A Software Love Affair by: Paul Dyk

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Integrating new software into your team can feel like a blind date. Worse yet, a speed date followed by an arranged marriage. This shotgun arrangement may not end well.

A better way.

Romance. Invite your employees along for the journey of picking out new software. If it’s new activity monitoring software, visit another dairy and see how it’s made life easier for employees. Maybe date a couple different companies. Which software is easy to use? Can they try to use it on another farm or use a demo version? Just like that boyfriend that has a fast car but no job, the manager may need to narrow the options for the team. The company needs to be around for the long term and the output likely needs to be streamed into other software.

The engagement. Before you commit to the long term, make sure you understand what you are getting into. Do you understand the feed software monthly fees? Are those missing ear tags getting replaced for free? Does the software company have bilingual support staff? There are easy questions that can be asked about onboarding, onsite support and employee training that will avoid conflicts later.

The big day, time to move in.

Well, wait a minute. Breathe a bit. If you are switching to new herd management software, you need to prep the team. Even though they signed off on the new software, have an onboarding schedule. Training sessions with the software should be thought through carefully. Not everyone learns at the same speed and showing some how to use a software one time likely isn’t going to cut it. I remember an old Extension agent I worked with in Michigan who was teaching people to use computers and QuickBooks. He had a simple rule: If you are showing someone how to use new software, don’t touch their computer or mouse. Put your hands in your pockets and talk the “student” through the process. This process will initially take longer than “showing” them how to use the software. Showing someone how to use software by grabbing their mouse and clicking through screens seldom leads to long term retention of the process.

If your new partner is feed software, day one can be tough. On large dairies, I prefer to install the new software and hardware the day before your first full feeding day. If possible, mixing 2-3 loads of feed in the afternoon as a team can be helpful to serve as a training session. And yes, go slow and don’t touch their tablets. Talk them through the process. The first load might take an hour or two while they work through the new screens.

Marriage is a marathon, not a sprint. You don’t have to be an expert on every report in your software on day one. Focus on quality input and then focus on the output. Have your software company come back every couple of months in the first year. Train and retrain.