For some people using a new software is a painful process, filled with longing for “how things used to be;” for others it is a thrilling process, filled with excitement and anticipation about all the enhanced possibilities.
It’s stressful to go from being the knowledgeable pro in an old system, to working in a new system. It is further compounded by the fact that the business has to keep running while the learning is occurring and mistakes can really impact the business!
I found it interesting to learn that part of the challenge of adopting a new system is actually biological. From the biological standpoint the challenge comes in forming new thought patterns and habits in the brain called “myelination” process. It’s the process of your mind forming a kind of sheathing around the neurons involved in a habitual thought or behavior, which makes the electrical impulses of thought travel faster. In a way you can think of it like wearing a new path into a field. The path has to be walked over many times before it wears to the ground, and once there takes a while to grow back over. It is the same with forming pathways of new thoughts / habits in the brain.
From a psychological standpoint it has to do with how willing and prepared you are to make the changes. Your positive attitude can make all the difference.
Here are a few keys to success with a new software in the first 30 days.
Expect the First 30 Days to be a Learning Period
Go into your first month knowing it is going to be your learning month and accept that means not being perfect, not knowing everything, and possibly having to find your way around to start. By going into your starting period with an expectation of learning, rather than mastery, it can take a lot of the stress and pressure off and changes the focus to positive growth.
Have a Plan
Ask your provider for training and a plan to get your started. At AppFolio we provide a “1st Month Success Guide” that outlines week-by-week actions to take to begin using the software. We include repeating actions and one-time setup actions you to help you customize the application. We also send weekly emails during the first month that act as reminders and links to more training resources.
Take the Time to Attend Training
In most cases, moving to a new software means gaining new features and functions, without training it is substantially more difficult to learn how to use basic functions, much less more advanced features. Yes you can take months of trial and error to learn the system, but a few hours spent in training can save hours, days and weeks of later frustration and hassles!
Start Small and Focus On One Task at a Time
Try to start using the system by performing small tasks and repeating them multiple times in a row to help form the new habit. For example: do a batch entry of checks, create multiple work orders together, begin the process of several move-ins or move-outs together. Focusing on simple tasks and repeating them multiple times you can help them get established as new habits and then build on them to continue to grow.
Share Learning Together
A great practice for offices with multiple users is to have a daily briefing at the start or end of each day where everyone can share questions and answers to help everyone grow in knowledge more quickly.
Practice, Practice, Practice
Nothing will help increase skills with a new system like using it. The more you practice the more you ingrain the new thought patterns and help firm up the new habits around using the new system. This can be done to some extent in your live system, but many people don’t want to do things in the system that will affect their actual data. To help with this AppFolio offers a dedicated practice site so users can log in and try any task or feature without fear of affecting their live data.
Celebrate Your Successes
In the business of day-to-day operations it is easy to forget to take time to acknowledge what are actually great accomplishments in learning. It is truly a great success to go live with a new system and another to complete a first full month of operations. Be sure to recognize those successes by doing something that acknowledges the great achievement.
Know It Will Be Okay
Think of all the things you have learned to accomplish in the past – walk, run, throw a ball, roller skate, drive a car, etc. – you even learned your previous system when it was new to you. So have faith in yourself, you can and will learn the new system, just be sure to understand and prepare for it as best you can and then just give it a little time. It will be Ok.
Once you get over that first 30-day hump, you are basically home free. It’s like a rocket launch, where most of the fuel is burned up just getting up to reach escape velocity. After that you’re back in the drivers seat and cruising again!