Henry Ford, a father of the American automotive industry, once observed that "most people spend more time and energy going around problems than trying to solve them." With all of the advancements in technology, Mr. Ford would hardly recognize the industry that he helped establish. When it comes to switching that technology within a dealership, however, he would be quite familiar with the strong aversion to change that still exists today. In order to avoid the pain associated with change, many dealerships spend their time and energy working around the limitations of their technologies. If your dealership decides that the hard work of change is worth the benefit, the following five steps can help ensure a successful technology transition.
Step 1: Choose a Vendor
In a successful change process, selecting a vendor is the first step—not the last. Vendor selection is a complex process that begins with identifying the specific needs that your dealership is trying to solve for. Once you understand the problem or opportunity, you can start the process of gathering information. Be sure to cast a wide net and to consult with your peers in the industry because they may have already solved for the same problem. Finally, evaluate your alternatives carefully and make a decision. Once you've chosen a vendor, the real work of organizational change begins.
Step 2: Get Leadership on Board
Making changes to your organization without the complete support of your leadership group is a recipe for disaster. It is essential to get managers on board with technology change and to prepare them to carry the change message to the entire organization. The secret to obtaining management buy-in is clear and effective communication of the organization's long-term vision. Remember to address the unique interests of each stakeholder, but don't lost sight of the company's overall strategy.
Step 3: Manage Organizational Change
With leadership support in place, it's time to carry the message to the entire organization. First, identify those affected by the change and begin communicating with them early. Clearly articulate the answer to their most important question: "What's in it for me?" You may even consider producing content or holding town hall meetings where team members can have honest, direct conversations with senior managers. In all communications, outline behaviors for success and challenge members of your team to achieve benchmarks and meet expectations. Most importantly, continue communicating—the good and the bad—throughout the duration of the change process.
Step 4: Build Implementation Partnerships
Most significant organizational change initiatives involved failure and a lot of frustration. But, there is a better way. While change will always involve hard work, dealerships can avoid many common pitfalls by choosing technology partners that have proven process for implementation. Experienced vendors have developed a specific methodology that helps customers steer clear of trouble. The best partnerships are formed when vendors and dealerships agree to hold one another accountable for the steps proven to drive success.
Step 5: Manage Continuous Learning
Continuous learning refers to the ongoing development of skills in the workplace, with an emphasis on adapting to change. Dealership employees that are given a thorough introduction to new technologies are less likely to grow frustrated while working through the learning curve. But, they perform even better when given the opportunity to learn new skills and ask new questions on a regular basis. In addition to regular trainings, dealerships should take full advantage of any performance management programs offered by technology vendors, as they are an effective way to improve product usage and knowledge.
Changing technology solutions is not easy. But, by following a proven plan, dealerships put themselves in a position to be successful. As heirs to the industry that Henry Ford helped build, we need to embrace technological change and the hard work that comes with it. Most importantly, we need to spend more time and energy solving our problems than working around them.