We built it and they didn’t come!
Sounds familiar? It happens in more cases than not. A group of executives or business leaders get together and determine a new strategic direction is needed to maintain market share, grow the business and enable sustained business outcomes. With that decision comes new technology designed to streamline processes, and enhance employee capabilities to do their jobs more effectively. Then something strange happens down the road. All the gains that justified the new technology and strategic path are not being realized to their full potential. Hmmm… what could have happened? You may be pondering that same question, as the realization of the proposed benefits is not in line with your expectations. Well, it’s no mystery! A large percentage of change initiatives either fail or don’t entirely deliver the expected value. I am proposing a possible answer as to why this occurs; Lack of User Adoption!
To clearly articulate my opinion, we must first define user adoption. In the case of most organizations, it means; employees are using a new system to the best of their abilities with a focus on the business benefits of the solution while striving for continuous improvement. This simple definition highlights the following interesting points: Employees are actually using the system, they are capable, they understand the business drivers for the new technology, and they are constantly looking to improve the way they do work. Now this is USER ADOPTION! So, one might ask, does this happen?
According to Prosci Inc., user adoption has three distinct variables that contribute to an implementation success. These variables are also key metrics that must be apart of an overall approach to measuring the success of an implementation.
- Speed of Adoption – Speed of adoption is how quickly employees begin using the new process, system, technology or tools.
- Ultimate Utilization – Ultimate utilization is like the participation rate – how many employees are engaged and practicing the ‘new way of doing things’, created by the project or initiative.
- Proficiency – Proficiency is the factor related to how effective employees are when they do implement the change.
There is factual evidence that if all three of these variables are met, the expected return on investment from your technology or process implementation can be met or exceeded. I am a firm believer that this is absolutely true, with one caveat. A structured change enablement (CE) approach, enabled by effective tools and techniques is the foundation for user adoption which will provide the best opportunity to maximize your technology investments and enable value realization.
Let’s talk a bit about what a structured CE approach looks like by first defining what this means. My definition of CE falls into the following two categories:
- At the project level
The application of a structured process and set of tools for leading the change effort to achieve a desired outcome
- At the organizational level:
A leadership competency for enabling and driving change within an organization
A strategic capability designed to increase change capacity and responsiveness while enabling overall adoption
With the two categories understood, CE solutions provide the best opportunity to maximize return on investment (ROI). A structured CE approach should be truly a transformational process. It should be grounded by a development of a strong organizational readiness community, strategy development, and execution of tactical plans. The following are components of an effective CE approach:
Developing a change enablement strategy provides direction and purpose for executing tactical change enablement activities. A change enablement strategy will assist to cultivate the confidence of stakeholders and impacted users to ensure awareness, understanding, acceptance and adoption of your technology implementation.
A solid change enablement strategy must be governed by the following principles:
- Change is an act of leadership, and individual choice
- People need two significant questions answered:
- Why are we doing this?
- What’s in it for me?
- There is a process associated with change that is predictable and requires time
- Not everyone will accept or embrace the change, but a critical mass must be willing to make the transition
Aligning leaders and ensuring the right level of engagement exists to facilitate the attainment of goals and objectives is critical to user adoption. Leadership alignment is the catalyst by which organizations achieve their goals. Leadership alignment will yield significant results by:
- Ensuring that buy-in occurs from the top of the organization down throughout all affected units. This is done through communication events conducted in the various departments to raise awareness and gain support
- Delivering all communications to administrators, faculty, and supervision before they are distributed to the employees and students. This ensures that these folks are able to answer questions that come up when the employees and students read the communications
- Ensuring organizational leadership understands clearly and communicates consistently the benefits and business case for the change
- Helping senior leaders identify what is required of them and their direct reports in support transformation initiatives
ROI Driven Change Impact Analysis
A change impact analysis determines how each and every stakeholder/stakeholder group and employee will be affected by changes resulting from your initiatives. The focus is to identify and put action-oriented interventions in place for impacts resulting from changes associated with:
- Business processes/workflow
- Jobs/roles, if applicable
- New system functionality or tool
- Policy and procedures
This proven process will ensure that employees have a greater understanding of how they will be affected by the change initiatives. As a result, they are better prepared which leads to less resistance, faster user adoption and quicker ROI.
The core of any organizational change enablement initiative is communication. The organization should incorporate a robust communications process that has been proven to raise the level of awareness, understanding, acceptance, and commitment. Execution of a robust communications plan is the catalyst to effective communications. The goal of the plan is to obtain a thorough understanding of the audiences affected, plan approaches that meet their specific needs, and deliver effective messages to all stakeholders. Through this process, you get faster adoption of your change initiative, which provides a quicker return on your investment.
Several guiding principles underpin stakeholder engagement. Organizations should create a definitive split between strategic and operational principles. Strategic refers to a higher-level understanding and structuring of stakeholder engagement and involves identifying stakeholders, significant issues and expectations. While operational principles focus on the action of dealing with stakeholders, for instance, the stakeholder engagement plan and its execution.
Organizational readiness provides a state of preparedness of all employees, systems, or departments to meet a situation and carry out a planned sequence of actions. This allows for resources to take ownership of the change for their department or functional area and keep an organizational perspective – both macro (goals/objectives) and micro (what managers and employees cope with). Organizational readiness teams coordinate and participate in readiness and acceptance activities to get greater buy-in, commitment, and support from key stakeholders and employees within your organization.
End User Training
Changes as a result of your implementation create a need for new skills, knowledge and behaviors among your employees. An effective end-user training and support approach enables employees to understand the changes in their work, why they are occurring and any new skills they will need to acquire. This is where the proficiency for maintaining and sustaining your technology investment comes into play. Adequately educated employees contribute to overall user adoption. If employees have the skills and capabilities to use the new system, they feel confident and can deliver the expected bottom-line results.
Sustaining the business value of your technology takes more than just managing the software. In order to optimize and sustain organizational performance, it is highly recommended to focus on the workforce. This overall notion is to develop a strategy to support ongoing performance. The sustainment strategy should focus on the ability to assess performance easily and also focus on the ability to respond to the needs of the workforce in a real-time manner.
In the end, a discipline focus on enabling and encouraging employees to embrace, adopt and utilize a change will directly contribute to higher return on investment through faster adoption, greater utilization and higher proficiency. In other words, “build it, put these measures in place, and they will come!”
Written by Julyan Lee, Founder/President The Leeward Team.