Does this sound familiar?
An Executive team meets and decide to implement a new technology. Being more collaborative, centralizing your data, getting better reporting; it’s a fantastic idea!
In an ideal world, this is what a system migration sounds like. However, in the real world, your biggest hurdle in getting everything you want out of new technology is NOT the application or the design, it is your end user and their willingness to adopt. You can’t get data, reports or anything else if your employees won’t use the tool that you’re implementing. Lack of adoption can easily turn into a very expensive undertaking with little to no ROI; the lack of intentional effort on user adoption has potentially cost us millions.
So how do we overcome this? This is a question I’ve found myself trying to answer more times than I care to count. What can we do as an organization to ensure our people are willing and comfortable with the direction we are going in? Although I cannot answer every question on user adoption, here are a few things we can do.
- Understand the demographic of your organization. If you are in manufacturing, for example, the majority of your workforce might be at an age where transitioning to a new tool will be challenging, you will need to be sure to involve them in the whole process. Keep the lines of communication open, send regular status updates, and set up workshops and trainings on singular tasks or activities (a slow and steady approach); make sure they are familiar with the new tool well before it is released. Organizations with a younger demographic are much more likely to self-adopt because they like the idea of ‘new’. If you have a mixed environment, you will need to use different strategies and techniques to satisfy everyone.
- If we consider the above mentioned and we want to involve our people in the change, we can invite a select few employees to join the project team. Too often, our users are thrown into new technology without any understanding of what went into building it, or why it is needed. The more involvement they have, the more likely they are to talk about it to their peers. A deeper understanding will give them the notion that they helped build it, that they were there and that they know it. Remember to ask for their opinions and to listen to their recommendations.
- While I am certain this has never happened to you, I find it worth mentioning. Since most of these new implementations are blamed on IT, you should consider IT’s track record. If they’ve failed (or perceived to have failed) in previous migrations or projects, then your IT team has low credibility. You can avoid this by allowing IT to do the work and build the system but keeping the Business Stakeholders as the face of the project. Ensure a strong relationship between IT and the Business with good communication and your users will be more likely to hop on board.
- Even before the project kicks off, before requirements or planning, take the time to sit with your people. Literally. Get a chair and sit down beside a few of your employees at different levels. Understand what they do, what their pain points are, and what they’d love to change. Make slight references to the new application coming and how it can reduce some of their issues. This does 2 things; it gives them the impression that you care and it gives you ‘ammo’ when it’s actually time to start planning. You would be surprised at how many places I’ve seen where Management doesn’t have a clear understanding of what happens on the front-line.
- Your executive team can make the final decision to migrate to a new tool but they need to walk the walk by ensuring that they are willing to promote the change and encourage employees to take an interest. The more they talk about how great the tool is and how much of an impact it will have, the more likely people will warm up to the idea. Executive support works, but it has to compliment your overall strategy.
- Lastly, let’s talk about WIIFM. What’s in it for me? This works, right? Give people something significant and meaningful and they’ll do what you want. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. For instance, what is considered significant and meaningful is unique to each individual. Did we take the time to find the significant and meaningful things we want to give them? Rewards change as people change, therefore it could be difficult to keep up with ALL of your employees’ changes and desires. Management also neglects to consider the time and cost associated with the ‘significant and meaningful things’ and how the cost can impact the project. If you are going to use this approach, be sure to plan accordingly. (ref. Michael Sampson’s User Adoption Strategies)
There are many well-documented strategies, techniques, and approaches to User Adoption that we can use on a daily basis to ensure a high level of adoption. Keep in mind that focus in this area is a lot of work; it takes dedication and planning that should be included in your project plans. Failure to include your approach to user adoption can ultimately lead to the failure of an otherwise well-planned implementation project.
Looking for a good read? I highly recommend you pick up Michael Sampson’s User Adoption Strategies – 2nd Edition (https://michaelsampson.net/books/useradoption/). Sampson outlines, in detail, multiple strategies and approaches that can be easily applied as you start your journey to happy, engaged users! (Bonus: If you write to him, he actually responds!)