By Himanshu Sareen, Icreon Tech
The change resistor. The legacy employee. The amateur technologist. In any business environment, software teams will encounter one or more iterations of these common end-users. While some may worry over security issues, others will resist the need to adapt their workflow. And while certain users are eager to adopt a new system, others will dig their heels into the ground and resist change at all costs.
Without acknowledging the multi-faceted issue of managing change during a software implementation, enterprises can run into user adoption issues that tank a project. Although an application may meet every outlined business requirement and functionality, success in software rests with the increasingly delicate user adoption phase.
Business Requirements vs. User Experience
Business strategy firm Sand Hill Group conducted a recent survey on user adoption of enterprise software. Over 300 participating companies reported that "effective usage rates of enterprise software are down compared to two years ago." But the most impactful finding reported that about 17 percent of enterprise end users actually suffered from productivity losses.
Such reports reveal the trend of inattention to user adoption phases toward the end of the project. A strategic approach to the complex variable that is a human end-user must not be overlooked as projects progress from concepts to design and development. Even the most spotless enterprise software development and code can fall flat if employees do not meld with the new system.
Software Features and Functionality
Incorporation of features must take into account the expectations of users. From a development perspective, software teams can provide functionality but miss the mark when it comes to design. By observing the existing business environment and monitoring the positive aspects and pain-points, enterprise software teams can avoid an implementation dud.
Business analysts and project managers must spend a devoted amount of time to strictly observing, taking notes, tnterviewing employees, and incorporating feedback from leadership and IT personnel. From an enterprise viewpoint, consultants and enterprise software teams must forget the laptops and embed themselves in the workforce trenches.
On the Ground with End Users
Given the often large-scale investments necessary for enterprise deployments, software success can have a tremendous impact on operations. Avon shelved a software implementation in excess of $100 million due to user adoption issues. What was meant to be a worldwide deployment was stymied after Canadian end-users reported deep dissatisfaction with the application.
Some sales people even quit their jobs, citing the app as a direct reason for leaving. Looking back at the debacle, Avon would have undoubtedly benefited from a well-defined user adoption strategy. If business analysts and project managers were on the ground with that initial group of end-users, they might have been in a better position to deliver an application that met the sales team’s expectations.
Focus on Change Management from Start to End
One of the most impactful ways to optimize user adoption stresses the importance of anticipating the issue as early as the conceptual phase of a project. Enterprises must anticipate resistance and complexity as it relates to users. With that perspective, software teams can better align their development and design approach.
Heavy attention and incorporation of feedback will serve to align development with user acceptance. Incorporation of input from analysts, leadership, end-users and enterprise IT members will lead to software that not only does its job, but delivers in terms of the visual wants and procedural needs of a business user.
Documentation, Socialization and Upkeep
Teach users how to adapt to the system, and provide them with resources to supplement that assistance. While person-to-person consultation and assistance is ideal, it is not sustainable. Analysts and project managers will have other priorities, which is why documentation and socialization are crucial for long-term user adoption that does not stagnate over time.
To achieve this, software teams need to provide pervasive documentation that answers potential questions and serves as a go-to resource for end-users in need of help. Thorough documentation and support processes are critical for maintaining high user adoption levels. While the initial push for users to update to new applications may succeed, maintaining engagement is only possible through set protocols and systems for support.
If You Build It, They Won’t Necessarily Come…
Designing enterprise software that melds directly with existing processes is more of an art than a technical process. Understanding what will make the tumultuous period of a new software implementation less disruptive can, and should, be a focus from the outset of a project.
Due to the unique nature of enterprise environments and their well-defined processes and workflows, software teams must do all they can to achieve an ideal future state for the incoming software system. Embed a team within the business environment to analyze the existing setup. Consult with leadership and directly interact with potential end-users to get inside their head.
Without an adequate knowledge of the people, processes, and workflows that are at the heart of enterprise operations, new software systems will likely fail to reach the ideal future state.
Himanshu Sareen is the founder and CEO of Icreon Tech, a software development firm based in New York City.