One important but often overlooked aspect of implementing new technology is user adoption. While executives may have a clear vision for the improvements a new system will bring to the organization, end users sometimes focus on the obstacles to getting their work done. The failure rate for projects is high when employees resist new procedures and workflows associated with the change. Adhering to best practices for adoption can dramatically improve outcomes. The example we use here is the introduction of new software, but the principles described apply to the rollout of any new product.
Integrate the Change
User adoption needs to be more than just one phase in the timeline; adoption strategies should be woven throughout the entire implementation, as well as after. The integration of new technology can be transformational to a business and understanding this fact must be the foundation for all operational planning.
Anticipating resistance from staff will give you a significant advantage. Even if stakeholders have been involved from the beginning, some will still be reluctant to change the way they work. Because employee opposition is a predictable factor, change management can be incorporated into the budget and timelines.
Communicate the Process
It is well known that a lack of information creates a void which is quickly filled with assumptions and rumors. Frequent communication among the executive leadership, implementation team and the end users will help eliminate misunderstandings and misinformation. Develop an internal communication plan for making the process transparent and the team leaders accessible. Highlight progress and accomplishments, but also be forthright in acknowledging difficulties and responding to opposing views.
A successful communication plan will: identify the key stakeholders and the categories of information that will be most useful to them; provide a platform for executive leadership to demonstrate support and reiterate the importance of change to the company; and establish a schedule for the regular distribution of updates using the most convenient and widely-used methods.
Focus on the Users
In order to achieve successful outcomes your team should think of the end user as the customer and strive for a high level of customer service in every area. Involve users from the beginning and remain attentive to product usability throughout the project. Embrace all feedback, negative and positive, and mine it for ways to improve the software.
Those responsible for the design and configuration of new software should start with the user experience and work from there, immersing themselves in current workflows, observing, interviewing and taking notes. They should find out what works and what doesn’t so problems or inefficiencies won’t be repeated going forward. Workflow is important to productivity and the end users know what is needed for accomplishing each job; leveraging their knowledge will save time and money in the long run.
Emphasize Training and Support
Successful adoption depends heavily on user training and support, but not just during the rollout. Changes to business processes and staff turnover are inevitable so the need will always be there.
Achieving full attendance can be challenging when trying to work around busy schedules, so a good strategy is to build multiple sessions into the schedule. Trainings can be conducted in a classroom setting or via the web, but will be most successful when the environment is interactive. This will allow the benefits of the software to be made clear, providing context and setting a tone for achieving common goals. One proven approach is to teach the transition; in other words, demonstrate how the current workflow translates step-by-step to the new system. For achieving effective results see Ninestone’s best practices for training.
Well-organized and detailed documentation has tremendous value as a tool for user support. Very few people will remember everything that was said or demonstrated in a half or full-day training session, so it will be important to develop manuals that supplement the class presentations. In addition, FAQ documents that anticipate questions and provide clear answers are especially useful. This approach will reduce the volume of help desk calls and cut down on mistakes.
By recognizing the importance of the end-user experience and applying these best practices, your business can avoid some common pitfalls associated with implementing new technologies. Ninestone’s experienced staff can work with you to define user adoption strategies and help you achieve a successful transition.