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Effective Consulting in the Face of New Technology: Part 1

The most difficult team to work with is one that is split on either side of the technology gap. A fully technically savvy team or a fully old-school team at least has a unified outlook. A split team means you run the risk of losing half the team due to either boredom or being technically overwhelmed.

I am part of the generation that rode in cars without seat belts. Most people of my generation have already made the decision to embrace technology or not. Some call us Baby Boomers. On the other hand, my son is the first generation to grow up with new age technology, and he can’t imagine a world without an iPad. It is advantageous to determine which side of the technology gap your implementation team stands on. 

How Technology Has Changed Consulting

The most difficult team to work with is one that is split on either side of the technology gap.  A fully technically savvy team or a fully old-school team at least has a unified outlook. A split team means you run the risk of losing half the team due to either boredom or being technically overwhelmed.

The old school split of your team is often reluctant to admit what they don’t know and may feel like their skills are outdated. That being said, this group often knows the business process better than anyone. Since this group hasn’t been as reliant on technology over the years and have manually done what a software program can do, they are your best resource for defining current business processes. By engaging this group early and capitalizing on their knowledge, you can help them gain the technical confidence they’ll need.

The technically savvy split of the team tends to “know all” and may be reluctant to ask questions. This confident group is fully aware that they can be replaced by someone younger, better trained and cheaper. (Don’t tell the old-school group!) This group better understands the rapid shift in technology and is more open to staying ahead of the curve.

For both groups, whenever you introduce a new topic, you will need to start with the basics. I am convinced anyone can learn anything if the steps are small enough. You need to establish a balance between speed and productivity.

Organize. Plan. Execute.

As a consultant, if you discover that you have a client team split between technically savvy and old school, you’ll need to organize yourself to accommodate the team. Here are six steps I find helpful:

1. Discover and adapt: Use probative questions to determine the strengths and challenges of your team. Leverage the strengths of each individual on the team.

2. Develop a “safe zone”: From the start, announce that the implementation room is a “safe zone.” There is no teasing, gossip or ridicule. Anyone can ask any question or bring up any subject matter.

3. Make a plan for each day: Use the project plan and break it down into easily digestible segments. Before the start of implementation, create a task list for your team. Provide these lists to your team members, related teams and your project manager. Keep the project manager apprised of your team’s progress on a reoccurring basis.

4. Slow and steady wins the race: Gradually introduce the technology and be clear about how the company’s business processes fit into the functionality of the software. That will help the old-school group understand the software and the technically savvy group understand the business processes.

5. Show your human side: Share your own stories about learning the software. If you started your consulting career as a client, let your team know that. They will take comfort in knowing that you understand what they are going through. This level of honesty will also make you appear more accessible to the team.

6. Find a niche for each team member: Regardless of their backgrounds, there may always be members of the client team who struggle. Address this early. If people are sincerely struggling, give them tasks best suited to their skills that they can do on their own. For example, you might ask such an employee to gather all of the reports that are currently being used. This will get him or her away from the stress of the implementation room and into a comfort zone without distracting the rest of the team.

Technical tools of today are getting more intuitive as software vendors increasingly incorporate user feedback in their designs. As software evolves, your implementation efforts will begin to shift from educating clients on software configuration to brainstorming new ways your clients can run and grow their business. Until then, Oracle can help you bridge the generational divides that many teams face.

All the best,

Kim Miller

Kim Miller is a Director at Oracle within the Global ERP, EPM & SCM Sales & Partner Enablement team and is the author of The Oracle Way to Consulting, What it Takes to Become a World Class Advisor.

Guest blogs such as this one are published monthly and are part of The VAR Guy's annual platinum sponsorship.

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