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How to Craft a Team of Productive Software Users
Why do so many software systems fail? Corporate leaders often wonder what went wrong. Did they choose the wrong software? Should they have checked more references? Scheduled more demos? Part of the process of introducing new software or new software use is “getting people on board” for the technology change. No one enjoys change and it is often feared. People are afraid that they will make mistakes, have a lack of understanding, have to do more work and quickly learn something new. People that are comfortable with their work habits know that change means putting forth more effort and energy, at least at the inception. Leaders of the organization must take charge of the change.
It’s easy to blame a failed system on “those people who refused to conform” or “bad software”. Ultimately though it is the responsibility of the manager to build a good user team and encourage proper use of the software. Without a team that is willing and taught to work together, any system is bound to fail. System success is heavily reliant upon: Communication of benefits and how the system will be usedSupport from senior executives and managers illustrated by their own behaviorA fostered learning environment to introduce the software into the corporate cultureProvision of adequate training to all usersEngagement of users with information sharing and exchange of success stories about the software Communication is vital. It is extremely important to communicate to users what the benefits and expectations of the new system are, and how people will be able to use it.
This must be championed from the top of the organization. It is also crucial to involve prospective users in some of the software decisions and choices. Everyone can be involved at some level for how the system will be used within the organization. Motivating the team starts with a demonstration of what the software is capable of. Sometimes this alone is enough to get everyone excited about using it and can produce all sorts of ideas for software success. The use of the software must be designed around the workflow of the users. This is the part where technology meets needs. It’s always a good idea to review the specific challenges facing the organization. It could be economy, competitors, new products and services, market expansion, etc. This must be intertwined with opinions from the users on how the new system can help accommodate the challenges.
Everyone must profit in some respect from the change. All organizations operate differently. Users cannot be expected to adapt to system changes that directly conflict with the corporate culture as a whole. Senior executives and management need to provide as much support as possible, illustrated by how they use the system. Managers must also support the learning curve and adjust performance expectations for a given period. Everything may not go well day 1 even with exceptional planning and the best of software. Managers and users must be attune to this and be flexible. Corporate cultures with many bad habits may have a more difficult time adjusting to a new system. As a team, everyone must be committed to working better. Change is not convenient.
People are bound to make errors, but this is part of learning and managers need to recognize and support this. There must be some allowance for abandoning old ways and adapting to new ways but there has to be a cut-off. It is natural for things to fall apart in some way during this period. This is the only way that things will be able unite in a new way. It is important to be clear that the organization is moving forward with the plan and everyone should be encouraged to participate. If certain individuals refuse to participate, some action must be taken. Adequate training must be provided so that users are comfortable with how to use the tools available. Training should include how the various people within the organization will be working together. There should be a change management team that keeps a pulse on the situation with plans for appropriate intervention where appropriate. Original goals should constantly be referred to, and modifications should be made when necessary.
Ways to involve the users can be periodic management chat sessions that encourage the exchange of ideas (small groups are best); a centralized master bulletin where ideas are posted; senior managers wandering through the organization asking questions and soliciting opinions; a reward system for positive behaviors regarding the system; a reinforcement that staying as is would be more of a threat than moving forward with the changes. Make sure to publicize success stories within the organization related to the system. Have users profess how they were able to simplify processes and procedures with the help of the software. Illustrate how new concepts are bringing the organization together for one common goal.