You may think that this article has a polarising article title. However, during a number of presentations I have delivered over the past month I asked this very question. “Who else has been the victim of a software deployment?” And not surprisingly (for me at least), 95% of the audience in EVERY session put their hand up.
Can you think of a software deployment in your workplace that has been forced on you?
When you dig a little deeper under the surface, it is quite clear that the issue of user adoption has in the most part been ignored. Theoretically we can look at the Technology Acceptance Model and the Technology Adoption Lifecycle to guide your user adoption journey. However in reality it almost always boils down to just one thing – a training plan. Which is often developed as an afterthought to the project itself.
So I ask in the spirit of this article – “who else has been the victim of a training session associated with a software deployment?”
Based on the original straw poll earlier in this article, and what I assume will be your less than positive response to the question I just asked – I propose that training, or more importantly how we think about training today is just not enough. Not enough to create a positive, productivity improving experience for your end users.
Why is User Adoption important?
When you built your business case for deploying productivity tools like a new version of Windows or Office or SharePoint or Exchange, you would likely have had to illustrate the impact that the deployment would have on the organisation, and call out an expected return on investment. That ROI could be defined as dollars that the organisation will save over time from a reduction in operational support, hardware or licensing.
More than likely, your business case is built on harder to measure “productivity improvement” metrics which when you multiply the 4 minutes and 23 seconds you save every day by the cost of employment of your entire workforce, can look very appealing.
“We expect an ROI of 582%, and will reach a breakeven point in just 8.2 months”
No one would say no to that! Whilst there are a few flaws in that logic, there is one flaw that almost every organisation I have come across assumes. That you will have 100% user adoption of the tools. And more importantly, 100% usage of the features you have based your productivity improvement metrics on.
The reality of the situation in many instances is that 80 per cent of your workforce using the tool just like they did the last one – i.e. ZERO PRODUCTIVITY IMPROVEMENT, whilst the other 20% are using some, but not all of the functionality that is relevant to their role.
And when you take a look back at your business case 12, 24, or 36 months post deployment, most organisations will be lucky to break even, let alone reach the lofty goals of their deployment project.
Why is it not working?
There are many reasons why. Beyond specific project issues related to the organisation, ultimately it is because as technologists, we are focused on deploying the technology in the most efficient and effective way. We leave training to the Human Resources team who don’t necessarily have the domain knowledge to bridge the gap between the technology and the people who use it. And we leave communication to a Project Manager who is concerned purely about passing through gates and driving the project to completion.
Let’s take a step back for a second. When is the project complete? Is the project complete once the technology is deployed, and the four hour information overload training session has been completed?
I would argue that it is not. Not until you have enabled your end users – the information workers on the ground – your executives, your sales, marketing and finance teams, your administrators, your engineers, your analysts or your customer service staff to get as much as they can out of the tools you have deployed.
A four hour training course alone does not, and will never achieve that.
What is the solution?
When it comes to increasing the adoption of the productivity tools your IT team delivers to its end users, you need to recognise that it is an ongoing process, not a single training session. And definitely not a case of “build it and they will come”.
Take for instance the “four hour training course” that I mentioned earlier. Imagine you are sitting in that session now.
The instructor has covered 30 different features of the product that is about to be deployed to your desktop. Five of them are relevant to you, but the context of how you would use them isn’t clear. And there are five different features relevant to the person sitting beside you.
The next day you try and recall what those five features are. You can remember three of them.
One week later you try to recall those features again. You can remember just two of them
One month later you try to recall those features yet again. You can vaguely remember one of them, but couldn’t remember how to use it. And you can’t find the course handbook to look it up either!
This experience has happened to me personally dozens of times – and I am sure you have experienced it as well.
It is that experience that has led us to build offerings at Data#3 that will help our customers overcome their Microsoft productivity tool user adoption challenges.
Introducing Business Productivity Services
Our goal is to help you extract as much value as possible out of your investment in Microsoft productivity tools by enabling your people to do their job better, faster, and from anywhere.
Whether you have already deployed Windows and Office to your desktop, and are looking for incremental gains in productivity, or are preparing for the transition from Windows XP and Office 2003 to Windows 7 and Office 2010, Data#3’s Business Productivity Services offerings could help you achieve your user adoption and productivity goals.
Are you ready to learn more about how Data#3’s Business Productivity Services could help you drive adoption during and after your Windows 7/Office 2010 deployment?