TECH TALK 14: DON'T BE AFRAID OF CHANGE
By Bill Allen
This is the 14th article in the Tech Talk
As I mentioned in Tech Talk 9: Don't Fix New
Software if it Isn't Broken, many people who
buy new software expect it to work the same
way and produce the same results their
previous system did.
Many users often do the same (let the tail
wag the dog) when contemplating other
technology-related changes or system updates.
There's a very consistent tendency to base
change on a lack of change. Contractors want
the same-old-or think they do.
A builder I worked with last year wanted to
reduce his cycle time, improve his production
schedule's accuracy, and enhance his
customers'experience. However, he rejected
what was probably the best fit for his stated
objectives because the integrated software
he'd been considering couldn't produce
certain sales backlog and project management
reports the company had been using for some
The reports satisfied a certain comfort level
of control that management required, but what
did they really accomplish? Not much. The
sales backlog report was simply a periodic
spreadsheet of "deals in the pipeline" and a
monthly subjective update of time remaining
to close. The subjective update was based
upon each project manager's assessment of the
current contract status. The spreadsheet was
manually updated, which made it subject to
input error. To make matters worse, it didn't
link to the construction schedule.
The project management report was an
impressive set of schedules produced with the
rest of the financials. The expense breakdown
included a time sheet indicating how each
project manager split his time between
several projects. The report also tracked
several expense items that were charged to
the project level. Ironically, the project
managers didn't fill in the reports
accurately; they estimated their time and
project expenses well after the fact. The
result was a batch of minutiae that nobody
took action on.
The builder decided not to integrate or
update his stand-alone, manual procedures.
The decision was based on a defensive and
"safe" set of constructs to maintain the
status quo-not to move forward. You can
imagine what that did for the systems he was
trying to improve. How can you avoid making
the same mistake in your organization?
Use the following tips to become more
comfortable with change, and to make
decisions based on what "should be," not what
has been done in the past.
Top management must embrace change and compel
staff to drive a value-based decision-making
process. For example, if your customer
service manager is dead-set on not updating
or improving the company's warranty claims
process, he or she must provide good reasons
why it should remain as is. Chances are those
reasons won't outweigh the benefits of an
An integrated, automated system is ultimately
the only way to eliminate redundant data
entry and information retrieval. If you
maintain separate databases, they should at
least be electronically synchronized and
Every "feature" of a new or updated system
must yield measurable, demonstrable results
that make a very personal difference in your
company. Just because one builder
accomplishes something with a given system or
software program does not mean another
builder can attain the same results.
A demonstrable result is the result of
written procedures that employees follow all
Measurable results translate into
quantitative and qualitative differences that
can be implemented and documented.
Budget for sufficient resources to evaluate
and implement the new system or upgrade
(staff time to review different systems,
software training, working with a consultant
or vendor, etc.). This does not mean simply
doing an automatic conversion from one system
to another and getting through it as quickly
as you can. It involves assessing every
aspect of your company to see where change
will make a difference and taking the time to
allow that change to improve the operation.
A system decision is a real opportunity to
take stock of your company' character and
culture. This makes true change more
attainable and prevents the past from
controlling the future.
Bill Allen is a longtime contributor to
NAHB's Business Management & Information
Technology Committee and is president of W.A.
(http://waallenconsulting.com). The Redmond,
Wash., company provides information
technology consulting services and process
management assistance to the home building
industry. Contact Bill at 425-885-4489 or via
e-mail at email@example.com.
For more information about this item, please
contact William Heslop at 800-368-5242 x8472
or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.