Adoption has become a critical issue for the IT industry, especially with the rise of cloud services. Before the cloud, the biggest loser from a failed implementation of an IT project was the customer’s CIO. After making a huge investment, and failing to achieve a return on investment (ROI) for the highest executives, they were fired. Because of the vast number of stakeholders in the chain, it was hard to see whether it was the fault of implementation partner or of the underlying technology. In any case, the payment was already in the pocket of the providers.
Today, the world is different. Because services are paid for based on usage rather than as a package up front, service providers have to deliver each and every day. And, at the same time, the definition of customer and value creation is more complex and interconnected than ever. The value creation goes all the way from the individual user to multi-national service vendors like Microsoft. If any one of the chain of stakeholders does not get value, it is a risk for the whole chain involved.
How to survive
It is fundamental to understand a few things. Firstly, an organisation’s IT project necessitates change: it is aimed to change the way we work. Secondly, even with the smallest change, we will encounter resistance. And most of all, there is no such thing as organisational change; it is always people that have to go through the change to enable a new model for an organisation to function.
That is why change management plays a vital role in successful IT implementation. At its purest, change management is the art of explaining to each party the value of the transformation. In order for an organisation change, everyone has their part to play.
The logic is rather simple. For a company’s CEO, the value of the project is often connected to growing their business or cutting down the cost. For executives, the indicator of the success of a project is the return on investment. For IT-based services, ROI is all about adoption percentage of the new tool.
Studies have shown that only 16% of people are able to adopt services by themselves. It is clearly not a large enough number of employees to prove an investment of the service.
Instead, a higher level of adoption has to be achieved to help people onboard by providing the value of what is in it for them. This support has to be implemented at all levels since the value of each feature is different for all actors. Therefore, the training and support have to be provided in the context of the user.
The individual people aspect of change is where it all comes back to the top management of the company. The lack of executive sponsorship is the number one risk to successful change management. Therefore, in order for an IT company to be successful in today's environment, they need to learn to demonstrate the business value of the user adoption.
Based on years of studies and implementation, Prosci change management practice states that the core pillars of successful change are executive-level sponsorship, project management (implementation quality), and change management (ensuring the user skills and adoption).
Where to start in practice
Microsoft’s Al Lee-Bourke is a great reference when it comes to user adoption of digital services – as he has seen it all. He has seen the ups of Microsoft doing some of the largest user adoption cases in the world. But he’s also seen the downs - he was fired from his CIO position after the implementation of new software failed not only once, but twice.
At the recent Microsoft Partner Success Manager boot camp, Lee-Bourke ran several sessions about user adoption. The boot camp was all about getting started with change management practice. It was a get-together of Microsoft’s front-line partners to learn how they ensure that change management is an integral part of their offering.
The panel discussion prior to Lee-Bourke's session offered some insight from partners that had put change management at the centre of their strategy early on. The panel was unanimous in the sense that change management practice had to be part of any IT implementation to be successful.
Whereas most IT companies struggle in making a business out of it, the managing partner of Nexum Nordic, Caroline Mork Jensen, advises including change management into discussions early on. Since Microsoft has not been the best in doing that, it leaves a great opportunity for the partners. The most effective way to sell the importance of user adoption is by understanding the pain points of an individual actor.
Based on the provided tools, there are three main strategies to address in such a situation. One can concentrate on business results, as based on the data showing that well-performed change management does not only provide better results but with fewer cost in a shorter time. Secondly, not addressing the user adoption challenge creates a huge risk, not only for the whole project, but the individual executives purchasing or sponsoring it. And lastly, all of the change projects take place for a reason. Therefore, it is vital to ensure the return on investment of a project. Otherwise, it is just a waste of money.
Yet, it is more easily said than done. Wortell consultant Dennis Hoogenraad explained that his company has gone through a huge change during recent years in order to seize this opportunity. Operational logic has become more agile and a lot of work has been done to align the story of all employees towards valuable change management. Even the developers have to be involved in ensuring the user adoption. Again, ‘eating their own dog food’ is the best way to understand customer pain points.
Innofactor's Sanna Keränen reminded the audience that technology partners need to move their business towards being a true trusted advisor. For years, it has been more valuable to sell to an existing customer, but now it is slowly becoming the only way to succeed. Individual projects are too small in size and the sooner the company starts taking small, pragmatic steps towards change management the better.
In the end, Lee-Bourke summed everything up quite simply: “The value of IT projects is only realised when people change the way they work,” he said.
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