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When you’re managing a fleet, no matter how small, it’s crucial that any operational and management changes are implemented effectively. This is especially true when implementing new delivery route planning software as invariably this results in significant changes. To ensure success, software implementation must be adopted not only by planners but also, and perhaps more importantly, by drivers and dispatch.
Introduce the Concept Early
A positive step to the successful implementation of new software is to introduce the concept early in the process, perhaps even as early as pre-purchase, when the software vendors conduct their initial presentations. Employees are naturally concerned for their positions and can view route planning and optimisation software as a threat. Managers can allay their fears by focussing on the reasons for implementation, such as, growth of the customer base and subsequent transport demands, environmental issues and a ‘greener’ fleet, transport compliance, etc.
Talk About It
The very first conversation regarding implementing new software, however, must take place between senior managers. This is a strategic conversation in which objectives and goals for the introduction of route planning and route optimisation software are agreed. They should then cascade down to all affected teams as communicated via the implementation plan.
The implementation plan should include a ‘consultation’ period in which managers talk through the objectives and plan with staff. This conversation should include the reasons for implementing the new software, and the benefits it will have to employees. Some examples of benefits can include saving time, reducing stress and adopting new transferable skills. The benefits to the company should also be outlined, especially if software implementation will result in reduced overall costs.
Regardless of the software being implemented, plenty of room should be allotted for questions. A staff who feels their concerns have been heard will be more likely to adapt to new software implementation more quickly.
Most often, the bulk of the training for new route planning software is offered by the software supplier. However, there are times when training by in-house staff can offer more in terms of cost-effectiveness, and user acceptance. A common training combination is to have in-house staff train other employees while using the software company experts for guidance and support.
If the goal is to use existing staff to train others on new software, it’s important to choose individuals whom staff will respect, as well as choosing those with at least some teaching skills. Trainers must also possess and be able to apply other skills such as problem solving, conflict resolution and diplomacy.
Trainers must be able to listen to those they are training as well as accept and implement their suggestions, as those being trained will often have ideas about how the system can be improved.
The implementation plan must address the ‘handover’ requirement when the route planning and optimisation software goes ‘Iive’. This is often neglected resulting in a lack of user acceptance and slow take-up. A key element is the concept of internal ‘super users’ and their role during the initial ‘support’ period.
Support, whether from in-house or third-party trainers doesn’t end with training. Support will be required well past the training stage in order to ensure that all staff are adopting the software on schedule. Internal trainers often are the internal ‘super users’ of the software. In this role they may also be tasked with monitoring aspects of the implementation, including how the system is being used. They will then need to stay in touch with upper management on a regular basis with details about how implementation is progressing. This could include items like how many staff members are using the new software at a time, and at what times of day.
Of course, there is no standard for how long it should take you to implement new software other than the schedule you set. Involving employees at all levels as much as possible throughout the process will ensure that all potential issues have been addressed, and the chances of a successful implementation enhanced.