Three Barriers to Tech Change and How to Overcome Them

Data

Three Barriers to Tech Change and How to Overcome Them

When you work at a consultancy, you’re in the business of change. When a client reaches out for the first time, they’re showing a desire for change. When you suggest a new technology to improve their work, you are actively advocating change. And once that technology is in place, you and your client must navigate the impact of that change.

Here’s the good news: The world of technology is predicated upon rapid change, so change is an expected and necessary experience in this field. The bad news? Humans still kinda suck at rapid change. Excluding the last 200 years or so, human history is defined by achingly slow (and rarely linear) change. Don’t get me wrong—humans, indeed, have great capacity for change. It’s just that we’re still fighting millennia of pre-programmed behaviors, chief among them a fear of anything that alters our stasis.

That leads us to the crux of this post: If change in tech is constant and necessary, how do we embrace it? And once we embrace change, how do we convince others to embrace it? I won’t speak any more about the anthropological or psychological reasons because I am an expert in neither of those fields. Instead, I will share some insights from the InterWorks team—a team that actively foments tech change every day. Let’s see what they have to say by examining some common barriers to change experienced by our team and some ways they’ve helped to break down those barriers.

Barrier #1: We’ve Always Used This Tool/Method

This was, perhaps, the most common scenario thrown out by our consultants, but it came in a lot of different flavors. For some, their hesitance centered around loyalty to a specific tool or mode of doing things. For others, it was as simple as a dislike of how a new tool or mode was presented. Here’s what our consultants said:

  • “The main challenge I see is ‘We already have a tool that does part of this, and I know how to use that one.’ Some people would rather keep to limited functionality than learn a new tool.”
  • “I’ve worked here for XX years, and we always did it that way.”
  • “There is often an outdated understanding of technology costs.”
  • “I’ve worked in more than a few organizations where the incoming group that is promoting the tech change leads with ‘YOU’RE DOING IT ALL WRONG. You need this tool.’ That’s not a great way to sell something to people who are already wary of change. Even if outwardly they try to show how it will be a good change, an inner smugness about things is hard to hide. As someone who has had to repair those relationships, it’s not fun when that happens.”
  • “In heavily regulated industries, there’s almost a fear of using unapproved technology. There was a department at my old job that was tasked to evaluate new tech upon receiving requests from other employees. They had a backlog of requests, and new tech was approved three years after initial suggestion on average. So, any initiative was effectively beaten out of people, and they just used whatever was approved, however bad, deprecated or frustrating it was.”

Solution: Listen and Build Trust

The mark of a great consultant isn’t their ability to deliver the most polished speech about their technology recommendation; it’s their ability to listen first and build trust with a client. Our team put it thus:

  • “A good sense of empathy for people and a willingness to listen to their concerns and engage them in problem-solving is critical.”
  • “Trust is a big factor when convincing decision-makers that a change is worth pursuing. New technology, if not understood, is scary. People don’t like change and, if it doesn’t work right out of the gate, it’s easily criticized. This is an ever-present struggle to nudge people forward when the end user is more comfortable with keeping things the same.”
  • “I think the biggest thing is confidence in the ‘improvement,’ not a ‘change.’ I’m always the first person I sell on the solution. If I have doubts, then the client will sniff them out and prefer to stay doing what they are doing. It’s important to decide what the right direction is and not to waver from that. You can adjust if circumstances won’t allow things to go exactly how they should, but you should personally believe in what you are implementing.”

Barrier #2: I Don’t Have Time to Learn Something New

Another common challenge faced by clients is the infamous time crunch or skills gap. Implementing, let alone learning, something new can feel like a daunting task for those already buried with work. Our team explains:

  • “Many people are slow to learn something new because they don’t feel like they have the time to pick it up. This often becomes justified by seeing tech initiatives come and go as the flavor of the week.”
  • “People often have don’t have the time or will to understand that, in the long term, better technology will actually save time as there is so much work in the moment.”
  • “Limited resources and a bad change plan can spell disaster. If everyone’s busy with other things, you’ll be left with lots of deadlines and little to no help.”

Solution: Demonstrate Value and Articulate Vision

The best way to persuade someone that new technology is worth their time is by demonstrating that value quickly and effectively. You must also explain clearly and simply how that technology can meet their specific challenges and day-to-day needs. Our consultants elaborate:

  •  “I’ve found that actually sitting with people to find out their pain points and then producing a demo to address those specific points helps a lot. It’s difficult to go on trust sometimes to say, ‘This will be so much better,’ without actually showing people how it will be better. It’s also easy to over-engineer a solution when simple changes are all that’s required.”
  • “Showing examples (mockups/prototypes of the client’s content) helps, combined with facilitating discussions with disparate groups inside the company. This builds trust and collective understanding.”
  • “People need to be convinced that something is worth picking up and will continue to be around.”

Barrier #3: I Worry Change Will Make Me Obsolete

We all fear robots taking our jobs, and sometimes with technology change comes a change in roles or how we do our jobs. This is a valid concern that’s often voiced by veterans and beginners alike. Our consultants had this to say:

  • “I’ve heard people say they’re afraid of becoming obsolete because they can’t learn new technology fast enough or that it’s always changing.”
  • “At times, client jobs might be more on the line from their perspective if an upgrade proves to be a bad thing. That makes them reluctant to change anything in fear of job security.”
  • “I’ve seen clients reluctant to change because they can’t imagine their future day-to-day operations. If they stay busy with work that we end up simplifying with something like Tableau, they might fear for their job security.”
  • “From the data platform side, I always get the ‘how are we going to do what we’ve always done?’ question. More often than not, the answer is ‘you don’t do that anymore.’ This specifically comes from the veterans who are worried about becoming less useful when moving to something like Snowflake that mostly manages itself.”

Solution: Provide Training and Role-Specific Guidance

The thing with technology change is that it doesn’t have to be synonymous with becoming obsolete. When considering any change, it’s important to understand how this change will affect people and not just operations. With the right training and role guidance, technology change can provide new opportunities for people to do more of the work they enjoy and less of the work they dislike. Our team explains:

  • “I think initial training is a huge factor. The reality of new technology being brought in is that client roles evolve, and technology frees them up to do more analysis and collaboration instead of ‘busy work’ in Excel (or whatever other tool). It takes a ton of training in the beginning to work with all parties and ensure buy-in from multiple groups, but it’s always worth it.”
  • “How I’ve dealt with that specifically is showing them how to do what they want to do (writing queries, providing data to people, etc.) without having to worry about the drudgery (index maintenance, resource management, etc.) that they currently need to do.”

Overcome Your Barriers with InterWorks

We spent some time today talking about just a few common barriers to technology change, but the truth is that you likely have your own unique challenges and deserve equally unique solutions. Our team is adept at working with you to uncover those challenges, align with your goals and deliver meaningful solutions. If that sounds up your alley, we encourage you to reach out to us today! We’d love to help.

Contact Us

More About the Author

Garrett Sauls

Communications Manager
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