Thousands of man-hours had been spent and hundreds of thousands of dollars on switching to the newest technology, only there was one significant and unforeseen challenge - no one was using it. Sound familiar? It happens all the time. In this case, the year was 1999 and unfortunately, since that time, I've seen this challenge happen repeatedly. If you ask people why a piece of new technology doesn't get adopted, you will usually get answers like “it didn't do what it promised,” “the people weren't properly trained,” or it just didn't work with our current processes.
Yet, in case after case, I've witnessed technology not be adopted that would have made a difference if it was used, the people were trained, and would have made current processes easier if implemented.
If you are a large business, you want to avoid a tug of war happening between you and your people as you desperately try to get the ROI out of your new tool. If you are a small business, any money put into a new tool that remains unused can be devastating.
So how does this happen?
In my experience, the decision to invest in technology usually has its basis in a solid foundation. There is a business reason that drives the investigation for a new solution. A process of evaluation. A comparison review of competitors. A decision to proceed and even initial training by core users. All of this is solid, but the abandonment of the technology solution usually happens when a few months of launch. Here are three tips to helping ensure your newest technology solution doesn't get abandoned:
1. Build consensus through the entire organization.
One of the key mistakes that happen within an organization is that they fail to properly build buy-in. Sure, the immediate team that uses the tool may have bought-in and even their immediate managers, but what about senior management and on the other side more junior staff?
Realize that anything new is going to have a learning curve. It requires disrupting something that everyone is familiar with in order to do something differently. The moment their day gets busy, or an issue arises, if you don't have buy-in from ALL your stakeholders that user will invariably be confronted with "Why is this taking so long?" If this comes from senior management you can be sure the reaction will be swift as they swing back to their old ways of doing things because it’s easier. Even statements from more junior staff like "Well, this doesn't seem very efficient." can be the seeds of frustration that quickly grow into abandonment.
2. Make it count until it's routine!
You need to understand this universal human truth - people will return to what they are most comfortable with as soon as they can. It takes time to create comfort and during the transition period people, will struggle. It doesn't matter if the technology is superior; if it will protect your company better; if it will save them time in the long run - right now, today, it is painful. That means until it becomes routine you need to put in measures that ensure your new system is getting used.
If people know the "old system" is going to be available for "backup purposes" for the next year, you can guarantee that for the next 9 months they will use that old backup system until it gets close to that time of transition. Incentives can be fun and engaging, but ultimately one of the best ways is to link their use of a new system to their performance. When people know they "have" to, they will, and soon enough it will feel normal.
3. Schedule regular touchpoints.
So you built consensus, and it's a part of your performance review, but you've noticed that many of the best features are going ignored? It's important you schedule regular touchpoints to listen to how your users are ACTUALLY using the system. What is supposed to work in theory may evolve in practice. It's not always bad news either! Sometimes you will find the system you've implemented is being used in surprising ways and providing you with benefits you didn't identify. Try scheduling casual Lunch n' Learns for teams to come and share their thoughts on the system - the good and the bad!
Ultimately, remember this - no matter how great the technology it always comes down to people.
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