In my last three posts, here (1st) and here (2nd), I’ve discussed the issues surround creating buy-in to new software and technology projects. Basically what that means is that you can spend a whole lot of money on the coolest piece of software for your company, but have used it better making a nice campfire if no-one uses it. Over the years, I’ve come up with some key points in helping to actually get this done, so rather than bather on about the problems and costs, I’ll share some of these points with you now. These are things that you as a project manager, or even better, a senior manager, should be thinking about and probably should be doing!
1. Make technology/software choices with a view to effective buy-in.
- Work with shareholders in the company while choosing technology to identify the goals to ensure that users, needs and technology are aligned – e.g. do Boomer managers need and want PDAs or does a Millennial IT manager think they do?
- Guide the organization on complexity design decisions before purchase: e.g. do they want or need minimal buy-in software (easy to learn, easy to use, and easy to re-learn next month) for tasks that are only done occasionally?
- Assess software or tech options for ease of adoption, and recommend the most suitable choice on the basis of company culture and experience.
- Assess other factors in user adoption: training materials, manuals, help files for user-friendliness; review issues such as the software/tech provider’s training and after-training service and back-up history, accessibility and reputation for service.
- Assess the REAL cost of training to adoption.
2. Guide the pilot project, ensuring that the right people are involved, and the right data is obtained.
3. Define the training objectives and user goals effectively
- Communicate training objectives and goals clearly and in a timely manner to users.
- Determine what the users know before training, vs. what they need to know. (How big the gap is in total skill-sets)
- Determine the minimum degree of functionality each user group should reach, sustainably, to achieve the desired business objectives.
- Determine whether it is possible to create levels of functionality, so that certain users can achieve adequate functionality, while other functionalities can be trained later, according to confidence, need and interest.
- Assess/monitor at what point a blanket demand for full functionality can lead to a significant percentage of any user group feeling “overwhelmed with feeling overwhelmed”
- Create ways to show options to learners, so that they can choose their level of functionality before or during training.
These tasks may be determined during the pilot project phase.
4. Identify sources of concern: road blocks, resistance, “out of comfort zone”, anxiety, problems with degree of management buy-in to the system, degree of senior management support, concerns with training methods etc. Work through any issues.
Any engagement requires (amongst other things)
- involving people,
- listening to them
- demonstrating that their opinions count (and are seen to count)
- making sure that people feel successful
- communicating, so people always know what they are doing, why and what is expected
- giving them feedback
- communicating in terms that people understand, and at a conceptual level which matches their phase of understanding.
5. Assess or monitor training, to ensure that it reaches a tipping point where the goal percentages of users reach and maintain the defined adoption standard.
- Ensure that training accords with the laws of adult learning.
- Ensure that training accords with the users’ needs and styles of learning
- Ensure that training achieves specific goals, along clearly mapped learning paths,
- Ensure that training includes teaching the users of the software/ technology to think of solidly useful and beneficial ways to use the new tools in their own daily work.
- There are experts in this. Don’t think that because you are a great programmer or project manager that training people or designing retainable classes is easy.
6. Maintain use of the software /technology
- Create a supportive framework for the implementation phase – with top-level go-to mentors (who can also act as system champions) and generally competent buddies (pairing buddies with slow adopters and resisters). The top-level mentors might be involved in the training itself.
- Ensure that IT staff are supportive, that IT staff are working with users at their level, using vocabulary they understand and that they buy in to the mission of engaging the users with the new material or equipment. Ensure that IT department staff are provided with incentives, and rewarded for meeting the adoption and sustainability goals of the project.
- Work with management to tie the technology to the key performance indicators of each position, in a way that the use of the technology is mandatory. Ensure that all managers use the technology or receive coaching if they themselves are slow adopters. Help managers to (a) reinforce the “what’s in it for me” factor for the users; (b) reward and give feedback on adoption and (c) apply a consistent, no-exception policy to use of the software/equipment.
- Schedule on-going training until an agreed level of adoption is reached. Ensure that the company invest to the degree that the technology is critical to the business, in regular refresher bursts, assessments, rewards, games etc.
- Celebrate early adopters, and ensure praise of others as they meet their goals.
7. Measure the results of the implementation and training against the business goals
- Assess the pilot project, and identify/report problems and solutions.
- Survey users for frustration, comfort, opinions, problems, successes etc during implementation.
- Measure the results of the project in terms of the use of technology/software and the achievement of the business goals it was put in place to achieve. (E.g. with project management software, one might measure the number of overruns or schedule misses since implementing the new program.)
Wow! Well I know that’s a lot, but if you have actually gone through these points you’ll at least have had the opportunity to think about your next big project in a different way.