Technology and The Human Factor

Feb 02 2014

In the world of IT and Business Consulting projects with so many new exiting technologies, sometimes we forget about the users of these technologies. The forgotten ones can be the people of the companies, the end users and ultimate beneficiaries of the new business applications. In every project it is assumed that end users are already excited about the new applications and all the changes which they will bring to their day by day routines. But people are creatures of habit and often apprehensive about any changes in their daily routine.

Project charters typically reference that the company has goals to change the way things are done in order to make it more efficient. In all and every IT methodology the implementation steps are considered technology and business logic as the main parts. User participation is typically only considered in functional overviews and training. This doesn’t speak to how to help users adapt to the expected future changes. There are no steps outlined for this; there is no evaluation/ assessment in the project plan regarding how well the users of the new applications will adapt to the new business environment.

During our many presentations and training session our team at Mantralogix has observed the typical user – someone with average computer skills and deep specialization in an industry defined business role. In any organization, when a new implementation project is about to start, we can recognize different types of application users. “Executives” are eager to change and have high expectations regarding new business applications. “Managers” are usually very cautions senior team members who have routines many years deep and can be uncomfortable/ against changes. Most important are the “Changers” – people who by nature are excited by any change and eager to implement it!

During the project, “Executives” are usually focused on the question: “When is the implementation going to be finished?”. “Managers” are cautiously asking “Will it give me more routine to follow in my already perfect process?” “Changers” on the other hand are asking millions of questions about the new applications, comparing new and old features and options and are ahead of the project plan all the time.

This is where the human factor plays a significant role! The success or failure of the project is in hands of real people – and how they adapt to change. The balance between Changers and non-Changers has to be monitored very carefully. In situations where we have only one or two Changers amoung an entire staff that are strictly opposing change – this is a sign that something has already gone wrong with the project.

However, there are ways to resolve this situation! Firstly acknowledge the huge amount of change and don’t try to play it down. Speak with users and address that change is inevitable and that the “old” process is now history. Old business processes will be recreated in new ways in the new application, but truly they can’t be the same. Understanding this will be achieved by the extensive highly individualised training. Every user is unique and there is no universal standard methodology which is equally good for everybody. So every user has to be treated differently.

Secondly leverage the excitement and curiosity of the “Changers”. They are the best candidates for the role of internal support representatives. During the training and project roll out “Changers“ must be treated differently. They are ahead of other users in any exercise. They need more – so we do not want to slow them down/ stop them – their curiosity has to be supported. Depending on the project budget it even be worthwhile to provide “Changers” additional training (like basic IT support or Setup options). These people are valuable assets – they support changes in the company and they also can resolve potential small problems with the new applications in the future. The presence of “Changers” can be very reassuring to their colleagues; giving them reassurances that the first line of support is right there, on the ground, in their own office.

The bottom line is – users are a very important part of any IT or Business implementation project. The Human Factor has to be treated as an equally important part of any implementation!

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