Just Because You Build It, Don’t Expect Them To Come
Change management techniques in IT are long overdue
End users just loooooooove their personal smartphone apps. So why don’t they blink an eye when IT releases new and useful productivity software? There’s a serious challenge with getting users to use enterprise technology today. If left unchecked, the problem will only get worse.
How many times have you seen this movie? SharePoint gets deployed as a document repository, and IT may create an intranet page. Lync / Skype gets deployed as an IM tool, and the IT team might pilot voice features. IT announces Yammer as a hip enterprise social network, and posts a few messages now and then.
But left to their own devices, end users drifted back to the old way of doing things. They’ll email various versions of a doc instead of posting and collaborating on SharePoint. They’ll pick up a desk phone instead of checking Lync presence status and clicking to call from their PC. They’ll blast FYI emails to large distribution lists instead of posting on Yammer. IT leaders might look at all the unused capabilities of SharePoint, like workflows and search, or the cost savings possible with Skype conferencing, and blame the users for not being tech savvy. But who’s blaming who? Users may try something new once (or twice), but if they didn’t see immediate value, they wave it off as "another misguided IT project."
If left unchecked, this problem can get worse. As more applications become available from the cloud, as more capabilities are released more frequently, there’s a risk of overload for the everyday worker. Take a look at the before/after picture of the Office 365 app launcher.
Figure 1: Office 365 Launcher, Circa 2014
Figure 2: Office 365 Launcher, October 2016
While IT buyers may be impressed with Redmond’s innovations, users don’t have time to poke around all the icons, and may just perceive more apps as “more noise from IT.” Leave them to find their own tools to improve their jobs, and watch Shadow IT creep in to create security and governance problems.
What’s been missing is Organizational Change Management; techniques to draw end users in with a “what’s in it for me?” hook. They’ll download and try a smartphone app when they’re intrigued. If it’s helpful, they’re motivated to use again, and to tell a friend. When they and others get hooked, they will change their prior behavior. Productivity apps at work can work the same way, if properly positioned and carefully communicated.
It’s not a glamourous topic we learned in IT courses, unless you’re a student in a course like @braddbusick teaches at Pacific Lutheran University. IT pros would be wise to spend more time learning how to ensure adoption of new technology.
Bradd, a CIO by day and part-time prof, introduced me to Prosci (the change management professional organization), who asks the right question about software and user adoption: When considering how much time/expense to sink into change management, you should be asking: what percentage of the ROI is dependent on user adoption? In the case of productivity apps, isn’t it ~100%? Sure, you might save a little money on disk space and server patch management by moving SharePoint to the cloud, or using OneDrive instead of home drives.
But with SaaS, one could argue that the user experience is the *only* thing that matters. Prosci suggests evaluating the ROI assuming various % of users do change and use the new software, and justifying spending time/money on Change Management based on the delta. https://www.prosci.com/change-management/thought-leadership-library/roi-of-change-management.
These problems aren’t easy to solve. Users seem too busy to care. IT is busy fighting malware fires and building / patching servers.
But IT leaders are starting to see the light. In 3-7 years, depending on the industry, most services will be in the cloud, managed by machines, not humans. Savvy IT pros will morph from infrastructure change managers to business change agents. The change is afoot already, and the results are significant. Many organizations are “rebranding” SharePoint as they migrate to Office 365. “Skype changed our culture” said Don Bender, CIO at GAI Consultants, a Pennsylvania-based architecture/engineering/construction firm.
GAI followed the proactive change management approach which likens the launch of a user-facing IT initiative to the launch of a Hollywood movie. A movie studio starts advertising a film a year or more in advance, with a vague poster about the film in the movie theater hallways. Six months later, they release a trailer. Three months later, the toys arrive at McDonalds and department stores. Three weeks before the premier, they get the critics buzzing and make the talk show circuit. All of this in the hopes that people will line up on the day of the opening and fill the seats for the whole weekend. If they don’t, much like the major investments made in IT, the ROI is sunk.
IT projects should be handled in the same way… so that users get intrigued, are eager to learn more, can see how a tool will help them in their jobs, show up for training, and start using the tool when it’s released. See a visual depiction of the analogy below. Left to usual user behavior, the IT initiative is destined for a quick trip to late night cable.
Christian Stegh is CTO + VP of Strategy at Enabling Technologies.