cloud-whiteboardIt is typical to experience resistance or ambivalence to change with projects that  directly affect peoples work processes. The “push back” can be minimized by informing, preparing and involving key stakeholders in change. Specifically, clear and open communication with staff is critical in developing their commitment to the change. It is important to build clear understanding of where the change is leading and what it means through a strong business case and a clear vision assembled with their direct involvement. Staff must understand what the benefits of the project are to the company as well as to the individual, how things will change for them and how the project supports the company vision. Strong change leadership and open communication with stakeholders will build their commitment to and understanding of the changes and will involve them in the project.

Generically, Return on Investment (ROI) is a combination of cost savings and increased revenue. The difficulty lies in accurately accounting for and precisely measuring all of the line items that need to be plugged into the equation. At its most basic, it can be expressed as follows:

ROI = the sum of (+/- Savings) and (+/- Revenue) over a period of time

The challenge is twofold: accurately forecasting ROI and maximizing the actual results of the solution.

Roadblocks to User Adoption
ROI is intimately connected to changes in organizational and individual behavior. At best, Collaboration will introduce new efficiencies, improve quality and act as a catalyst for entirely new ways of working. However, technical innovation and solution engineering prowess are not sufficient; end user adoption is “the last mile” of Solution ROI. Successful enterprise solutions are not installed with an installation wizard; they are assimilated into existing habits and practices.

Figure 1 depicts time and the degree of buy-in that can be expected by utilising a User Adopting Framework for projects that have high organisational impacts.

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Figure 1. Adoption Rates over time

It is also critical to equip staff with the skills and capabilities required to use the new system. Organizations must build the capability of staff through education and training initiatives and support them with post go-live support initiatives. These activities are carried out at all stages of the project with such initiatives as process briefings and initial communications at the beginning of the project through to end user documentation at the conclusion. The diagram below shows communication, education and training initiatives as a continuum, beginning with providing foundation information at the beginning of the project, ramping up for the full deployment and continuing into support stages and post deployment phase.

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Figure 2. The communication, education and training continuum

User Adoption – Maximizing results
Adoption is best defined as the deployment of technology plus the assimilation of all behaviors the new technology is intended to facilitate plus, the abandonment of old behaviors that are to be eliminated.

Information work is thinking work. And when thinking and Collaboration are assisted by computer technology you have a digital nervous system. It consists of the advanced digital processes that knowledge workers use to make better decisions. To think, adapt and react.

Bill Gates

The adoption rate is the rate at which the user population adopts best practices and abandons outdated behaviors. For example, if a portal is intended to eliminate duplicate work effort but the users are still reinventing the wheel and not working together even though the portal is operational, there is not complete adoption and the forecasted savings won’t be realized. Table 1 depicts general adoption rates based on the adopter (user) profile.

Early adopters Mainstream adopters
User Profile 20% of the population are tech savvy, embrace change and are risk takers Remaining user population are not tech savvy and don’t like change
Time frame 6 Months 6 to 18 months +

Table 1 – Adoption Rates

User Adoption framework
We now understand that successful enterprise solutions are not installed with an installation wizard; they are assimilated into existing habits and practices which requires business (and users) to change. As my marketing professor once said “Ron, people hate change…” and therefore an all encompassing strategy and framework for addressing this change is required.

To address change, a user adoption framework should be adopted by companies, as shown in Table 2:

Framework Area of Focus Goal(s) Deliverables
Business Vision Define the business vision, key success factors and resulting improvement metrics. Business Requirements.
User requirements Determine the needs of the users. User contextual Work Analysis.Information architecture.
Management and User Representative Governance and Steering Govern direction, staffing and content. Steering committee and decision framework.
Design Develop a design that maps to the users tasks and goals and is intuitive. Solution design and decision support.
Architecture Develop an architecture that provides the services required over the serviceable life of the solution (3-5 years). System Architecture to support new system and decision support.
Awareness Communications Communication plan and road show to create awareness. Communication team, tools and forum.
Training Training plan and support structure. Training plan, tools and forum.
Deployment Pilot or proof of concept deployment using PMI methods and framework.Full project deployment using PMI methods and framework. Design.Testing.Pilot/proof of concept lesson learned.Full Deployment.
User Feedback Mechanisms Feedback mechanism to improve on service. Surveys·          Feedback sessions
Usage (Adoption) measurement Measure usage based on user deployments. Usage measuring tools.Standard reporting metrics.
Staffing plan Day to day staff.Build and deploy staff. Project budget.Change request.Scope of work.
Retirement of superseded systems Shutdown systems.Tied to communication plan. Plan to retire systems.

Table 2 – User Adoption Framework

Example
The following example, though simplified, demonstrates the usage of the framework depicted in Table 2.

Framework Area of Focus Description
Business Vision Client XYZ is an IT company whose desire is to differentiate its service offerings by providing clients with best practice solutions that leverage the combined experience of its consulting staff population globally. XYZ believes that by achieving this they will be able to justify the higher consulting fees associated with its cost structure. Adopt a knowledge management infrastructure that provides consultants with a means of capturing and publishing knowledge. Also, link staff performance metrics to the effort and establish measurement for contributions linked directly to projects.
User requirements Enable users to view, search and submit documentation related to projects and other knowledge capture related activities.  Allow for global access no matter their location as long as the internet is available and proper security is in place.Enable users to seek out thought leaders and areas of practice.Establish labor reporting codes to record time and support reporting.
Management and User Representative Governance and Steering Establish knowledge forums and communications globally and assign local knowledge officers.Provide them with usage and contribution metrics.Offer staff incentives and nurture early adopters.
Design Deploy a Portal to provide communities, document storage and search mechanisms.Organize by communities or practice and technology focus areas.
Architecture Deploy and architecture and operational model that fits your budget, service needs and technology investments.
Awareness Communications Establish communications channels to the regions and office.Establish sites in each region to act a focal point of communications for that region.
Training Establish quarterly virtual training sessions.Utilize virtual classroom software.Place training packages in each of the regional sites.
Deployment Pilot or proof of concept deployment using PMI methods and framework.Full project deployment using PMI methods and framework.
User Feedback Mechanisms Establish forms on each of the regional sites.Provide Email links on each of the regional sites.Survey staff quarterly to gather feedback.
Usage (Adoption) measurement Implement usage reporting for SharePoint Portal.Implement document publishing reports.For each completed project, 1 site and 100 documents should be published.
Staffing plan Part time (25% utilized) equivalent for day to technical operations per region.Part time (5% utilized) equivalent for day to knowledge management activities per region.Full time global knowledge mgmt. person to coordinate efforts of regions and set policy.Customization and changes to be managed using change control and project teams as required.
Superseded system shutdown Relevant data is migrated to new systems·          Communication of shutdown.Superseded systems are shutdown.

Table 3 – Case Study

Summary
For a company to achieve its ROI, user adoption must be front and center to a company’s project from early inception through to ongoing management. The adoption rate at which the user population adopts best practices and abandons outdated behaviors will be a challenge to manage since organizational change is always difficult due to human factors. Resistance to change and awareness are common for any new business process and technology but can be managed using aggressive communications, training and performance measurement.

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