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Gaining Project Buy-in From Company Employees

Front-line managers and other end users play a pivotal role in making or breaking a new RFID project. Here's how to get them on your side.
By John Edwards
Oct 01, 2012—Given the cost and transformative nature of a radio frequency identification deployment, an important first step for most project managers is to obtain buy-in from key stakeholders. Yet in their zeal to win approval from their CEO, CIO, CFO and other front-office executives, project leaders often neglect to seek any type of input from the managers and end users who will eventually need to incorporate the new technology into their daily routines.

This is a big mistake, says Anthony Palermo, the director of business development at the Academia RFID Centre of Excellence, in Montreal, Canada, an organization that provides RFID training, certification, consulting and engineering services. "It's extremely important to get buy-in from the managers... they're the people within your organization who are going to continue to promote the benefits, or to justify investment, in the technology," he says.

Cisco Systems recognized this reality the moment it began working on an RFID system to manage and protect the servers and other fixed IT assets at its 70 U.S. data centers. The company began its design process by reaching out to the people who would actually use the system to track equipment acquisitions, movements and disposals. "We started by looking at our internal policies and processes," says Maryanne Flynn, the operations director of Cisco's fixed-assets lifecycle initiative. "We wanted to find out from our stakeholders—the people who manage these assets on a daily basis—what were some of the pieces of the process that didn't work for them."

Cisco's approach can help virtually any RFID adopter design a more efficient and productive system (see Cisco's Business-Driven RFID Strategy). While gaining the buy-in and trust of those who will actually use an RFID system is a multi-step process involving considerable forethought and hands-on planning, it's an effort that will continue to pay dividends for many years. Here's how to get started.

Involve Front-Line Managers in Project-Planning Meetings
The team that establishes the RFID system's layout, processes and goals should consult the managers of all affected departments. "We like to get a chance to interview the users, and often the front-line manager is the best you can get," says Steve Halliday, the president of High Tech Aid, an RFID consulting company based in Gibsonia, Pa. "They know everything about how the current system works and where the potholes are. Our intent is to always have appropriate line managers involved from the start. They can act as your eyes and ears... to gauge if there are likely to be any issues."
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