Alistair Millar says small businesses in particular need to use change management techniques when introducing new technologies and processes
Few people really welcome change. Some just have a backward-looking attitude. But, for most it comes down to a question of time. For many small businesses it makes sense to operate with just enough staff. So even if an employee has been doing the same thing, the same way for several years, or more, they often only have time to do what they have too. Having to learn something new or do something differently disrupts this flow and it’s back to square one and not coping for a while.
This is why so many businesses – and small businesses in particular – put off making major alterations to technology and processes, even if the final results promise cost savings, more choice and improved productivity. Often the path can be smoothed by employing a third party managed services provider who can take a long hard look at current practices and make pertinent suggestions for improvement. This way they can cut through worries about the personalities involved and focus on what is best for the business. But this is only the first step, the second is to bring staff on board with a new way of working – and this will be the true test of their calibre.
Today, many small businesses are facing up to the need for digital transformation and paper-free or paper-light processes. With the predominance of email as the major method of communication and most business documents in electronic form, many businesses moved away from heavy filing cabinets and paper workflow a good while ago. Yet, many are still shying away from changing the whole document management process because it means altering an entire culture. As a result they are missing out on huge efficiency improvements and reducing energy costs by up to 40%.
Managed Document Solutions (MDS) means streamlining document flow and ensuring devices such as printers operate in a more efficient, centralised way. To any senior manager, it sounds like common sense, yet try telling someone they no longer have sole access to a desktop printer or they have to re-learn a document management system and the whole transformation becomes a major challenge.
Many people are naturally cynical, especially about new technology and are also, understandably, concerned about their jobs. Bringing in experts to give an objective view of processes can make some staff feel demotivated at best and demoted at worse. Even if these perceptions are incorrect, they must be addressed with sensitivity.
So, how should this be handled? Naturally staff should be made aware of the bigger picture. It sounds obvious that they should be told about the savings, improving workflow and the environmental benefits, but sometimes it’s easy to forget to communicate the obvious.
Certain tools can also be useful; for example if you could implement a solution which monitors print volumes and assigns a cost-per-print value on all output. This visibility will, of course, be useful to the financial director. However, but sharing some or all of this information with staff helps put a value on this function and makes it easier to understand how much is being saved. This way, they will be more responsible about printing in colour only when needed and printing on both sides of the paper where possible.
It may well be that the person previously responsible for print estate now feels uneasy – even if the task was tacked on to the IT manager’s duties. However busy someone is in reality, taking away part of their role can make them feel they are losing power. Consequently, it’s important to stress how, by taking away the tedious business of managing printers, ordering consumables and juggling maintenance contracts they are freer to make creative use of the new information available or turn their minds to other more innovative work. Don’t forget, even if just a small percentage of a workforce is unwilling to fully embrace a new infrastructure, then it’s unlikely to ever achieve its full potential.
Proper training is vital too. A dedicated training programme which underlines positive results and benefits can help win over hearts and minds. It must focus on security aspects of a digital workflow but also, where appropriate, the convenience of being able to access documents remotely, for example.
All this will run more smoothly if a company chooses its managed document solutions partner carefully – in particular, one experienced in change management and that recognises the importance of people when it comes to the potential of new technology.