Bruce F. Webster: End Users

By Bruce F. Webster  |  Posted 2008-06-26 Print this article Print

Any one of three groups can kill your technology project before it gets started or make it fail after the fact: executives, management information systems and end users.

The third group, end users, has the least apparent power. But nevertheless, these users can sink a new project, too. They do this simply by complaining (rightly or wrongly) that the new system is unusable, less efficient, error-prone and lacking the hoped-for advantages that led the executives to fund it in the first place.

At least three major factors are at work here. First, people don’t like change unless the advantages are blindingly obvious and the self-gratification relatively immediate. This is especially true for computer applications with user interfaces. Anyone who has lived through an organizational switch in the past 20 years from, say, WordPerfect to Microsoft Word knows what this is like and how bitter the fights can be.

Second, a replacement of an old system or the introduction of a brand new one usually involves a corresponding change in existing business processes. It’s not just the software that’s affected; there can be an impact on the way people within the organization accomplish certain tasks, even if they never use the software themselves.

Third, the people who are going to use the new system want to feel that they have a say in it. This may seem like an obvious step. However, organizations often purchase, develop or deploy new systems with minimum end-user involvement.

Keep all of this in mind when you embark on developing or selling a new system. It’s important to have support not only from the executives paying for it, but also from MIS and the end users as well. Without firm support from all three legs of the stool, the many-headed beast—aka your new system—will surely fall down.

Bruce F. Webster is an international IT consultant. You can reach him at bwebster@bfwa.com or via his Web sites at brucefwebster.com and bfwa.com.
© 2008 by Bruce F. Webster

Webster is Principal and Founder at at Bruce F. Webster & Associates LLC. He works with organizations to help them evaluate troubled or failed information technology (IT) projects, or to assess IT systems and products for possible investment/acquisition. He has also worked in several dozen legal cases as a consultant and as a testifying expert, both in the United States and Japan.

Submit a Comment

Loading Comments...
eWeek eWeek

Have the latest technology news and resources emailed to you everyday.