You hear that? That is the sound of inevitability – the inevitability of technology in the workplace.
Even in traditionally analog fields like construction, the use of tech to automate daily processes, improve planning and information sharing, and streamline communication is on the rise.
The cost of staying no- or low-tech
Why? For small to medium businesses (say 100 employees), the cost of communication barriers and latency issues (basically how long it takes to get information, make decisions about said info, and implement the decisions made) can be as much as $500,000 annually.
The digital transformation (DX) process can be a bit bumpy though.
Four common barriers to adoption (don’t worry, solutions follow)
Barrier 1: Lack of buy-in
While decision makers are sold by pragmatic stuff like saving time and money, the workforce isn’t always consulted – or even informed – about prospective changes. If the people using the tool day to day aren’t in the loop you open yourself up to two problems: One, you’re missing out on helpful insight into blind spots you might have if you’re not the one in the field. Two, people are more likely to get their backs up about change that has been “done to them” instead of “done with them”.
Solution 1: Communicate
It’s a bit ironic. One of the benefits of digital transformation is better communication, but the process itself isn’t always well communicated. It’s probably not realistic to get input from every member of the company, it is realistic to be candid with the people who will be impacted by DX. Talk to key members in different roles and make sure you’re informed about what works and doesn’t in their current process, and how DX could help them. You’ll get more knowledge and they’ll feel invested, and more likely to support the transition.
Barrier 2: Cost
There is going to be an initial investment, no two ways about it. Focus should be on your ROI, because DX will start saving you money…at some point. The danger is one-size-fits-all solutions which normally means paying for things you’re not going to use, or capacity that far exceeds the size of your business. It’s also an issue if you’re required to invest heavily in both software AND hardware. If you can use hardware you already have, it’s not only easier for your employees (see Solution 3) – it’s easier on your pocket.
Solution 2: Choose wisely
Selecting digital options that are scalable, and sized appropriately for your business and needs means your outlay will be proportional to your return. When considering digital options, look at the different areas you’ll see savings (reducing paper costs, saving man hours, increasing efficiency, avoiding mistakes that add up 💰) and calculate when your investment will start paying for itself. It might be sooner than you think.
Barrier 3: Too much, too fast
A recent Digital Skills Index from Salesforce reveals that 76% of employees feel unprepared for a digital-first work environment. If your DX roadmap doesn’t take into account the need for upskilling and acclimatizing to new technology, you’re going to see poor results
Solution 3: A multi-stage approach
Digital transformation is a marathon, not a sprint. Make sure your DX plan of attack includes on-boarding and employee training to get familiar with the technology before using it on the job. It can also help to have a tiered roll-out, where you start by digitizing one element before introducing the next. Employees gain confidence with one accessible piece at a time. Read the case study 👇 for an example.
Barrier 4: Disruption
How different is the new process from the old? Think of this as culture shock: If you were dropped into either Berlin or Beijing, you’d be pretty lost thanks to the language gap. But in Berlin, you’d share an alphabet, and there would be some familiar points of reference. Want to order a beer and fries? Bier and fritten. It’s not what you’re used to, but it has enough similarities to provide a toe-hold. In the same way, if your new digital process is a total overhaul of old SOPs, your employees will be totally lost. Including a few ‘familiar faces’ can help avoid getting lost in translation.
Solution 4: Familiarity
Getting your digital processes to mirror your paper processes can help ease the transition. Re-creating the forms your employees use everyday on a digital platform will feel more familiar. Another great hack is using hardware they’re already accustomed to, like the smart phones and laptops they use day to day. Try handing an Android phone to an Apple enthusiast and you’ll see what a difference it makes to use a device you already know.
DX Case Study: RobertX
RobertX was the perfect candidate for digital transformation. At around 100 employees they ticked the box of an SMB that could benefit from eliminating communication pain (as discussed ☝️).
They knew they wanted to drop paper. Going electronic would give everyone better access to information; it would ensure everything was filed in a way that made it easier to retrieve; it would eliminate concern that workers were using obsolete resources, like an old version of a locate that had been updated.
But they worried about the transition. It was imperative to the company to minimize disruption in the field, where they feared some of the 25-year construction veterans would have trouble adopting entirely new systems.
How did they make their DX a success? They took a “phased and familiar” approach to their roll-out of Corfix software. They started by populating the binders and safety documents, so workers would get a taste of the system, and immediate proof it would save them time. This helped to get employees on board the change.
Then they used template builder to easily reproduce their existing jobsite documents to keep a sense of consistency, and had workers begin to use the app in waves, starting with the shop and moving to maintenance. They were also strategic about getting the app in the hands of more tech-savvy employees who could help lead the charge.
After that, the process sold itself. Employees could see the benefits of the digital process, from things like using photos to fill out forms much quicker and more accurately, to equipment getting repaired in a fraction of the time thanks to higher visibility and accountability.