Open Letter From A Technology Adoption Practitioner

You know the saying about the cure being worse than the disease? Probably the best example of that adage these days are new IT systems that are deployed across an organization with great fanfare … and no forewarning. The common results include:

  • Resistance to change
  • Low levels of user adoption
  • Not meeting predicted ROI
  • Over budget
  • Missing deployment milestones

I would be surprised if these outcomes were not familiar to you. Many IT projects are plagued with these results. One key to getting better results is to include people, culture, and process considerations along with technical specifications from the beginning of the project. Wouldn’t it be nice if the people that will be using a new system were an integral part of the design and deployment of that system? With this thought in mind, I would like to ask for your help.

I have been out of work now for more months than I care to count. Recently, I reached the point where I needed to re-evaluate what I was looking for and how I was going about it. The bottom line is that I have been shooting too broadly, hoping to connect with any position that was generally connected with my experience.

I have spent the last few weeks trying to re-focus on what I really want to do and what I do well. I want to articulate that vision in a way that an organization can see the value I bring to the table. So here it is: I am looking for situations where organizations are deploying new technology, and need help with the people and process aspects of the deployment. Studies have shown that many IT deployments fail, not for any technical reason, but because little planning or thought was put into how to engage end-users and other stakeholders in the system design and deployment. I have 20+ years experience doing just this, deploying technology so that users “get it” and willingly make the necessary changes in process and behavior to achieve desired results.iStock_000007969190Small

If you know of any organization or situation where a technology adoption specialist would be of value, please pass my resume along as appropriate. I am interested in either full-time positions or any sort of part-time/temporary/freelance situations. I am focused primarily on working in the Raleigh/Durham/Chapel Hill area of North Carolina, but I am willing to work remotely from my home, and/or travel as necessary.

Thanks.

Lee White | Phone: (919) 280-5925 | Email: leewhite.nc@gmail.com

 

Users and New Technology

There is no secret that the success of information technology projects ultimately depends on whether or not the technology gets used. If you deploy it and no one comes to play, what good has it done. Getting users engaged is a critical element of project success. Gartner pointed this out almost 10 years age in their report, “The users view of why IT projects fail”. The key to success is to have a plan for user engagement and adoption as an integral part of the overall project plan. This is not something that can be tacked on at the end “if we have some money left”.iStock_000006700207XSmall

Didier Bonnnet of Capgemini recently published and article in Harvard Business Review that is on point here. He says:

When these platforms are introduced, organizations too often focus only on deployment, not adoption. It’s remarkable how commonplace it is for leaders to lose sight of the true ROI of their digital investments.

As organizations turn more and more to technology solutions to improve efficiency and effectiveness, there needs to be increased effort put into the people and process aspects of these deployments.

Articulating the Value Proposition

Finding a new job this time has been more difficult than ever before. I am quite certain that my problem has been that I have not been focused enough on what it is that I do and defining the value I can provide to an organization. With this understanding I have taken a break from the daily scan of job listings, and worked on tryiiStock_000002883983Small_Be the first_gearsng to understand and articulate the real value I can bring to the table. I think I have finally identified my focus, technology deployment and user adoption. Pretty much every job I have had for the past 20+ years has been a variation of helping people learn new skills and change behaviors related to using new technology. There it is, that is what I do.

User Adoption Problems

Ultimately the success of any IT system boils down to, “Is it being used?”. No matter how good the ROI projections are, or how advanced the technology is, or how little it costs, if users are resistant to making necessary behavioral changes, the final result will be seen as a failure.iStock_000003953906Small

I found this post by Nuvem Consulting that details the potential issues with implementing Salesforce. For the most part these issues have nothing to do with the technology per se, but instead with human nature. Their key points for failure are:

  1. Poor communication
  2. Lack of support from executive stakeholders
  3. Resistance to change
  4. Failure to recognize that Salesforce is constantly evolving
  5. No champion
  6. Inadequate or no training
  7. Processes not clearly defined or that no longer work
  8. Poor data quality

Success of most IT projects will hinge, in part, on the people and process aspects of the deployment. Dealing with these issues requires a very different set of competencies than traditional IT project management. Including resources within any deployment initiative that are specifically focused on user adoption should be standard practice for any project.

Slack Product Review: Almost Perfect

I ran across Slack a few months back, but with so many new products and vendors of Social Business Systems, I only gave it a brief glance. Last week I saw that they just raised $120M with a $1.12B valuation, that caught my attention and deserved further research. So far I have only looked through their on-site educational material, but I really like what I see. They are focused on creating a single stream of content, regardless of source, something I have been looking for for a long time. I like this! They are also (relatedly) working through integrations with other systems, and not trying to be all things in a monolithic package. Meaning you can store your documents in Dropbox or Google Docs while using Slack to handle messages related to changes in the documents. Basically there is a lot to like here, and I will let others go into more detail about all the features.Screenshot 2014-11-04 10.42.05

I want to address the one thing that I see as an “architectural issue”, Team-centricity, meaning that the “team” of the fundamental element of the system. As I understand it, if you want to use Slack for more than one team, then you need to operate in more than one instance of Slack. I would like to see the architecture operate around the individual instead, and team be a level of filtering and segmentation available to the individual. In today’s world, teams are fluid and individuals are mobile. I want to see a single dashboard that holds all of my teams so I can get a universal view of everything that impacts me, without having to jump from instance to instance. Their current architecture seems to undo everything they gained with the “single stream”.

There is so much to like here that if I can find a way around this issue, Slack may become the solution I have been looking for.

The problem with Enterprise Collaboration: Or Why I lost my Job

In 2007 I saw the light. A better way to work was about to happen, Enterprise Collaboration. A change in organizational behavior, assisted by technology, that would allow people to work together more effectively. I took that turn as my career path, first as an independent consultant, then with Cisco, and finally with Moxie Software. Unfortunately, things did not go as planned. In January of 2014, Moxie dropped Collaboration as a stand-alone product, and let me go as part of that transition. I think that all of us that were (are) working in that area have learned over time that collaboration software as a stand-alone product is a solution looking for a problem.

iStock_000006428830SmallI still believe that organizations need to do a better job of collaborating, but the path to getting there is much different that we thought seven years ago. I just ran across this article in PCWorld
that provides a little more detail. The fact that jumped out for me was:

Gartner predicts that through 2015, 80 percent of social business efforts will not achieve their intended benefits due to inadequate leadership and an overemphasis on technology…

I can attest that this was my experience as well.

The proper model for collaboration technology is to look at it as a feature within other business processes. We can collaborate better around the budget process; we can collaborate better around the hiring process; we can collaborate better around the procurement process; etc. The point is to understand the problem you are trying to solve first THEN look for the best solution, which may happen to include better collaboration…

Problems, Problems

This morning I was thinking about the nature of problems, so, of course, I googled: “nature of problems”. What I found was this great blog post by Frank Chimero. It resonated with my own thoughts. (I am always amazed by what you can find just by looking.)

The post highlights four common mistakes we often make when considering problems:

  1. We forget that there are two kinds of problems.
  2. Aspects of problems are a little bit concrete and a little bit squishy, and we mistake one for the other.
  3. We think there are solutions when there are none.
  4. We forget that our responses to problems create more problems.

Essentially all of what he says rings true with my own experience. I might add another mistake that I see:

  • We tend to confuse symptoms with problems, and thus waste time addressing symptoms instead of underlying problems.

My take away from this is that we tend to not spend enough time understanding and articulating problems in our rush to reach solutions. Finding a better way to talk about problems, is a problem worth solving.

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