Why Your New Multifamily Technology Initiative Will Fail | National Apartment Association

Why Your New Multifamily Technology Initiative Will Fail

I was recently asked the question:

"Why is it that new system initiatives using technology that works well, often fail to be adopted?"

Anyone with any level of experience in systems and technology deployments has also most likely experienced some level of failure when deploying a new system. Far too often, however, that failure was not driven by the choice of the technology or the underlying system concept itself.

Failure ‘to adopt’ was most likely driven by the following:

1. Too much change. As fast as technology advances, it seems that every week we should be adopting something new and better. Organizations are complex ecologies of people and processes. People and processes have an embedded DNA code against change. It’s called survival. Radical restructuring driven by new systems and technology ignites the survival ‘fight or flee’ instinct. Driven by the fear of ‘what if I can’t do my job using the new ‘thing’? Every obstacle real or imagined will be thrown back on the innovator.

Solution: Plan incremental adoptive steps. Find ‘adaptive internal leaders’. Make staged changes to processes. Be sure the new process is a complete process.

2. Giving Senior executives a free pass. “Well, it will be good for the staff but not for me. I have been storing my paper files in boxes for 42 years- and that’s where they are staying.” Or – “OK, let the properties use it, but for me I will just give the task to Frank, as I always have.” Frank, is better that any touch screen I have seen.” When total organizational use and commitment is lacking, the smell of ‘the kill’ starts to show up. The organization senses a ‘kill’ and knows full well that non-using senior execs will facilitate an eventual ‘thumbs down’ vote.

Solution: If the senior execs won’t learn and use the very same systems – bag it.

3. It was not ‘of the world’ I work in. Sure, most technology performs well when the world you’re working in is an ideal place. For many the world of ‘reality’ is often plagued with – well, reality. “So let me understand this - I need a laptop with Windows 6 (but I am already using Windows 7) and I need to revert to IE 9 or download Chrome and I need to always be near a Wi-Fi connection. The point is that environmental and working conditions in and where the technology is to be used needs to be treated as a crucial consideration in successful deployment planning.

Solution: Know the real world nuances of where the technology is planned to be used.

4. You don’t train users –formally. Just tell them to sign in. They can click on the “?” in the upper right of the page and search the FAQ section. They’ll eventually get it figured out. It turns out, pre-release training sessions are your best friend for success. Everyone learns and benefits. The buy-in is stronger and employees feel respected, engaged and take a pride of ownership.

Solution: Do pre-release training sessions. It is that simple.

5. You avoided having to spend a week on site actually using it yourself. I mean, after all, with live web sessions, videos, tele-conferences and the ability to link to a live desktop why leave my ‘chair’? Doing so would mean I would actually be able to hear the end user breathe and see their faces fill with fear. Besides they are too busy to pay attention. This is the exact point. Life in the real world is a cacophony of unplanned moments and unintended consequences. Without onsite actual, real time, usage amid the chaos of a ‘day in the life’ experience of the end user by the ‘inventor’ of this new thing, success is like a deer in the headlights.

Solution: Go into the field and perform as an end user and experience the actual usage yourself.

6. Failure to schedule end user follow up de-briefs soon or too frequently. Let’s face it having to hear of all the trials and tribulations of sustained attempted use can be painful. History teaches that ‘rev 2’ is usually better and ‘rev 3’ finally gets us where we want to be. Understanding and uncovering these enhancement stages need to be part of the long term stated plan. A technology plan that makes no room or allowance for follow on support or development is doomed. Planning to roll it out and forget it because we are too busy now on the next thing is all too often what happens.

Solution: Plan early on for gathering staged enhancements driven by actual user experience. Live it and learn it.

7. You don't track and analyze ‘trouble tickets’ received by the help desk. Who wants this evidence lying around? (This is of course means that you have a centralized support help desk ready and working.) Documenting use case failures is essential. Being able to analyze the frequency and density of ‘hot spots’ is required for a road map to improvement and successful adoption.

Solution: Document and analyze all end user difficulties. Period.

8. You avoided having an experienced ‘system adoption success expert’ help. Why spend the money and create all the extra work they would suggest? I can do this myself.

Solution: Two rules: At a minimum find a system provider to work with that is experienced in multifamily and if your effort is a major project consider using a consultant with a track record of experience in the deployment of systems for multifamily operations to help you plan for successful system adoption.

New systems and technology success in any industry is tough enough, but as I stated at the outset success it isn’t always just about the technology. It is about taking a deep and honest look at the people, process and environmental underpinnings that will craft a system’s launch and orbit.

As always, if I can be of help based on my experience with successful systems deployments or if you want a recommendation on a multifamily experienced ‘system success’ consultant send me an email. I would be happy to help or introduce you.