Breaking up with your AMS or other data management systems is hard to do!

Automobile dealers face big challenges when they swap out their DMS (dealer management system). Their success depends on people. If staff cannot learn or fails to accept the change, operations will suffer.

Auto Dealer Computer System Migrations; it always comes down to people!

Associations also experience these agonies when migrating to a new AMS, especially when it includes every corner of the association and impacts members.

So you want to help your staff accept the big change? Here’s a checklist!

DEFINE YOUR GOALS

  • Why the switch? Clearly define and document the goals of your migration to a new system. You will revisit them at the end of your project to determine if you were successful.

  • If you have very specific requirements for the technology of your new system then don’t bother to evaluate vendors that don’t meet those. Don’t waste the time of your steering committee when you know right out of the gate that you won’t be selecting those options. It wastes everyone’s time. It sounds so logical, who would DO that? They do. Make sure it’s not you.

DO NOT … charge forward without clear goals.

DEFINE YOUR STAKEHOLDERS AND TAKE A WALK IN THEIR SHOES

  • Identify your users. Are you dealing with people who are tech savvy or those who are afraid of any technology change? You may want to plan the training based on your audience. Remember that anyone can learn anything, if you go about it the right way.
  • Understand your users’ current business processes. They will need to ‘translate’ the terminology of the new system and most likely have to change of business processes when migrating to the new system.
  • Look them in the eye as you speak with them personally.
  • Write it all up before you meet with any vendors.

DO NOT … start the project until you understand your users and their daily tasks.

BUILD BUY-IN

  • Explain your organization’s goals and how a new system might meet those goals. Don’t embellish, and be honest. If a cost savings is your goal, then make it their goal to. If your members are clamoring for a more robust online experience, let them know how important it is to keep members happy.
  • Be honest. Users can smell a pile from a mile away and you will immediately turn them off if they catch the whiff.
  • Involve users in demos during the selection process.
  • Ask them for feedback and for goodness sake, make it real.

DO NOT …. ask for input, then throw it all in the trash. That’s an insult!

COMMUNICATE

  • Let your users know the timeline of critical milestones up front and keep them informed along the way. This will keep them engaged AND will make them feel like you care enough to tell them what’s going on. They are part of ‘the team’ after all.
  • Ask for feedback at every milestone. Use team meetings to discuss the concerns and questions.
  • Be honest about the statuses. Remember users have a good sniffer.

DO NOT … keep users in the dark during the process. Nor should anyone sugar coat progress to make themselves look good.

PREPARE FOR OUTSTANDING TRAINING

  • Everyone learns differently! Some people can’t learn without face-to-face, hands on experience. Some prefer to do self-paced online learning. Others must have written instructions or any training becomes meaningless. Provide mechanisms for all learners. Evaluate your staff to discover how they learn best.
  • Plan to spend many weeks or even months in training.
  • Setup a training program for future employees.
  • Hire a designated trainer who works on the project from the very first step, including collecting and documenting current business processes and defining terminology. Your staff will learn to like and trust the trainer long before the training begins. Your trainer should be included in the demos to give you UX advice.
  • Setup a stable training environment and create real-life practice exercises. If your system screens are being configured and constantly changing, it’s not good to try to train. You train, then move the cookie just when they start to eat. Bad dog!
  • Allow your trainer plenty of time to prep. One hour of training means two hours of prep, at minimum. The trainer needs to find or create relative examples and create the documentation as well as the practice exercises.
  • Separate testing and training. Your techies should test data migration, reports, etc. thoroughly and not let users see junk. If you try to train in an environment that is not stable, and/or the data is not migrated correctly yet, you will turn off your users, probably forever.

DO NOT …. skimp on training, or fail to give users a stable environment to learn on.

FLASH CARD LEARNING

  • You may be old enough to remember the ‘times tables’ flash cards. Repeat until it becomes second nature, like tying your shoes.
  • Demo each module, then use hands on learning. Demo another module. Hands on. Again, until they scream UNCLE.

SUMMARY

Make people feel that they have some control over decisions that are going to greatly affect their daily lives. Show people that you care about their opinions and that you want them to succeed. And if you demonstrate that you are willing to invest in them and want the best tools for them to do their jobs, you can’t lose.

By the time you are done, ready for the new system, you will all want to party like its 2999.

Good luck my friends, I hope you find these thoughts helpful!

– J. A.

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