By Himanshu Sareen
There is a link between successful business software and user adoption. Despite the onslaught of innovative technologies in recent years, businesses have lagged when it comes to software. Whether it is a mobile point of sale system or customer service application, most businesses are lacking when it comes to state-of-the-art software. Yet all of the blame cannot be placed on leadership.
In fact, many software implementation issues can stem directly from the end user. For many businesses, user adoption—rather than budget constraints—prevent software innovation and success. However, by understanding the likely challenges and acceptance by business users, businesses can successfully introduce new software that is appreciated by many.
From change resistors to eager advocates, the employee base may vary when it comes to training, socializing, and implementing software. Without optimal user adoption, a software project will fail regardless of code quality and design.
Even though this issue will impact every business, there is a way to prevent it from toppling your own software investments.
Assess the Entirety of the Business Environment
Some major issues can arise during custom software projects. In addition, many rest with the inability to balance technology and business strategy. Ideally, a software implementation will not disrupt processes and well-oiled systems. If a team is not careful, introducing a new cog into a rigid machine can result in the wrong type of disruption.
Prior to any design or development, enterprises should devote time specifically to observing and auditing the existing business environment. Not only should IT teams assess the technology setup prior to introducing new software, they should also analyze the employee end users.
By observing employees interacting with an existing system, IT teams can form a solution that appeals to their specific needs. Understanding the window of time needed for an employee to cross-reference an order with inventory, or timing the exact process for escalating and tracking customer service issues, will be immensely valuable when developing a solution.
When it comes to business software it is important to listen to the end user.
Interview Employees to Understand Their Expectations
In addition to answering technical questions related to IT, network security, and digital processes, IT teams must speak with employees. Without a thorough understanding of employees, teams cannot build an ideal piece of software. Interviews and thorough observations of the business environment are central to understanding employee’s software expectations.
While many teams may bypass face-to-face meetings, those that invest the time will be better informed of what needs to be incorporated into an end product that fits user needs and wants. What do they like best about the existing application? What features can they do without? Alternatively, is there a feature they wish they had, but do not?
All of these questions will lead to answers that help define the ideal approach to software for that specific business. On top of assessing how they feel in regards to software, IT teams should understand the software and technology users prefer outside of work. Their favorite applications or a preferred mobile device can shed further light on their expectations.
Identify Strengths and Weaknesses of Existing System
Every piece of software has its strong points, even if it is in dire need of replacement or upgrade. Employees that reject a new system will often cite preferred aspects of the older system as a primary reason for opposing the new. By incorporating positive features and improving weaknesses of the older system, IT teams will reduce the chance of employee resistance.
During the initial observation and analysis stages, IT teams can discover what employees disliked about that system. With that knowledge in mind, new tools can avoid similar approaches to features in the new system. For instance, if a warehouse workers’ mobile app for tracking shipments suffered from poor user interface (UI) design, the new software should have a noticeably improved UI.
With customer relationship management (CRM) implementations, user adoption is central for the value add and interface issues can be serious. If some members of a sales team find the UI clunky and obtrusive, they will resist. Without widespread participation of the entire sales and marketing team, a CRM project will not pay off.
CRMs are designed to keep track of all ongoing relations with customers, so without adoption from all customer-facing employees, an organization will not achieve that goal.
Increasing Adoption and Acclimating Legacy Employees
While there is no specified term for employees who resist adoption, it’s safe to say that they encompass some of the same characteristics of a legacy system or heritage application. They grew accustomed to a certain environment and now that the environment has changed they cannot feasibly progress.
The reality is that employees can be an impediment to technological progress. When businesses acknowledge that IT implementations require their attention after launch, the more likely they are to optimize user adoption. With these tips and processes in mind, enterprises can avoid the often costly side effects of failing to gain the support of end users for new software applications. SW
Himanshu Sareen is the CEO of Icreon Tech. Icreon is a global IT consultancy that empowers organizations to become more efficient and profitable through the use of Web- and mobile-based technologies.
Jul2014, Software Magazine