Use it or lose it

If nobody at your company is an expert in your new software, it’s going to fail.

Lawn & Landscape photo illustration

For the last four years, Greenscape in North Carolina has been tiptoeing closer and closer to a paperless future. Leslie Herndon, the company’s president, has spearheaded that charge, implementing all sorts of software since 2018.

And the technology is used in various ways: Some software gets bid proposals out the door, while others help manage the behind-the-scenes action at the office like getting their books in order. But the end result, is ultimately the same, as Herndon says her company continues to embrace technology. Getting the employees to that stage comes down to whether or not someone at the company can answer every sort of question the employees will have.

“The biggest thing for me is someone needs to own them,” Herndon says. “New things come out all the time, somebody needs to be trained on that and they decide if they want to use it or not use it. If you’re going to invest, you’re going to have to learn how to use it.”

Raising concerns.

This isn’t to say employees don’t grumble — privately or publicly — about using new software from time to time. Herndon says she’s heard employees criticize software for being too clunky and complicated.

“To some degree, they’re valid complaints,” she says. “You want to make sure you hear the complaint, and you just help them get it resolved as much as possible. There’s no real use in arguing about it.”

Mediating those frustrations comes down to someone at the office knowing all the details about the software, Herndon says. If an employee comes into the office confused about how to use a software and nobody can help him or her, the employee will get discouraged fast and give up on trying to make the software work out.

“Nobody really got in our industry because they want to play on computers all day long,” Herndon says. “There’s a lot of challenges that come with (technology and) people in our industry. Having a power user of some sort gives them a resource.”

Ready to change.

Having someone in the company who “owns the software,” as Herndon says, will help employees adapt accordingly once it’s introduced. But it’s not just the initial introduction that a company needs to land the right way: Software gets updated and changes frequently, so having someone on the company’s roster who tracks those changes and follows along is essential.

Picking a software that adapts to consumer demand is a good thing, Herndon says, but these changes, if left unchecked, can be infuriating for a company trying to get its employees to buy in. Whole features could become obsolete and get phased out, while the location of some files could move when updates happen.

“You want to pick a software to grow and develop, but then can’t get mad about that ongoing growth and development,” she says.

“If you’re going to invest, you’re going to have to learn how to use it.” Leslie Herndon, president, Greenscape

Ways to avoid that initial panic when updates happen include frequent conversations with the software developers. Herndon says it’s rare that a week goes by where she hasn’t touched base with someone at their primary software provider’s company, even if it’s just to talk over minor issues.

But these conversations — and establishing a good relationship with someone at a software company — helps for smooth implementation of the technology. Those talks should be continual for years.

“We’re still trying to get everything up to speed because software change,” she says.

Making the right choice.

When it comes down to actually picking a software, look in all the familiar spots — join industry associations or talk with consultants about what they’ve seen work for other companies.

But don’t be afraid to venture outside of the green industry to pick your next software, either. Herndon says her mission has long been to eliminate paper at her company, and sometimes, the green industry relies too much on paper records for her liking. Asking peers in other industries helps keep her perspective fresh, she says, especially in the areas of sales, accounting and human resources, which aren’t industry-specific.

“We don’t hesitate to dive outside the normal where we need to,” she says. “There’s a better way out there somewhere, but we’ve just got to find it.”

Herndon recommends asking as many questions as possible before selecting a software. Understand as many minute details as you can, including questions that make you feel stupid for asking. She says that if you’re asking the question, chances are high that someone else will ask the question (or already has) as well.

But once you’ve decided on a software, Herndon says it is no longer business as usual. Making sure employees operate with the software you’re trying to implement is essential, even if there are growing pains along the way.

“When you switch softwares, you switch softwares,” Herndon says. “You can’t keep doing things the way you’ve always done them.”

June 2021
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