Old Habits Die Hard: Introducing New Software to Established Farm Teams
Jim Ochterski | May 16, 2016
Old habits die hard. Sometimes they don’t ever die, even if they come at an obvious cost. Author Douglas Adams wrote three principles about new technologies that could fit most farm CEO’s looking into new management technologies for farm operations:
1. Anything that is in the world when you’re born is normal and ordinary and is just a natural part of the way the world works.
2. Anything that’s invented between when you’re 15 and 35 is new and exciting and revolutionary and you can probably get a career in it.
3. Anything invented after you’re 35 is against the natural order of things.
It is second nature for a young farmer to check feeds, texts, and instant chats, wherever they are, at all times, and on all devices. The generation prior to him is now slowly adapting to mobile and web technology. And the generation behind that one is unlikely to be engaged with software technology at all. And yet all three generations are often working together on the family farm. They need to agree on how to get things done, what works, and what doesn’t.
The benefits of precision agriculture and data management systems are widely agreed upon. But beyond the subjective concerns about data privacy, cost, and operational fit, the generational gap in terms of technology adoption on and off the farm remains a significant barrier to the broad use of these management advancements. We often talk to young farmers about Granular who say “I love this, I can see our team using this every day, but my dad is set in his ways. He still has a flip phone.” Here’s what we found works:
1. Pair older and younger. Ask a younger tech-savvy (and patient) operator to serve as a guide for older farm personnel. They will be the most effective at navigating the software and showing how it can solve every-day issues in a fraction of the time it took before. This comfort and knowledge is contagious, and transmitted faster than you’d expect.
2. Let the technology speak for itself. Part of building comfort with technology is being able to see how it is “worth it” from the start. As soon as possible, produce reports, analysis, and summary records that quantify the benefits. Show how the technology offers more than just data-in/data-out quickly after a couple of uses.
3. Expect criticism. The choice to use an unfamiliar software solution will likely draw fire at the start, especially when it is replacing an established pattern of communication and working. Anticipate critiques, and use your software support team to actively address concerns and complaints.
4. Look long-term. Most advances in management take a year or more to embed into the fabric of the farm operation. One production cycle will show results; two production cycles will show dramatic returns if the software is being used correctly. Explain to the senior generation that their role in the business will remain consistent while new tools are put to work (and probably even after – they’ll just be better at it). Chances are, they went through the same transformations themselves.
5. Position software as a basis for farm succession. Information and records need to evolve as the farm moves steadily into the future. In a changing world, data management can help improve business decisions that have to be made quicker with less certainty by unlocking institutional knowledge.
Technology on the farm is not a threat to legacy. It is the best way to strengthen and keep that legacy.
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