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Abstract background - new technology

We’ve all experienced it before. A new piece of technology is introduced that’s designed to make the workforce faster, smarter, and more efficient. After months of planning and painful integration, user adoption is…underwhelming.

What went wrong? The technology was cutting edge and the business need was clear from a leadership perspective, so why aren’t people using it?

When technology integrations fail, most of the time it’s due to people rather than technical issues. It doesn’t matter how good the technology is if your users don’t embrace it.

What do we mean by people issues? Well, there are dozens of reasons why your employees might not embrace new technology. Do any of these sound familiar?

  • “I’m being hit with all this other change, and I’m completely overwhelmed.”
  • “I’m comfortable with the old system and know all the workarounds.”
  • “This new platform doesn’t have all the features I want. I’ll wait for the next version.”
  • “My boss doesn’t use it, so why should I?”
  • “I have no clue how this connects to our strategy or why it’s important to use a new system.”
  • “I’ve given the new platform a try and it’s tough. I’m pressured for time so I’ve gone back to the old way of doing things.”
  • “I’m different – I see why this is important for other people, but I’m a special case.”

It’s a lot to consider on top of getting the technical integration right. While most organizations have understood for a long time that some level of change management is required, investment can often be underwhelming. The sad truth is that organizations often decide to only really invest in the people side of change once there is a graveyard of past technology integration failures.

This is probably a good time to share that I’m actually not a fan of the term “change management.” It seems to have a lot of negative connotations, and quite frankly, traditional change management hasn’t done enough to win over the hearts and minds of users. It tends to be very process heavy and leans on one-way communications as a vehicle to engage the end audience. It should be better, and it can be better if it’s treated as a priority rather than an afterthought.

With that lens, I want to highlight four major mistakes organizations make that hinder user adoption, and give some pointers for how to rectify them:

You haven’t spent enough time understanding your users. In every technology implementation, companies will engage in a process of discovery to determine the business needs they want to solve, the desired outcome of the system, the process changes necessary to work inside the new system, and the training plan to bring users on board. Throughout the journey, many documents will be created including the business requirements document (BRD), market requirements document (MRD), technical requirements document (TRD), etc. One of the most important, and almost never completed, steps is to understand and clarify the human requirements. If people need to implement and use the system, it is critical to understand what drives success beyond the process and business needs. Find out more about your end users, what they are thinking and feeling, and build the change based on their requirements.

You haven’t focused any efforts on shifting mindsets. At many organizations, the end-users’ first immersion in new technology is generally fingers-on-keyboard training. The problem is that users often enter the room with negative perspectives and preconceptions, especially if adoption requires a new way of working or behaving. The new technology can feel like something imposed on them against their will, and the natural reaction is to reject the change. Part of the problem is that organizations don’t focus on mindset as rigorously as they do skill set, and behavior change is wrongly associated with training. If this is your organization, take the time to ensure your end users clearly understand the case for change and why it’s necessary to implement the system – both from the organization and users’ perspective.

Your leaders aren’t a part of the process. Large technology investments usually roll up to a bigger strategy or vision like the need to enhance the customer experience or improve efficiency. Yet, the leaders who create those strategies are often absent throughout technology implementations. We’re not suggesting that leaders be omnipresent (that would be impossible), but they need to be involved at key steps along the process:

  • Leaders should be clear and agree on the compelling story of the new technology, specifically the why. It’s amazing how often we discover leaders have completely different perspectives on the case for change.
  • They need to visibly advocate for the technology and promote dialogue even when there are bumps in the road.
  • They should learn enough about using the technology to understand the end-user’s experience – even if they’ll never practically use it themselves.
  • Leaders need to gather data and reports from the technology and bake into team meetings and hold other leaders accountable for doing the same.

You aren’t listening or reacting to feedback. With failed technology implementations, we hear time and time again that users feel their feedback was either not solicited or simply disappeared into a feedback black hole. Adopting a new piece of technology can be an emotional change for many users, and that emotion doesn’t go away after initial implementation and training efforts. Creating a feedback loop where users’ opinions are valued is an important step in helping navigate that emotional journey. Not only do your users feel that their voices are heard, but you can gather critical insights that should shape the ongoing engagement of your audience.

Change is happening faster and more frequently than ever before, so the need for new technology is inevitable. But to implement new technologies quickly and effectively leaders need to think about humanizing that change. So, let’s stop talking about change management and start thinking about change engagement because technology adoption without engaging your users is impossible!

March 13, 2019


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