by CIO Staff

Problem: User Resistance to Change – Solution: Patience and Compromise

Feb 15, 20024 mins
IT Leadership

Roberto Amores had just about had enough. It was a blistering hot day, and the struggling air-conditioning system had just blown the fuses in the Atlanta office building where Amores was working as a heating ventilation and air-conditioning technician for United Maintenance. But the biggest problem for Amores wasn’t the heat or the fuses, it was the new handheld that his company had given him to replace the paper and clipboard that he had used to keep track of his work. No matter what Amores tried, he couldn’t seem to pick up a signal and make the new computer work. He climbed down from the roof, where he was working, and got in his truck. Nothing. He tried driving around the block. Nothing.

On his first day using wireless, it took Amores three hours to pick up a signal, get his service call and fill out the report. One problem was that the pop-up window kept asking him if he wanted to do things that he didn’t want to do. He tried to remember what he had been told in the training class, and he just became more confused.

Amores was hardly alone. Most of the 30 technicians who United Maintenance had outfitted with handhelds were struggling with questions like what to enter, exactly, when the real reason they wanted to put a job on hold was not among those listed on the scrolling screen.

Ralph Hawkins, the service manager at United Maintenance, heard the grumbling of his technicians and got to work on a solution. Hawkins scheduled a series of meetings, three to four weeks apart, where technicians could swap stories about their frustrations and solutions for the handhelds. Other managers attended the meetings, and when they learned of a problem that could be solved by altering the technology, they took action. In one case, for example, employees objected to an automatic time-stamping of all messages because it made them feel like their computers were monitoring them constantly. United Maintenance changed the function so that it allowed the technicians to enter the time that a message was received or an action taken. In another, management learned that technicians were writing in the names of customers who were not on hand to sign off on repairs, which meant that they were unwittingly committing acts of perjury. The technicians were given a quick lesson in the law.

While the results were not immediate, the meetings did help the technicians feel more comfortable with wireless technology. So, of course, did the passage of time. During the next several weeks, frustrations decreased, and new skills, such as typing, increased.

“You can go to all the training classes you want, but what really works is just getting used to it,” Amores says. “Once you figure out what it does, it gets a lot easier.”

Today, the technicians at United Main- tenance use the handhelds to record everything they do in the field. Service calls are dispatched through the handhelds, service is recorded, and technicians make sure that the customers sign the machine at the completion of the call. As soon as the signature is captured, the call is taken off the dispatch screen and a bill is automatically printed. The new wireless system has reduced the billing cycle at United Maintenance from two to three weeks to two to three days. It also ensures the company that the technicians have filled out their paperwork and saves the technicians the time they used to spend bringing their records into the office.

“Our guys were hesitant at first,” says Hawkins. “It was harder for the older guys; they barked at it but finally got the hang of it?that part was tough.”

Danielle Dunne is a Web writer for E-mail her at For a different take on fixed wireless, see “The Last Mile?Wireless Style,” Page 84.