Myth #10: User Adoption Is A Sure Thing Once The Technology Is Implemented Successfully – Part #1 (Lesson 28)
Digital transformation projects have two interrelated facets:
- The application of specific digital technology(ies) to the selected problem domain (e.g. business activities, processes, competencies, etc.).
- The transformative effect, or change, that the technology enables.
Of these two aspects, all too often, too much emphasis is placed on the system’s technical capabilities, and too little is placed on the people impacts.
In fact, many digital transformation projects focus only on the solution’s technology, completely ignoring the people aspect.
This is a charge that both customers and suppliers are guilty of in equal measure.
The sad fact is that the entire project life cycle might have gone exceedingly well. The completed system may have been delivered successfully to scope, quality, time, and budget targets.
And yet, somehow, the implementation fails straight out of the gate.
Just because new software/technology is put in front of users, it does not mean they will want to – or be able to – use it. User adoption does not automatically follow the technical cutover to a new or modified system.
In order to ensure that your business is ready for the transformation initiative, you need to invest time, effort, and resources into a robust change management effort.
People hate change – a fact that project management teams ignore at their peril.
Change management and your digital transformation
Change management is both a discipline and a set of tools. And it is something that transformation projects must bring to bear in order to prepare and support individuals, teams, and organisations to change from the current state to the chosen future state, and achieve the desired outcomes.
For example, transformation projects may seek to:
- Address specific issues.
- Target new market opportunities.
- Drive performance improvements.
In order to achieve the desired outcomes, the organisation will have to make changes which may include:
- Modifying existing (or creating new) processes, procedures, working practices, business rules, standard operating procedures, and work instructions.
- Changing people’s job descriptions, roles, and responsibilities.
- Modifying staff contracts, rewards, and remuneration.
- Modifying team/organisational structures.
- Changing the way technology is used.
- Introducing new technology.
Ultimately, transformation affects your people and the way they do their jobs. Failure to help them transition to the new ways of working is a sure-fire way to ensure that the transformation initiative fails to achieve its objectives.
If your transformation does not deliver the desired outcomes, it might be caused by any number of factors, including:
- A focus on technology, instead of on people.
- A lack of leadership commitment.
- Poor planning.
- Lack of communication.
- Inadequate change leadership skills.
- Failure to engage or involve the team in the change.
Failure to change – when good projects turn bad
So, when does change, or a lack of it, go wrong on a digital transformation project?
As with many types of failure, this can usually be traced right back to the initial stages of the project.
When an organisation and its suppliers fail to plan for change, it is you, the customer, who gets hit with a ‘double whammy sucker punch’!
The first punch is usually thrown by the supplier.
- Most technical solution suppliers will not usually ‘do change’. Instead, they are experts in implementing the system that you have purchased. That means they are so close to the technical minutiae that they are barely even aware of change management as a discipline, let alone having anyone on their team to handle it.
- Where they do have a surface understanding of change management, they will usually caveat themselves out of this activity through the ‘Out of Scope’ section of the commercial proposal.
The second punch is usually a self-inflicted injury by the customer.
- All too often, customers do not see the need for, or appreciate the value of, change management activity for a project. This happens even when the supplier tries to insist that the customer does it.
- Again, the supplier will caveat themselves out of change management, but this time, they will go to the additional trouble of highlighting in the proposal that the customer accepts the risk of not doing change management.
Of course, everyone knows that caveats from the supplier and denial by the customer instantly make these kinds of problem go away, never to be seen again…
One would think that organisations embarking upon major projects or digital transformations would see great value in preparing for change. Perhaps they would also understand the importance of supporting individual employees, teams, and departments during that organisational change?
Just as, of course, organisations should recognise the value of investing in:
- Conducting readiness assessments.
- Coaching and manager training for change management.
- Managing resistance.
- A comprehensive, effective communication plan (that gets actioned).
- Developing effective training (change management is not just training!)
Terrifyingly, however, too many organisations quibble over these activities. Or alternatively, they try to scrimp and save by avoiding or inadequately investing in them when agreeing the scope of the project.
I wonder how that works out for them?