The times they are a changin’

Steve Norris, manager of information systems for the City of Niagara Falls, didn’t consider change management when deciding to implement a wireless solution for use by the municipality’s bylaw inspectors.

“I think in our case, we didn’t really plan for change management; we just sort of eased into it,” he said explaining that wireless implementations can be simple or complex depending on how the organization is going to use the technology. Niagara Falls extended the coverage 16 bylaw officers had by giving them wireless Internet access. “It’s not like we are automating a sales force…to have those applications working on a PDA.”

An easy way to partition the two groups — those who would need to take advantage of change management when implementing a wireless solution and those who wouldn’t — is like this: If people are already using a computer and they convert to a laptop or a tablet PC, there would be little training involved. However, if an organization wants to start having people do work on smart phones and PDAs, then there’s a real learning curve involved. Even people with sophisticated knowledge of the technology would still need to be trained, explained Adam Guy, director of the wireless practice at Boston-based analytics firm Compete Inc.

There’s a whole lot of changing going on

“You’ll find that there’s not much that UPS enters into where we are flying by the seat of our pants,” said John Ferreira, vice-president of strategic planning and engineering at UPS Canada based in Mississauga, Ont. UPS took change management very seriously when it deployed its first handheld Delivery Information Acquisition Device (DIAD).

The DIAD is what UPS refers to as the brown electronic “clipboard” used by UPS drivers to enter information regarding the whereabouts of a package, allowing customers to track their goods in real-time online. When DIAD 1 was released in the early nineties it took the place of the drivers’ paper and pen, and therefore there was much training and change management that had to happen, according to Ferreira.

The initial training for DIAD 1 — the DIAD is now in its third release — was quite extensive. The education sessions started with seven days of classroom training followed by on-road training with a supervisor. “The on-road training was just to re-emphasize and reinforce what they’d learned in the classroom, but in real life delivery situations,” Ferreira noted. In the decade since the first DIAD education sessions began, other than the fact that they have become more technologically advanced, Ferreira said the training hasn’t changed much.

“Our drivers today go through five hours of training through a virtual CBT (computer-based training). The CBT walks them through various functions [of the device]…followed by four-and-a-half hours of classroom training,” Ferreira noted.

Ferreira explained that UPS’s secret to change management has been to “take the training for the technology to the same level as the technology itself,” a theory that Quebec-based Distribution AMJ, an organization that distributes products to pharmacies and convenience stores throughout the province, also took to heart.

Now an independent consultant specializing in mobile IT solutions, Mario Duchesneau was hired in 2002 by AMJ to put the company’s new mobile solution in place. AMJ’s challenge was that it wanted to move away from the mistake-ridden, paper and pen method used by its traveling sales reps and replace it with a mobile handheld solution.

After deciding on palmOne’s Tungsten W, AMJ then had to take on the daunting task of managing the change. Once employees have been trained in the functions of the handheld, one of the most unproductive things a company can do is let them revert to paper and pen before the implementation is complete, Duchesneau explained.

“In order to avoid any problems you should stop manual processes as soon as you can. Not the day that all the sales reps will be computerized but…six or 12 months prior to that, to make everybody aware and used to putting all the details into the computer,” he advised.

Although Duchesneau said training his sales reps on the PDAs was very simple, he indicated that the company did hit a roadblock while trying to make everyone else in the organization understand the importance of the new mobile IT solution.

Reach out and touch someone

UPS’ Ferreira calls these people “touch points” — workers who aren’t the direct end user of the mobile device, but whose jobs are affected by the technology.

It’s easy to overlook other groups who have to be trained on the technologies, he said. For example, the DIAD 1 and DIAD 2 communicate via a cellular network through something called a DIAD vehicle adapter (DVA). Basically this is a device that synchs information with the DIAD when the driver returns to the truck and connects the two devices.

“The mechanics had to be able to understand the technology just like the drivers because they had to be able to install them in the vehicles and fix them when they broke down,” Ferreira noted.

At AMJ, the workers responsible for entering store location, promotion and pricing information into the handhelds had trouble understanding the goal of the project, explained Elaine Corriveau, controller at Distribution AMJ.

They did not realize that the information they were entering into the company’s database was what the sales reps needed when they were on the road, data that had to be correct and up-to-date. Also, Quebec-based Biscuits Leclerc Ltd., a company that began baking and selling cookies from the kitchen of the Leclerc family home in 1905, has seen substantial growth in the last 10 years and like AMJ had made the decision to automate its sales force.

There was absolutely no formal training for the sales reps, explained Francois Levac, vice-president of information technology at Biscuits Leclerc, so the change management from that perspective was very minimal. Levac said he too realized that the biggest adjustments would be made by the technologies’ touch points.

The electronic sales co-ordinators experienced the biggest change — and also discovered that the technology would make their jobs much easier. Before the technology, the co-ordinators would have to verify and correct all the information pertaining to the business that was written down by sales reps while on the road. But now all they have to do is check and approve the information, Levac noted.

Levac said he found it advantageous when educating the sales reps on the handheld Palm Tungsten W devices to train a couple of sales reps at a time, and in turn let those reps train their colleagues.

It’s getting hot in here

When law firm Fraser Milner Casgrain (FMC) LLP deployed its enterprise hotspot, it also found it helpful to have employees show others within the organization the benefits of wireless technology.

“A couple of our technology people were in a coffee shop watching the rollout of a Wi-Fi setup in the shop and connected the dots and concluded that this could have very interesting possibilities as a client service initiative on the part of our firm,” explained Chris Pinnington, senior managing partner at FMC in Toronto. “That led them to discussions and ultimately a relationship with IBM [Canada Ltd.] and Spotnik [Mobile] to develop the initiative for our purposes.”

When rolling out the hotspot as a value-added service for its clients, Pinnington said in order to make the transition go smoothly, it was beneficial for the firm to focus on its lawyers and other staff that have a keen interest in everything tech and use them to create hype and awareness about the technology.

“It’s quite remarkable when someone like that will take on a cause or an initiative and champion it, how much enthusiasm builds around it,” Pinnington noted. When deploying new technology within an organization, Pinnington had three key pieces of advice for companies thinking about implementing similar initiatives.

“I think the key was to build curiosity and then build some enthusiasm and it always helps to have a little bit of humour injected to liven up what some might regard [as] a drier area of technology,” Pinnington said. “The whole thing combined had enough sizzle that people bought into it.”

One obstacle FMC didn’t seem to face was staff apprehension, which according to some organizations, can be commonplace.

Resistance is futile

The City of Niagara Falls’ deployment of wireless notebooks equipped with Internet access was meant to make the lives of its users easier by allowing them access to corporate information while on the road in real-time, explained Norris. But because the department isn’t enforcing the use of the technology it hasn’t caught on with everybody.

“It’s more like an extra tool they can use to have easy access to the information. There are still a few users that resist the change and they continue to call the office for information that they can look up themselves if they just had the thing turned on,” Norris added.

At this point he admitted there isn’t much he can do if the workers don’t want to use the technology “unless their boss just comes down and says…‘start using [it] because we’re paying for it.’”

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