Admit it – you have some piece of technology that’s long overdue for upgrading. Yup, I’m sitting here looking at my cracked cell phone screen right now. But, it’s a royal headache, and I just don’t want to. Now, amplify that by 100, and you see the problem facing companies everywhere.
This week’s CEO Exclusive guests, HotSchedules‘ CEO Mike Arenth and his VP of Sales Engineering, Mary Hamill, address how legacy technology is keeping otherwise competitive companies mired in the past. Many in the restaurant industry, the main area of HotSchedules’ expertise, still need to make the jump, even though they know the long-term benefits. In this week’s article, we discuss the reason why upgrading is so hard and ways to ease the pain.
What’s Holding You Back?
Sure, ditching decades of old tech for the latest fancy toys may appear like an impossible mountain to climb, but for the leaders at HotSchedules, it’s necessary – that is, if you want to remain competitive. “It’s all about how you serve the customer,” Arenth says, “We are big believers in serving those who serve others. If we can make their jobs easier by leveraging our technology and taking the stress out of it, we are doing our job better.”
Yet, you can see the almost certain frustration all over your company, everyone complaining about the changes you want to make. So, you need to be prepared to address the concerns that keep most companies stuck:
- Cost – Yes, it’s going to require a significant outlay of funds to bring your legacy systems up to date. Think of it as a long-term investment. The initial cost will be significant, but the savings and increased business along the way will more than make up for it.
- Efficiency – Granted, what you’re using now is getting the job done. But what happens when the rest of the industry surpasses you and does things better? New tech means new challenges, but it also means a better, more proficient way of doing things.
- Staff Adoption – They say that most managers will sacrifice simplicity over functionality. Indeed, the ease of using legacy technology will likely cause your less adventurous employees to argue and complain about any change. So hire smart, and then show your staff the value in education and training, motivation and engagement.
- The Learning Curve – Remember how long it took you to master Excel? Are you still lost when Apple asks for your iCloud ID? It will take time and dedication to master this new way of doing things, but the benefits outweigh the formative struggles.
- Results – Be warned…you may not see record-breaking sales or increased customer engagement right off the bat. You and your customers have to adapt to the new way of doing things. Once you do, you’ll experience positives all over your balance sheet.
The Best Way to Switch
Adam Stone, writing for Samsung’s Insights platform, offers a few tips for getting out of the legacy tech mire. His suggestions include:
- Building a detailed road map, outlining your needs and goals
- Finding like-minded allies who are in the same boat as you
- Find others who’ve made the switch already
- Work with acknowledged experts in your field
- Most importantly, change mindsets within your company
This is something Hamill strongly believes in. “The number one thing you can do to help your staff embrace change is have a good, strong change management plan,” she says, “then put dedicated people in charge of it. Figure out how people are using the legacy tech and figure out what they need to make the change. It’s all about people and facilitating the change.”
There is a pressing management imperative here—keep up or get left behind. Steve Olinski, quoting Christine Heckart of Brocade in his article “Adapt or Die: The Dangers of Hanging Onto Legacy Technologies,” makes the case for updating very clear:
“More than 80% of the Fortune 500 companies from 20 years ago are no longer on the list. Many failed to make the transition to an Internet-based business in the late 1990s. Now, many companies on the list didn’t exist 20 years ago and were born as Internet-based businesses. The same fundamental transformation is happening, but it’s a shift to digital business models and modern digital infrastructures. Companies that don’t make these changes will most likely lose relevance and suffer the same fate as those from the 1990s.”
Do the math. This means more than 400 of the Fortune 500 are gone, the victims of stubborn leadership who thought this whole “online” concept was nothing more than a novelty. On the other hand, the costs of switching technology are very real.
Dealing with the Doubters
So, after much soul-searching you’ve decided that dumping legacy technology is best for your future…but wait a minute. What about everyone else? In every company, there will be naysayers and pessimists. There will be stragglers and those who will fight the transition tooth and nail. How you handle these doubters will have a lasting impact on your corporate culture, and your success after the update.
As in any company, the needs of one group often overshadow and conflict with the needs of another. “Technology in this industry is bifurcated,” Arenth states, “the front of the house is all consumer-based apps, the online ordering and delivery. And the back of the house is the production facility – labor, product, prep – and these solutions have just not kept up.” Why? “Because restaurateurs are not technologists.”
The best way to deal with the doubters is to show them how updated technology will improve the customer/client experience. To prove to them the inherent value in the new system, and to educate and motivate them to embracing this new way of doing things. And remember this – legacy systems affect everyone in the business. “Interview folks and figure out how they are using it,” Hamill suggests. This will help guide your approach to the new technology, as well as how to get your staff prepared and trained properly.
There will always be someone who won’t agree. Don’t let them, or your legacy infrastructure, bring your business down. A technology upgrade is basically a change management effort. Given the pace of business today, we have no choice. Not only do we have to change, we have to become masterful at the process of changing. So, buck up and dump that old tech and find something that will serve your company’s future needs better. Like it or not, it could mean the difference between success or irrelevancy.