According to the Federal IT Dashboard, 60 percent of Federal IT investments sit at a medium-to-high risk of failing to deliver the intended results and benefits of a major IT deployment on time or on budget. When it comes to transformation projects, the risk of failure falls between 70 to 95 percent. While the reasons for failure vary, the overarching challenge is related to people— and most IT deployments do not result in cost savings or improvements to the mission.
IT Projects revolve around three main components: technology, process, and people.
Over the years, the government has gotten much better at process improvement and innovative technology to meet missions and increase efficiencies. That’s two out of the three crucial elements to any project. However, the systematic approach to people has been left out. Of those 60 percent of IT deployments that fail, 70-80 percent of them fail because of a “people issue.” Of course, it isn’t the people who cause IT deployments to fail, it’s most often the lack of tools to set people up for success.
So, how can we improve this? Here are key tips towards setting up deployments using a systematic approach that puts people first when it comes to IT adoption management.
Careful Stakeholder Planning.
Remarkably, stakeholder planning is often incomplete even in agile implementations. When setting up a deployment, key stakeholders and user groups may be involved in the planning, but other user groups are often left out. Conducting a stakeholder analysis is fundamental to understanding how an IT system will affect EVERY user. Consider this: a newly deployed system increases efficiency for a senior executive and their core team. Great! But what if the new deployment decreases efficiency on daily tasks for the rest of the team? Something that previously took ten minutes may have transformed into a complex process that increases the task time to one hour. Careful stakeholder planning takes all users into account, avoiding the unintentional consequences of sacrificing one efficient process to gain another.
Welcome Resistance and Mine for Conflict.
People are wired to see change and ask, “Is this good for my mission? Is this good for my business process? What’s in it for me?” Equally, many humans are wired to be annoyed with those who oppose a proposed change. We must strive to react to resistance in a positive manner and avoid being annoyed and pushing concerns to the side. Mine for conflict and opposition so that, where possible, planning can address these concerns. Change communications can lead the way to a clear picture of how the change will improve users’ job efficiency and benefit their mission. This will enable smooth IT adoption and “buy-in” to the change.
Widen the Ownership Net.
As teams develop a stakeholder analysis and plan and mine for resistance and conflict, they’re already beginning the process of giving people ownership. Inform people of the core idea and let them know the intended positive outcomes, but give them the space to color in the lines and define the implementation plan. Never dismiss an idea. Not even with, “Yes, we thought about that already.” If an idea comes up the next statement needs to be, “Thank you for that. Can you explain why that is important to you?” Take note. By feeling heard, each team member is creating a space for buy-in. As people begin to feel that they have ownership in the change process, they can become advocates for and be more likely to adopt the new IT solution, which is less likely to hinder the success.
Don’t forget! The way you communicate change is an essential element to any organization, especially with digital transformation. Utilizing strategic communications across different mediums will engage users, help them understand the change, and get them excited about the new technology deployment.
Train. Test. Track.
Digital transformation should incorporate elements of human-centered prototyping, facilitation, visualization, strategic planning, and user experience; all of which drive user engagement along the planning process. Users who will be affected by an IT change are far more likely to be advocates if they are trained appropriately and if use of the new technology is “easy.” Within any IT deployment, user testing is pivotal; this is the opportunity to analyze where there are struggles and fix issues with the user in mind to ensure a successful product. Trainers need to practice active listening and understand how to course correct issues based on learner feedback. Customized data-driven tools, such as in-app guides or usage data and feedback, can provide visibility and metrics into actual user adoption behaviors and perceptions. Just as in school, if every student is answering a question wrong, educators need to revisit their curriculum and adjust how they are teaching. They may just need to change how the question is worded. This is essentially an agile approach—the ability to iteratively respond to change and continue to improve. If many users are having difficulty with one or more segments of the training, it is imperative that developers address these issues before deployment. Organizations must then continuously track and measure success to support adoption and agile development.
By taking a systematic approach to people—an organization’s greatest asset—the next IT change will have a far greater success rate.
An organization will be in front of the problems, able to anticipate risk and stakeholder needs, and ensure adoption buy-in to meet the mission on time and on budget.