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Plan an RFID System With People in Mind

Ignoring the "people factor" when designing an RFID system can lead to big trouble. Here's how to ensure your deployment will meet both business needs and employee expectations.
By John Edwards
Feb 08, 2010—"People" is a word often missing from RFID project plans. When it comes to designing a system, in fact, the focus is almost always on technologies, processes and costs, rather than on the human beings who will operate and work alongside that system. And if people are taken into account, it's usually in terms of operational or management tasks, not on how individuals will react or adapt to the new environment.

Forgetting or ignoring the people who will manage or use an RFID system can be an immense strategic blunder. As Mark Roberti, founder and editor of RFID Journal, observed in his Editor's Note column last October, "although RFID automates some tasks, it is human beings who will use the data provided by an RFID system" (see Don't Forget the People Factor).

Designing an RFID system that accommodates both physics and people is not only a good idea, it's now a basic requirement as deployments become more complex and integral to core business applications. The following seven steps will help you plan an RFID system with people in mind.

1. Create a People-Aware Project Plan
When designing an RFID system, it's easy to get lost in the technical and financial minutiae, and to miss the big picture. Companies need to remember that any RFID project—even one that is technically perfect, and precisely meshed with specific business needs—will never meet all of its goals if it fails to win user acceptance.

A prime way to make enemies and alienate employees with RFID is to create a project plan so large, complex and overreaching that it overwhelms everyone who touches it. "It's important to set realistic targets, and to make people aware of them," says Pankaj Sood, founder and manager of McMaster University's RFID Applications Laboratory, located in Hamilton, Ont., Canada.

Mary Beth Clarkson, VP of worldwide services and support for supply chain systems provider Savi, says she advises clients to take an incremental, step-by-step approach to projects. "We've been successful in getting organizations to adopt RFID in a phased approach," she states. "We'll go in, and we'll do a specific piece of the process, automate that and then roll that out."
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