Matthijs de Zoeten                      Baker Tilly Beark

Matthijs de Zoeten, IT manager at Baker Tilly Berk

IT manager’s experience: ‘What you need is the right attitude’

This week Silverside marketing team visited Baker Tilly Berk office in Rotterdam. This company offers accountancy and tax advices, a full range of services including: statutory audits, advice on VAT, employment law consulting, acquisition guidance, business valuations, financial staffing, IT consulting, and business strategy. We had a meeting with Matthijs de Zoeten, who is the manager of the IT department and is the leader of a group of 15 people that are working daily on the technical side and on managing the applications. His main role is to make sure that they work on right things, according to priorities. We asked Matthijs to share his experience with changes in IT departments: how to motivate people to accept and use new applications and have the biggest advantages of every change. He believes that business is always changing and cannot avoid innovations. However, ’’no one wants changes, only a baby in a diaper’’ he says. We asked Matthijs to share his experience on how he deals with different employees’ attitude towards changes and user adoption.

Q: How do you deal with user adoption and what is your opinion about it?
A: I would say it is challenging. The easiest part is the technical solution, but changing people behavior is very difficult, so we always split big projects in three parts. To change tools is easy, but the most difficult part is to change people’s mind and convince them that the change is for the best.

Q: Which are the main challenges and difficulties that you experience in your work?
A: Well… it depends. Small projects go very easy and the change is not that big. For example, when we changed from Lotus notes to Office 365 it was just the change of the email application. The only difference was that buttons are located in a different position. The change is very easy, so it was only a little bit of hesitation, mostly from people who don’t like changes, but they have to work with it and they have no alternatives. But if you have a new application and a new process and they can still use the old one, then the difficulties come to change people’s behavior. There are only a few people who like to change and the others will wait till they will be forced to do so. You have to take the older application away and only then they will use the new one.

Q: How did the majority of people react to changes?
A: Well, normally people don’t like to change. Most people ask for an explanation why we need to change. They claim that they don’t want to use their time to learn how to work with the new application. They try to convince that the old process is good, even though they complain every day about the older one. But yes… This is the challenge.

Q: When and what was the trigger for your company that made you to do changes? How do you go through changes in your company? Do you use any specific method?
A: Sometimes you just have to change. For the last two years, we have used the key users. They are people who are specially trained and they try new tools that are about to come into our workplace. Most of the time they are people who like changes, so they become the ambassadors of the new tool. We ask them to give presentations at their own branch, so people can hear the experiences from the people they know. Consequently, people are more interested and motivated to listen, when they hear the experience from their coworkers. We can see that this helps a lot, because first of all, it gives more trust because if they have a problem, they will go to that person and will ask for a help.

Q: To which extent is important that all employees are involved in the process?
A: It depends, on which application, but it is important all the time. Especially when we have big projects, that requires a lot of energy, time and attention. The process should not only be top-down but also bottom up: from key users to the people who are sponsors of the new application. So, we use different people, for example, our key users or managers to explain to all employees the importance of the new application. This technique helps, but everybody should be involved, otherwise, they will not use it.

Q: Now you are going through the change process, so in which stage are you right now?
A: We completed the out role, so everybody is working now with the new system, and they only can use Lotus notes to read their old emails and to see old contacts. We decided to go with a ’’clean sheet’’, it means that we haven’t transferred the old mail and old appointments to the new system, except for the contacts. At first, there was a lot of opposition, but now you don’t hear complains anymore. You can look up at the old system, but you can’t mail from it. And that’s why the adoption is 100% now. The first two-three months we had a lot of questions, but key uses and other colleagues who already had some experience with Office 356 helped us a lot.

Getting users to change their behavior is one of the biggest barriers to the successful deployment of a new system or technology. From the practice, we see that most people are resistant to change. However, Matthijs thinks that the right method brings the success. Employees have to feel the support and receive help as much as they need. They listen to the opinion of the key users, collaborate with them and at the end, they are able to see the benefits of the new tool.