I just returned from the ARC Industry Forum where I sat on a panel around best practices in Smart Manufacturing. Joining me there as a speaker was one of our longest standing discrete manufacturing customers; a relationship that goes back some 32 years. I asked why they worked with us so long and it came down to two reasons:
It’s refreshing to spend time with customers. This is why we work hard every day, and we need to keep our sights on the customer and the value they receive from our offerings.
At the conference, at the keynote and also at our session, two items came up that caught my attention
In regard to Adoption, projects are failing because end users aren’t part of the process. IT and OT teams are getting push back. As a result, projects are harder and longer.
We see this all the time: end users are not consulted at all through the process and then get this major change. This can cause a lot of frustration and lead rollouts to stall or to completely go off the rails.
I experienced this directly with one of our customers. They were excited to take some of our software and move it to another process in the plant. Technologically, it made sense. The engineers driving the change were smart and they knew the system. However, they didn’t include the end users in the new process.
Change is hard for everybody. It was met with resistance from the new group. They were brought in the end to be shown the new system and it was a confusing mess. The engineers knew the technology but missed nuances of the process which led to pushback. They finally addressed the issues, but the system didn’t evolve far beyond that point as of yet.
Many tech projects fail because they lack a clear value objective. There is a rush to drive to the technology whether it is cloud, AI or the latest buzzword.
Where is the goal line? How do we know we are successful? This is where outcomes come in.
Being in a technology company, I see people getting excited about the technology without understanding what that technology will enable. For instance, a customer doesn’t care so much about the new visualization capability we are deploying but thinks about how it will reduce training costs and maintenance costs as it’s rolled out. If a customer can see how the technology will enable their benefit, for example they can lower training and maintenance costs by 2% annually quantified at $200,000 per year, then there is a clear path to the benefit.
I work with a lot of engineers – very smart people – and they need to think about how implementing the technology will translate into the benefits for the customer, benefits they will be willing to pay for. Full disclosure, I am an engineer by background, and I have been guilty of being enamored with technology. As I’ve progressed in my career, it’s become more imperative to focus on the end customer and how they benefit. Hence my role in Customer Success.
My ears perked up hearing about these challenges because it is what we are helping our customers with on a daily basis. Sometimes it can be a painful conversation because the customer can be technology focused.
Adoption - involve the end users. Change is hard. Avoid pushing new systems at them without their input. Make them feel as they are a partner in the transition. Reward good behavior. Make sure they are adequately trained.
For example: are end users involved early and often in the projects.? If they feel they are involved they will have more skin in the game to make the project successful. Make them part of the process from the beginning and it will lead to more buy in and a smoother transition.
Outcomes - Start with the end goal in mind.
What problem are you trying to solve? What are the metrics we need to measure to guide our way? We need to know where the goal line is so we know when we have success.
For example: the customer wants to have clear genealogy for each product going out the door so they can limit warranty exposure. By limiting a recall, they can reduce significant cost by not having to pull more back from customers than necessary. A reduction of 5% in recall volume can be significant dollars. This info will need to come from the customer, but this is the outcome they want, not just installing software.
I’ve witnessed a lot of project rollouts in my career. Some successful and some less than successful. The ones with higher success rate have better governance along the way which includes the end user, better training and better communication. The goal is that well before the Go Live, the end users are well aware and excited to use the new system. They can see the clear benefit to their work and the company. That’s great adoption when end users are ready and able to use the system day one. Additionally, the project will go smoother if the business can clearly see and articulate the value of the new system. They know that they have invested significant funds. They want to be able to clearly see that the investment makes sense and has real business impact.
We’re making progress but still learning. Are these concerns in your organization? Keep the conversation going. Reach out and let’s discuss what’s working and not working in these areas.
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