Technology projects – particularly IT – are notorious for their high failure rates which, most of the literature reports, can apprroach70%. “If you build it they will come”? You d better hope so. Alternatively, you can more-or-less eliminate doubt from the equation by working with your customers to create a successful user adoption strategy.
New technology solutions are usually designed to drive your customers businesses forward. Used properly and to an optimum level, key competitive advantages can be gained – the so-called Return On Investment (ROI). For every percentage point that user adoption falls below that optimal level or the solution is underutilised by inexperienced or inadequately trained end-users, the ROI diminishes.
The introduction of any new technology can be disruptive – people generally like change. This process of change needs to be managed, and to be effective the management has to start before the change is underway. The solution provider should ideally be part of the team managing the introduction of the new technology.
In a perfect scenario, the pre-sales consultancy phase should have included liaison with intended users of the technology. It is essential for the supplier to understand how users will interact with the solution. Your customer can use this process to communicate the benefits of the new solution in direct terms that the user community will understand. It will also enable your customer and you own team to identify any problems areas in the fit of the new solution and the existing workflow.
It will also throw up any specific problem areas with particular groups and individuals and help to devise measures necessary to deal with them. Wire framing and prototyping can help ensure that the solution is built for usability from Day 1. Launching a prototype to a sample of the user community will help you to determine where adjustments are needed, and to address any challenges before introducing the solution to the general population.
Success for all
The objective here is to satisfy the demands of the customer as an entity, the individuals and groups making up the end-user community – and let’s not forget satisfying your needs as the reseller or systems integrator. You want to be able to translate the successful outcomes of the project into repeat orders and profitable business.
As with many things, the key is effective communication with all of the significant stakeholders in the project. In Box 1 (below) you will find a brief guide to drawing up an effective communications plan, If this isn’t a service that you offer to your customers, there are a number of well respected consultants that can be engaged on a project basis.
User adoption: Communications plans
Once the significant stake holders have been identified:
- Decide what information is of most value to our stakeholders.
- Set up the appropriate means of communication for the format and content provided.
- Draw up a regular meetings calendar.
- Decide how information will cascade through the user community: hedge against Chinese whispers.
- Set regular reviews of the communication plan – test to see if it is working.
Shocks and surprises are the enemies of a successfully managed deployment of a new technology. The importance of raining cannot be overstated in building user adoption. Training not only familiarises end-users with the capabilities and benefits of the new solution, it also counteracts the fear of change.
Your objective should be to produce some ‘solution advocates’ – the key influencers at the centre of the huddle around the coffee machine. (Perhaps even choose your advocates from among the company’s more ‘difficult’ employees?) Advocacy and training are two strands in the ‘internal marketing’ process that must be put in place to support the introduction of a new technology.
User adoption: Measuring to manage
User adoption is almost always the critical project success metric – “almost always” there are instances other factors can contribute to the success of a project even when user adoption is disappointing, If sales go up by 25%, even though only 20% of users are adopting the technology, that could be considered a win?
This scenario almost certainly exists somewhere, but in general solutions are design to empower or advantage all of the individuals that they for whom they are appropriate. There is also a qualitative angle to this – how are the users using the solution, and how well. User adoption metrics should not simply measure who is logging into the new system and how many hours a day they are using it. Such statistics are ultimately meaningless if system usage does not meet the business need underpinning the project. See Box 2 below for suggestions on devising metrics that work.
User adoption: Useful metrics
1. Legacy processes: many IT projects involve designing solutions which replace or augment a legacy process. The quicker the legacy process is phased out, the more successful the project.
2. Key Performance Indicators: According to management guru Peter Drucker: “If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it.” For meaningful comparisons to be made, you need Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) for both the legacy process and new solution. In addition, KPIs that measure the performance of the entire business process (e.g. time to process an order, number of order errors and the like).
KPIs related to the legacy process should show evidence of that process being phased out. If the measure is in time to process an order, then the number of orders used to calculate this metric using the old system should decrease, while the number used to calculate this metric in the new system should increase. There should be some quantifiable, measurable difference between use of a legacy versus new solution – don’t just measure the uptake in use of the new solution.
3. Quantifying success projects should always be defined in terms of a business objective. If the project does not meet the business objective, then it doesn’t really matter whether anyone is using the new solution or not.
The reasons can include: the new solution not being used properly (or at all); the legacy system is not being phased out; or, that some requirement critical to project success was not properly implemented. Simply measuring how many people are logging into the system will not determine whether the system is being used to its full potential.
As preparation for the deployment of a new solutions continue progresses it is important that a carefully pre=planned communications programme is rolled out. When planning your communications, it is important to expand your range of influencers beyond your initial solution advocates. While very useful in engaging the interest of others in the organisation, the reality is that this group usually attract early adopters and technical enthusiasts, leaving the rest of the community disenfranchised.
A process called Usability Engineering has been developed in software development that fills the ‘representation gap’. It provides formal methods for identifying the different types of users, modelling the tasks they perform, and deriving usage conventions for the new solution from those used in the existing software environment Tools in Suability Engineering include: field observations, task assessments and heuristic evaluations to obtain actionable feedback from representative users.
This process can also alert you to the ‘red flags’ – or early indicators that the organisation’s change approach is likely to founder. These indicators may appear at the very beginning of an effort and continue through deployment. Recognising the red flags and addressing them early can get you back on track.
Training – a continuous process
Training has a direct relationship with the outcome of the project and the eventual ROI. Reyes and Rizzico of software vendor Mosaic said “Targeted, role-based training is how you want to fill the seats,” Rizzico said. “You don’t want functional training that treats the software as the all-encompassing solution – you want to focus on the end-user and their job tasks, and treat the software implementation as the new tool they can use to perform their work.”
The authors suggest a number of tips for successful deployment. These include:
- “Include the “why” of the implementation or upgrade. People need to know where they are in the new process and most importantly, why is the change occurring – “what’s in it for me?”
- “Remember that the process of learning new technology can be slow, so build time into your project and monitor the timeline every day in order to make adjustments as needed.”
- “Communicate frequently and candidly about job impacts and challenges, but also make it fun, with events building up to the go-live event.”
- “Include blended training – a mix of job aids, step-by-step training, web-based and classroom training. It breaks it up for employees.”
“Post ‘go-live’ support is a critical success factor. It captures real data from users to assess whether or not they comprehend what they’ve been taught. Go-live is the beginning of the effort for most end-users / employees – it’s their starting point. In general, training will need to be done as close to go-live as possible. Too early, and people forget; too late, and well, it is too late. Some groups might be best to train after go-live.”
There are, unfortunately, too many companies that take the go-live date as the finishing line for the communications and training programme around the introduction of a new solution. By starting early and continuing to monitor user adoption, your customer can intervene in the process when the project goes awry. When user adoption reaches an optimum level, and ROI expectations are realised, that repeat order won’t be far behind.
User adoption videos from KLiKav
As part of its ongoing market development initiative, KLiKav – the AV News product portal – has commissioned a series of three short videos explaining the principles of user adoption. These are free-to-use and link to by resellers presenting ROI and use cases as part of a sales process. Featuring user adoption specialist Pip Thomas, the videos explain the crucial link between the frequency and intensity of use of a new technology and the ultimate Return On Investment.
Thomas explains that the successful introduction of a new technology depends on factors including consultation with the intended users as part of the pre-sales process. She shows how a continuous training programme increases usage and overcomes the issue of generational diversity. You can find the videos by following the link to the AV News Video Channel from our home page (www.avnews.eu)