The First Step Toward End User Utopia

Getting users to embrace a new way of doing things is one of the biggest challenges companies face in today’s rapid-fire high technology landscape. User adoption of new technologies and processes within existing ones is a huge management problem today, one that is often addressed in forums such as SharePoint Saturdays and even the industry’s more technical conferences, such as SharePoint Technical Conference (SPTechCon). We believe some of the solution lies in design process and intense, ongoing training. We’ll be addressing it frequently in this space and during presentations in the future.
For years, the internal process used by most organizations was simply to have the IT department install a new program and announce to the department that requested it, or perhaps to the entire company, that it was “done.” Installed, ready to use, IT has done its job. The rest is up to whoever requested the new program.
However, many of today’s programs can require a complete rethinking of every step in one or more core business processes. SharePoint and SharePoint Online, for example, are platforms that can be used in a wide variety of ways to improve the way your company works. But carefully thought-out design and extensive training of users are essential to your product’s success or failure.
Here at Wellington Street Consulting, we’ve developed an Agile-inspired process used specifically for our projects to increase adoptability.  For us that means creating a focus group made up of stakeholders who will actually use the final product daily, in addition to every other person or department that will need to be familiar with it, in the design process. To many in upper management, this may seem counter-intuitive.  But in our view, the benefits far outweigh any additional time commitments.
The focus group is invited to meetings that begin with business requirement gathering. They will answer questions about frustrations they currently face with the process being addressed, how they would like it to function, ways to eliminate repetitive activities, improve productivity and so on. At periodic points during the process, we like to provide training and give focus group members some time to experiment with the product and provide feedback on what worked, what didn’t, how the process might be improved, and so on. We’re training them to be knowledgeable evangelists, the go-to experts within their departments on the new process or technology being rolled out. This works especially well with SharePoint, but can be useful in simpler areas, such as maximizing the use of Outlook or Office 365 features.
Not only can you gain valuable insights to factors affecting the process that weren’t originally considered, there’s a psychological reward. Each stakeholder has a chance to add his or her department’s input or perspective in creating the end solution. It’s something they helped to create, and stakeholders gain a sense of ownership that will, in the end, encourage wider adoptability.

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