7 Keys To Successfully Roll Out Technology To Your Remote Team

36% of new technology projects wind up behind schedule, over budget or just never live up to the hype. Another 26% or so just die on the vine and never get finished at all. It's no wonder then, that no one in charge of a remote team looks forward to the dreaded "technology roll-out".

Whether it's introducing smart phones to a sales team or web-based knowledge capture tools to your engineers you wind up with the kind of terror, drama (and occasionally language) usually reserved for late-night cable. Late adopters, whiners, technophobes and the generally lazy will all conspire to make even the best-intentioned and appropriate tech tools a pain to introduce.

Here are 7 keys to help ensure a successful roll-out:

  1. Get Stakeholder input early By talking to the people who will actually be expected to use and implement the tools before a decision is made, you'll reduce the possibility of making a poor buying choice. Also, resistance will be less if people feel they were consulted and the conversations will convince even the most resistant that there may be a problem that needs solving, and this tool might just do it.
  2. Start small, not at the enterprise level Say you decide you want a single web-meeting tool for the entire company. That makes sense: consistency, economies of scale and security are all great reasons to do that. But the logistics of trying to get an entire organization trained all at once are brutal. Start with a small, motivated group and expand exponentially once you have success stories, lessons learned and master users who can help the newbies.
  3. IT shouldn't own all the responsibility- or the budget Your IT group might be responsible for making sure technology works, but they have better things to do than make sure your sales people are using it. Final responsibility and budget should be in the hands of the people who are most concerned about it's use and return on investment. If the VP of Sales is being charged for their share of the webmeeting budget, they'll make darned sure sales people use it.
  4. Model success before asking them to use it Very few people (iPad purchasers are not the norm) will clamor to use something they've never seen demonstrated well. If the only video conference I've been on was a boring glitch-fest, why would I want to use it with my team?
  5. Give people real training and practice I'm a big fan of recorded and online training for many things, but for people to truly learn and develop facility with technology they need real training. That means the ability to get their hands on it, ask questions in real time and receive honest feedback from human beings on their efforts. Our clients find that good coaching and feedback when they first get a webmeeting platform doubles the adoption rate.
  6. Trumpet and reward successes When someone (especially someone who was initially resistant ) uses a tool like Sharepoint- recognize them for their efforts and use them as an example for the rest of the team. "Hey did you see that article Jane posted to the wiki site- great stuff" is a not-too-subtle hint that you'd like to see the rest of the group do the same. And heck, if Jane can do it anyone can, right? Competition is a fun way to encourage people to use something quickly. I have seen people do amazing things for a ten-dollar Starbucks card.
  7. Put HR support systems in place to encourage technology adoption Basically, people will do what they are expected to do, and are measured against. HR can actually be a huge help here (yes, I have used HR and technology in the same paragraph....don't laugh). Is the effective use of communication tools built into the job description? Is creating short training modules or contributing to team blogs something that will show up on a performance review? If not, why should people do it?
If you're going to go through the sturm und drang of a technology rollout, these keys will increase the odds of seeing the reward.

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photo by Flickr user~Brenda-Starr~ CC2.0