March 16, 2015

When and How to Communicate a Technology Rollout Plan

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New technology often brings with it a sense of optimism. Perhaps information will be centralized, communication easier, time and money saved, or mundane tasks automated. But a few months later, data quality hasn’t improved, processes remain inefficient and only half your staff is using the product.

The truth is, no major technology investment is a turnkey solution. Planning, communication, and commitment are essential to organization-wide adoption.

Fortunately, a few thoughtful, proactive steps will go far. Below are six steps to follow when creating your technology rollout plan.

Step 1: Identify Key Stakeholders and Users

While a handful of decision-makers select new tech, there are often many others who will be affected by its implementation. For them, the platform might bring new and possibly unwelcome changes to their daily work—especially if they are comfortable with current processes.

To mitigate these feelings, have a clearly defined communication plan in place. It’s important to educate those who will be affected, and explain when and how changes will occur. Communicating early and often will help dissuade questions, doubts, and uncertainties. Don’t forget about part-time workers, volunteers, contractors, consultants, or board members who might be affected.

Encourage open communication among affected parties. This will expose you to uncertainties early on and allow you to alleviate concerns.

Step 2: Choose the Implementation Team

The other group to involve in new technology rollout is the implementation team. Every major project needs internal champions to move the project forward and rally support.

Clearly defined roles create shared ownership and spur success. At a minimum, make sure the following are filled:

  • Executive sponsor: Internal advocate to help overcome roadblocks. Support from the C-suite will go far in setting the organization’s long-term vision, and in sustaining adoption beyond initial implementation.
  • Organizational administrator: The team lead and main point of contact for support, troubleshooting and product updates.
  • Implementation support: Team members who will work together on the technology rollout plan, internal communications, software adoption and product evangelism.

The implementation team should include those who will work most directly with the software and be responsible for its success. Make sure all internal champions have the resources they need to succeed.

Step 3: Document Key Information

New technology can be introduced in a phased approach, which allows users to adjust to the new interface and avoid feeling overwhelmed. Consider admin onboarding and training, setup and configuration, user onboarding and training, internal rollout, and ongoing training.

Document the messages, tasks, milestones, and deadlines that need to be communicated at each stage of the process. Consider including:

  • Initial announcement
  • Designation of roles and responsibilities
  • Major milestones and deadlines
  • Training session schedule and reminders
  • Requests for feedback

Anticipate questions that might be asked and formulate talking points so you’re prepared to address concerns.

Step 4: Map Out a Timeline

With a proposed rollout process and key information in hand, map communications to specific dates. Time communications around key milestones and deadlines, such as training sessions, when data will be migrated, and when a full switch will occur.

To avoid internal frustration, give recipients plenty of advanced notice before these dates. For example, give users advanced notice before training sessions to block off time on their calendars, and allow enough time to get organized before data migration. Be patient with the rollout and allow your organization time to transition.

Also note the best channel(s) to communicate with users. Email should be included, but other means—intranet, internal social network, paper documents, signage, or in-person meetings—might also be appropriate.

Finally, be strategic with messaging. The implementation team should consider when, how, and from whom communications will be relayed.

Step 6: Incentivize Change

Before your team can get onboard with new technology, users must understand why their processes are changing.

Frame the transition in terms of how it will solve current challenges or prepare the organization for future success. Communicate the importance of achieving these goals and how the technology will make it possible.

Weave the “why” into all communications. Also consider creating a one-page FAQ document for the internal champions to reference, including responses to key objections.

Don’t expect technology to solve all your problems. The transition has to start and be driven from within. Change management is challenging, but it’s never impossible. With the right team and plan in place, you have the power to transform your organization.

Adam Roth
Adam Roth is the President and CEO of StreamLink Software. The company’s flagship grant management solution, AmpliFund, automates hundreds of complex activities throughout the grant lifecycle, thus freeing up valuable resources to pursue additional funding. Its board management portal, BoardMax, helps organizations engage and communicate with board members.