The field of research administration has seen significant change and growth over the past 50 years, especially when it comes to technology.
In the old days, there were no electronic RA systems. Research administrators handled everything on paper, accumulating mountains of forms and file boxes. These days, RA software is a booming business that helps research institutions work better, faster, and more compliantly. But getting everybody on board with changing technology can be a challenge.
Whether you’re finally making the switch from paper, transitioning between RA systems, or implementing another helpful technological tool, your whole team needs to get on board. But how do you accomodate individual needs while implementing organization-wide change?
In this blog post, we look at the top five secrets to getting the whole team on board with new research administration software.
1. Involve system users in the system selection process
Buy-in doesn’t happen after a system is already in place. It starts far sooner, when you’re still deciding which system to invest in. People are more open to change if they’re part of the driving force behind it, and if they understand how it will benefit them.
Involving system users in system selection also leads to a more informed choice. After all, who better to evaluate software than the people who will be using it every day? User feedback is essential to define work processes, prioritize functionality, and inform training once a system has been selected.
2. Identify enthusiastic early adopters
Cheerleaders, champions, influencers, ambassadors: whatever you call them, they’re the people on your team who are most enthusiastic about new technology. Once you’ve selected a new RA system, give those people access first; they’ll provide early feedback, identify training needs, and help train and motivate others.
Who are these people? They can be at any level within your research organization—influence can travel top-down, bottom-up, and all around. Identify good communicators who you know are most likely to succeed with the new software, and support them as they learn the system and share it with others.
Once you have some champions in place, provide key talking points to help them communicate with the rest of the team. Remind them to keep it positive and articulate how the new system will address work challenges and meet personal and organizational goals. In other words, train your cheerleaders to pump up the crowd!
3. Keep communicating, and keep it relevant
When implementing new RA software, be transparent. Communicate early and often with the team about what you’re doing, why you’re doing it, and what you expect from them. End users will accept new technology faster if they understand how it will benefit them, and implementation will run more smoothly with clear communication.
Ongoing communication serves to:
Demonstrate that you are listening and understanding stakeholder concerns
Collect information about practices and workflows from all users
Recognize unmet needs or obstacles and adjust accordingly
Perhaps most importantly, open communication helps demonstrate the value of change. You’re not simply telling the team, “this system will be good for everybody.” You’re demonstrating why it matters to them.
4. Acknowledge resistance
If RA technology makes life so much easier, why would anybody resist it? As reported by the Harvard Business Review, some people are simply comfortable in their routines and don’t want to change. Others may be intimidated by new technology, especially if they’ve been working on paper for a long time and aren’t particularly tech-savvy.
A good training plan will help mitigate some fear of change (more on that in a moment). The other key to accommodating resistance: active listening and empathetic responses. If somebody has negative feedback about the new RA system, listen carefully, and reflect back what you hear—“I understand it’s frustrating”—without qualification.
Acknowledging discomfort goes a long way to easing it; from there, you can redirect opposition. And be willing to act on suggestions! By taking feedback seriously, you grant agency and ownership to stakeholders at all levels.
5. Make training useful, relevant, and fun
A thorough, thoughtful training plan—tailored to different positions and learning types—will lead to a more successful implementation. The RA system you select will come with some training resources, but consider different learning styles on your team. Some people are visual learners, while others prefer to read a handbook, or learn by doing. Materials like a system manual, video tutorials, one-on-one demos, and time set aside for self-guided training may all be relevant.
It’s also important to reward training. Training in the new system may not be optional—but it can still be rewarding. Set up a scavenger hunt challenge; offer a coffee shop gift card upon completing all training modules; bring in catered lunch to celebrate a successful implementation. Whatever it is, make sure the team knows you appreciate their hard work and willingness to adapt.
Is your organization considering a new research administration software implementation? Bad Rabbit can help with system selection, implementation, and more. Tell us what you have in mind.