Leave No User Behind

By Baselinemag  |  Posted 2007-06-14 Print this article Print

The manufacturer of clinical diagnostic instruments rolled out new software, but employees did not know how to use it. A new lesson plan made the difference.

Leave No User Behind

Even the best systems training software isn't going to ensure that users make the most of an enterprise application that's being rolled out.

So says Heidi Spirgi, president of Knowledge Infusion, a Minneapolis-based human capital management technology consulting firm. "There are really four main factors that determine whether a rollout will succeed planning, training, communications and internal marketing," Spirgi says.

"Often a CIO will only see I.T-related problems and issues in bringing users on board, but it's really a holistic process," she adds. "The company has to communicate to its employees as to why the new technology is important to the organization's success and how it can benefit the employees themselves."

Step-by-Step Plan

To ensure success, organizations should plan out each phase of the training, including the instructional material, the methods of bringing users on board (virtual training, live classroom or "brown bag" sessions, CDs, or a mixture of all three), and the means of gauging whether the training has been successful and is being retained. "A lot of times, organizations don't dedicate enough resources and time to planning. It's often an afterthought," Spirgi says.

In best cases, training is carried out by a project team made up of both technical and functional representatives and headed up by a project manager, according to Spirgi. "The functional representatives people from various business units] bring the business concerns to the table," she says. "The I.T. people, in turn, work and plan to ensure that those concerns, as well as the I.T. requirements, are met during the training process."

Typically, too, the team will include someone from corporate communications to create a marketing plan. "The goal of a marketing plan is to get employees to buy into the training, and understand how the new apps can ultimately benefit them and ultimately improve technology adoption rates," Spirgi explains.

It's often a senior executive who presents an overview of the plan to employees. Recently, Spirgi worked with a corporate client that used its HR director to describe a new enterprise application. "She explained why the company had chosen that particular software, how it aligned with company goals and its significance to the employees," she says.

The Resistance Factor

Employees should be provided with some clear motivation to make the most of the new software, Spirgi argues. There should also be a feedback mechanism in place to gauge what works and what doesn't in terms of effecting change management and acceptance.

Spirgi, however, is quick to concede that all this doesn't mean that end users are all going to welcome the changes with open arms. "A company's workforce usually consists of 30% to 40% 'resisters,' employees who because of fear, stress and other factors create internal resistance to new technology," she points out. They can be won over, Spirgi says, but only when they understand that the new technology isn't going to make their lives and jobs harder, but easier and more productive.


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