Can Mark Twain Teach You Everything You Need To Know About IT User Adoption?
This is the first in a five part series.
Recently I stumbled on a page of Mark Twain quotes. I realized that the insights and teachings of a man who died decades before modern information systems were even conceived may hold some of the greatest lessons for how to deliver successful technology adoption programs.
While Mark, who never had a smart phone (a term I am sure would have amused him to no end), who never faced a full email inbox, who never Tweeted (is that really a verb?), and who would probably laugh at the notion of an online social community, had some of the keenest insight about the nature of man.
Sadly, it is often a lack of understanding about the nature of man that leads many IT projects to plunge into great depths of despair and poor adoption.
Over the next few weeks, let’s take a look at Mark’s words in relation to IT user adoption programs.
When examined in the context of various aspects of effective user adoption programs, Mark shows us some of the common mistakes and misplaced assumptions that often plague many IT projects.
How can you use Mark’s insights to deliver a more effective user adoption program?
USER ADOPTION STRATEGY
When talking with new and prospective clients, one of the biggest problems we see is that people often believe they already know all of the specific challenges they need to overcome in order to deliver effective technology adoption.
Given this, they believe that there is no need to spend time or money assessing the drivers or barriers of user adoption within their organization, much less devising an actionable strategy to move forward successfully.
Unfortunately, we have found – without exception – that there always critical items that are missed when you don’t investigate before your take action. These issues typically take the form of either key factors that were missed or the form of faulty (unverified) assumptions that led to great mistakes and wasted time or resources later.
IN MARK TWAIN'S WORDS
Before you assume you don’t need a user adoption strategy, consider Mark’s words:
One of the smartest men of our time, Albert Einstein, defined insanity as doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. Which, when it comes to IT investments begs the question of why so often people go through the usual motions to pull off an implementation only to “go live and go home” while still expecting this time it’ll be a better experience for everyone involved and this software will save zillions? But if you’re doing the same thing you’ve always done, how exactly will the results this time be different?
(Or maybe this is Einstein presciently explaining the often-reported and historically stagnant CRM failure rates of 50-75%? Just a thought.)
I work with IT effectiveness and user adoption specialists and what we hear from our clients are things like “oh, but this time it’ll be different because we’ll have more training”, or “this new software will change everything, it’s completely intuitive” or “it’s the cloud, so that’s different, right?” I hate to break it to you, but just like with all bad habits in life, they’re easy to stick to and hard to change. (More on this in a future blog entry.)
Or, as we heard recently, “It’s not the software that fails, it’s the fleshware.”
When it comes down to it, technology does – sometimes infuriatingly so – exactly what you ask it to do.
But when it comes to people, the ‘fleshware’, let me ask you this: when was the last time a group of people did exactly what you asked them to do? Especially when you were changing the way they’d been doing something for years?
Ay, there's the rub.
So now what? How do you rescue the resources you poured into the project and begin to create the value you were so sure you’d realize with this implementation, with this change? How do you stop beating your head against that Einstein quote and regain some sanity?
First, look at what the implementation project’s focus was, and what was the benchmark for ‘success’. Was it techno-centric and success was on-time and on-budget delivery? Or was it business-centric and success is the ongoing measurement and achievement of business/ROI goals?
Next, when the project began was there a holistic strategy focused on driving desired user behaviors and aligning all the organizational elements necessary to achieve business goals? Or was the strategy just to get to go-live and there wasn’t a plan for what happened after that?
Third, the only constant is change. What sort of plan is in place to manage the inevitable changes and unexpected issues that will arise? What kind of infrastructure is in place to identify and respond to gaps, threats, opportunities, issues and events?
- Still have questions and need some ideas about how your specific project could be helped? Take our quick assessment quiz – free and private, I promise! – and get some insight into how you might break your organization’s Einstein-ian cycle.
- With the rate of CRM failure being still ridiculously high, how can you succeed? Check out our eBook on avoiding CRM Failure Zone.
- Are you spending more time and money that you need or want to on the non-value-add tasks administering your implementation change? Take a look at MyUserAdoptionPlan.com for a glimpse of our pre-loaded, customizable change management portal.
This far into spring many Seattleites are more than ready for the first glimpses of that odd, warmish bright thing in the sky. When I lived back east we called it “the sun”. But sometimes, like this last Tuesday, we have to pretend and somehow manufacture our own sunshine.
Which is how a group of friends and I found ourselves at our neighborhood’s most brightly painted Mexican place. It was with near-salivating anticipation for our dry, near-perfect summers we ordered our pitcher of margaritas. Or…ok, maybe it had just been a long day for each of us.
Being the most technically-inclined person of the group – to the extent that I’m the only one with an iPod even – I try to be the one who kicks off our usual how-was-your-day round-robin with the briefest description of what I did, just to get my IT-related day behind us so we can talk about things that are common to the whole group. That day, I’d designed a Power Point presentation for an upcoming conference on user adoption in the cloud. When the conversation turned to the cloud my dear friend Jane, an office manager, recalled how just hours before her bosses sprung a new cloud-based Power Point-like software on her, telling her their whole organization was moving to it and she needed to learn it. Oh, and while she’s at it, convert all the other slide decks their office regularly uses too.
“It seems to me we’re always upgrading or switching to something totally new and the technology changes so fast, no one can keep up. It’s like technology’s moving so fast, we’re just running along behind doing our best to catch up, but we can’t. None of us can. It just moves that fast and changes that often. It’s not the technology’s fault. It’s just that as humans, we can’t change as fast as it does.”
Despite my best efforts, I couldn’t help but grin over my salted rim and say, “Precisely. And that’s where user adoption consulting comes in. We’re the ones you bring in to help you navigate through all those changes, with all those personalities and competing interests, and we set you up for the long-term. Because you know it’s going to change again. ”
Curt, a school counselor, looked at me and said, “So…it’s not the technology. It actually has nothing to do with the technology…it’s all about the people…and how they manage and get through the change, as individuals, as departments, as whole organizations.”
And it was like the sun came out right there at the table: the heretofore somewhat abstract notion of “user adoption” finally made sense to everyone at the table. Here was a real-life example they each could relate to; they’d heard it from someone going through it and heads nodded in recognition.
So while this last Tuesday afternoon didn’t set records for instant sunlight over Seattle, having my friends see a real-world example of what I do on a daily basis was definitely something to toast to.
Johnny from Airplane! Teaches us About Effective User Adoption Teams
Who do You Need on Your User Adoption Team?
We are often asked, "Who should I put on my User Adoption team"? In the clip below, we see all the "contributions" that Johnny makes to the team. Is he adding value along the way? Does having Johnny on the team help or hurt you? Does Johnny have the skills he needs to help, does he not care, or does he just not have a clue?
Apply What You Learned: Building a Great User Adoption Team
Effective User Adoption teams require a range of personalities, skills, and expertise. You will need subject matter experts and leaders ("Get me Rex Kramer"), people to do the hard work, and yes, people with personality to be the glue to hold them all together. However, if people do not have the skills or are unable or unwilling to make any substantive contribution, you may need to make some changes.
Pay careful attention to the people on your User Adoption team and make sure they are adding value. Sometimes you need people who look at thinks differently (like Johnny - who else could make hat, a brooch, or a pterodactyl)? These people can bring the ingenuity you need and provide laughs in the face of stress. ...but make sure they are actually adding value and not just taking up space.
Best Practices & Key Questions
- Have a variety of personalities, perspectives and skills on your team
- Do you have people who can look at things differently and find creative solutions on your team If not, how would your team be more effective if they had more diversity?
- Do you have a "Johnny" on your User Adoption team? Do they help or hurt your team? If they are not add value to your team, why not? What action do you need to take to improve your team?
- Have clear leaders and experts in User Adoption on your team
- Do you have a "Rex Kramer" on your User Adoption team? Is this person an expert in User Adoption and have the leadership skills to guide you through a tough patch? If you don't have a full-time Rex Kramer, do you have access to a Rex Kramer that you can call on in when needed?
- If you don't have a Rex Kramer, how will you get one? Will you hire one? Is there someone in your organization that can learn to be User Adoption subject matter expert?
- Take the User Adoption Challenge to see what specific user adoption issues you face on your IT project
- Contact Tri Tuns to learn about our User Adoption Seminars and how they can help you build an effective User Adoption Team
Tell us what you think
Was this a "teachable moment" for you? What did you learn? What else can this clip teach us about improving user adoption? We want to hear from you - please add a comment below.