Change is tough but it’s worth the effort

When it comes to implementing new software, getting the technology working is the easy part. Getting the team to adapt to change is another matter

So you heard from your fellow dealers about an amazing new software tool to streamline your operations, increase efficiency and help your dealership make better decisions. You had a demo from the vendor, and after months of due diligence, it’s time to roll out the software.

But a few months into the installation, things aren’t going well at all. So what happened?

There are a lot of reasons software installations don’t go as planned, but in this column I’d like to address a few of those key reasons and provide some advice on how to overcome them.

Lack of top down support

If you don’t have a Dealer Principal, General Manager, or senior managers supporting and endorsing the change, it won’t work. For our software, which is adding a layer of artificial intelligence as a decision making tool to facilitate credit decisions, it’s important that others like Used Car Managers and F&I Managers are also involved. If it’s not communicated from the top, people can end up working against it.

No clear deployment plan

You need a full onboarding process, and a plan to stay in touch with the dealership team and let them know where they are on every milestone. If you don’t have a deployment plan in place, you might get the attention in the first few months, but you risk losing steam if people don’t see there’s a roadmap for where they are going. The deployment plan also needs to work in conjunction with your training plan so you can build upon the successes as people get more familiar with the tools.

Failure to communicate

It’s a common flaw. First of all, it’s really important to really communicate what your software system can—or can’t do. Sometimes dealerships will watch a demo and think it will do things it wasn’t set up to do. So, once everyone understands the business problem it’s going to help solve, you are off and running. We recommend that a dealership holds a town hall meeting with all employees when making a switch or installing a new software system. The vendor can provide a quick demo, and be on hand to answer any initial questions. Having a formal event, signals to the dealership team that this is important. People sometimes have irrational fears that the software systems will replace them or hamper them from doing their jobs and sometimes a town hall is a place where these issues can be addressed.

Lack of a change management strategy

Even if the software tools you are implementing will make people’s lives and jobs easier, many humans just don’t like change and they will passively or overtly resist the new systems. It’s really important to recognize this and have a change management system in place. Most companies are good at offering more training for those that might not be as tech savvy and struggle at the beginning. But it’s very important for dealerships to enforce the fact that their team must use it. If you measure actual usage, that also allows for conversations between employees and their managers to find out why they aren’t using the new system so you can discover resistance.

Running parallel systems

Sometimes companies decide to ease a transition to a new system by allowing both systems to co-exist for a period of time. But remember, many people are going to be happy to just go back to the old way. It’s easier to train new hires, because you can simply train them on the systems you expect them to use in their role. Make sure to have a milestone date in your roadmap for when the old system can no longer be used.

Undefined roles and responsibilities

When things do go wrong or people need clarification, many times they don’t know where to turn to for help. You can’t just launch and leave. That’s where account management comes into place. Make sure your vendor’s account team is available and that the information you need is easily accessible.

Inadequate training on new system

If you want people to get over their fears of using the new system you can’t skimp on the training. You need to train them on how to operate the system, but then also come back and see how they are doing, and in particular how they’ve handled real world situations. If they stumble, you need to know about it so that your training can help them be more confident.

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