the easier program. I have had six jobs or internships since high school that involved trying to help non-tech savvy, obstinate people implement new software. It is a nightmare. What you begin to discover is that some of these people “aren’t tech savvy” because they think programs should work in a particular way, and essentially shut down when they work in a different way. It sounds like in your case, when that happens, (1) you will take the blame for choosing that system, and (2) you will get stuck not only trying to explain every little thing, but potentially having to do every little thing, depending on your role.

    Only you know what the software is, how complicated it is, how necessary the extra features are, etc. All I’m saying is, weigh that against just how bad you think getting everyone on board with the more complex software is going to be… because it sounds to me, having witnessed this six times, that it’s going to be pretty bad.

    If you are good at IT and understand software, you may be underestimating the extent to which other people struggle with software. One place in particular I worked, the software company sent a trainer to our office something like four times to repeatedly conduct the same introductory training, and only one other person in the office besides me had the foggiest clue what she was talking about. If your co-workers weren’t tech savvy but were eager to learn and open to new experiences, that would be one thing. Unfortunately, that doesn’t sound like your situation.

    1. Chinook*

      “If you are good at IT and understand software, you may be underestimating the extent to which other people struggle with software. ”

      This is it exactly. My first (unofficial) company trainer job was standing behind my Mom as her computer guy explained how the cash register/inventory system worked. Then, after he left, she had me translate what he said into a way that made sense to her. The computer guy was brilliant at what he did but was unaware of how to explain it to someone who only knew computers as a type of word processor machine.

      1. Jamie*

        This is really hard. It’s hard sometimes to explain how X impacts Y without referencing the data tables and the back end flow of information that NO ONE here cares about…because that’s how I see it in my head.

        I am all about the metaphor and analogy to try to tie it to things people are more familiar with but depending on the topic it can be hard.

  8. JT*

    Sorry if I’ve missed it and repeating what someone else said, but two elements of many successful IT implementations are:

    1. A champion, a high-level person pushing for it. The OP has that. She also needs to be sure that person will make it clear the change is important, including the OP’s manager. THat change should not be described as inputs (use of new technology) but outputs (saved staff time, more effective customer service, fewer errors).

    2. User buy-in. This is getting input from stakeholders, particularly sample users about what they do, how the current software is used, good things about that software and also pain points. it should include some sort of documentation of current business processes with the software. Then, with these stakeholders, you develop a set of requirements. Then edit that into realistic must-haves plus nice-to-have. Then you’ll have a tool to prove you are meeting user needs.

    With this tool you can evaluate the software vs the requirements. You might have some of the sample users do the rating, along with yourself, comparing possible options against each other and the current system. That’s a scorecard you can use to decide what to do.

  9. Kyle Jones*

    I would also suggest not immediately thinking the others will balk at the new idea. If you do this you subconsciously say to yourself that no matter how much work you do…..”they” are not going to like it. You go into it with a negative imprint somewhere in your head. Instead, assume they will embrace it. Know that people are reluctant to change as we are creatures of habit. Be prepared to show what makes the change great and actually show them – don’t simply rely on telling them.

    Good luck.

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