Most of us are familiar with the line “The best laid plans of mice and men…” meaning that even the most comprehensive plans often risk failure. The point here is that unless we follow through with the implementation of our plans effectively, we will not be able to ensure that there will be a successful outcome.
One of the most common failures in implementing new systems, or in most projects for that matter, is the lack of communication. Like the weather, everyone can complain about communication failures, but no one seems inclined to do anything about it. So the first step in any implementation should be to develop and launch a communication plan.
A communication plan generally comes from the implementation team (or its leader) and links each of the major steps in bringing on the new system to some form of communication with those who need to know. The initial communication can be in the form of an email from a senior executive, outlining the e-learning systems purpose, objectives and timeline, and requesting input be directed to the team leader if any employees have suggestions, questions or issues. Subsequent communication generally will come from the team and provide relevant updates on what the specifics of what the system will contain, when it will be ready and how it will impact employees. Often, companies include this in their internal newsletter or through posters put up around the facilities. It is important, though, to be sure to announce the project’s initiation and actual launch in a way that reaches everyone and answers as many questions as possible.
Within the e-learning project team, it is also critical to assess key risks to the implementation right from the start, when they are likely to occur and who is responsible for monitoring them. For example, can necessary personnel resources become unavailable due to unplanned travel? Or is the development of courseware taking longer than expected? Is there a technical problem with including hands-on interactions in the courses? (Hopefully, the system you select is as simple to operate and implement as eLeaP.) Risks that have been identified early can often be controlled or mitigated without much disruption; those that sneak up on you are often disastrous.
Once the system is in place, you should consider a limited trial run with actual users (not just team members) to test the system prior to full roll out. Users with little knowledge of the system will generally raise more questions and encounter more difficulties than those with experience. You can use these questions, along with others the team has developed, in your announcement to the full roster of employees, perhaps as FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) that will anticipate the majority of the questions.
Finally, be sure to communicate with the entire organization prior to full roll out. This communication should be in the form of an announcement letting everyone know when the system will be available, its features and benefits, why it was selected, who to contact for further information or assistance, and what will be required of them.
Following these few simple steps will greatly improve the success of your team’s efforts. Remember: Communicate, communicate, communicate.