The Prelude – grand talk of the strategic potential of a new IT technology, the manifold ROI, the sky rocketing productivity, the competitive advantage.
The Act – 5% of the employees use the software after 3 months of implementation.
It goes without saying. The bare minimum necessary condition for a software initiative to succeed is for end users to use the software. According to a 2008 study by the Sand Hill Group and Neochange, the most critical factor for software success is effective user adoption.
Unfortunately, this is also the hardest to achieve. A simple fact about human behavior is, people are resistant to change (Obama may disagree). There is no greater inertia than that of comfortable everyday habits. Every software implementation plan has to surpass this negative inertia to succeed.
This article lists some simple yet practical strategies you may employ for your new collaboration software initiative to be embraced by the largest number of employees in your organization.
1) The Software – The usability of the software itself is important is garnering adoption. The UI should be intuitive, easy to use and fast. The success of web 2.0 in large part is due to the point and click and user-friendly nature of the software. Employees these days are used to pleasing and fun software like FaceBook, Twitter, and YouTube in their roles as consumers, and bring similar expectations to the workplace. As noted by Dion Hinchcliffe in his article, in case of complex enterprise software like SharePoint “inherent sophistication can also mean slow adoption and low engagement by users”.
Usability is one of the cornerstones of our HyperOffice Collaboration Suite, especially considering our customer base of SMBs, which do not have much in house IT expertise.
The software is important, but is certainly not enough to ensure wide adoption. It is to a large extent a human problem. Employees are by default going to be skeptical, and unwilling to step out of comfortable modes of action. If you are so used to setting up meetings through email, (notwithstanding the torrent of emails to schedule, reschedule that follow), going to the new company calendar is going to feel like a burden. These are humans that have to be convinced, and won over.
2) Undertake a Marketing Campaign – While launching software across the company, the owner of the initiative should assume the attitude of a marketer. Conduct training sessions, seminars, and circulate materials across the organization, telling everyone how the new tool will help them solve problems they face everyday, and how it will help them work better. The emphasis should be on their pain points, rather than solution features.
3) Reinforce Good Behavior – The more I think about it, the more sense Kurt Lewin’s Model of Change that I learnt in college makes. It is not enough to implement change, but the change has to be repeatedly reinforced, till it becomes the new state of equilibrium.
Reward good behavior. The simple act of applauding an employee who assigns a new activity using the task management system sends everyone a message.
4) Practice what you Preach – No one is going to follow the Law, if the Lawmakers are frequently found infringing rules. Who is going to take a manager seriously, who circulates a policy document by email announcing the new document management system!? The top management are looked up to as idols in an organization. Strict self-discipline is necessary in their part to set an example.
5) Use Fun to your Advantage! – As educators down the ages have learnt, fun and play are great tools for education. Use fun as an excuse to engage users with the software. Non-work related activities around the tool could reap benefits in the long term. How about setting up a poll within your tool to choose the venue for your next company outing? A discussion forum for informal chitter-chatter between employees around their interests? Or something evil, a flash game where players get points for shooting down a competitor’s logo.
6) Deprive Users of Choice – There is some essential information and tool that every employee needs to access during their work day. Make your collaboration tool the single point of access for these tools and information – company events updated only on the shared calendar; essential policy documents, order forms, contract templates available only in shared documents; reimbursement requests only channeled through the expenses application in the company portal and so on. That way, you will sneak the software into the users’ daily routine.
Is there a technique you learnt in your experience? Please share it with us and others!