There is a parable about blind men encountering an elephant for the first time that reminds me of how new technology is often leveraged at organizations. Each blind man touches the elephant in a different place and only in that one place. As you would expect, each man comes to a dramatically different conclusion of what they are touching based on if they touch the leg, the ear or the trunk. While none of the men are entirely wrong, the story illustrates the importance of understanding the whole. Similarly, when technology is “rolled out” at an organization, if there is little planning everyone ends up with a unique perspective. For example, without any guidance an intranet site may be a file repository to some, the organizations documentation to others, or a message board to post notes about leftovers available in the kitchen for the rest. All three groups are not taking full advantage of the tool. To address this problem, consider the following four steps to better engage staff around a new tool.
Define new technology success
New technology should be trying to solve a problem. If that’s true, then make sure to articulate the problem and how things will be different once the tool is fully implemented. And it cannot be that, “once we implement X, everything will be great!” That’s the perfect way to set technology up to fail. Instead focus on specific measurable outcomes you’re planning to accomplish with the new tool.
Identify relevant use cases
When working with small organizations, nothing makes me cringe more than the phrase, “Well at Amazon they…” or, “You know Apple uses…” It’s like comparing an orange with an entire apple orchard. There are tools tech giants use that are relevant to other organizations, just make sure you identify how your organization is going to apply a tool. A great example is Slack. Slack can be an incredible collaboration tool. But if staff don’t understand how their processes fit into the tool, then adoption is likely to be low. Connect the tool to the process, and you’ll have a much greater chance of success. Which relates to my next point.
Everyone is busy, which is why processes rarely change. Assuming a new tool will encourage change is a mistake. Because everyone is so busy, no one has time to identify the best ways they can leverage new technology. Instead, people will identify ways the new tool fits in their current process without disturbing anything else, which likely underutilizes the tool. Like the elephant, people will focus on what they understand and ignore the rest. Personalized training helps remove the burden. Staff don’t have to invest as much energy into the tool. This may be accomplished with a pilot group who is willing to invest in the tool and can the role it out to the rest of the organization. Or this can be accomplished by having trainers conduct follow-up one-on-one sessions with staff to see what they are doing and identify any potentially new ways staff can leverage the tool. Explain the tool in their terms, and they’re much more likely to understand the bigger picture.
Everyone measures how their customers engage with their technology, but what about staff? So many tools are cloud based, and allow for some level of data to be reported out. How often do staff login? What functionality are they leveraging? If a direct messaging system was introduced, has there been a decrease in emails? If a cloud storage solution was introduced, is the system holding machine back-ups seeing less data usage? This all goes back to the first point on defining success – how will you know you’re there if you never bother to measure your progress? If you never stop to check the map, how can you confirm your headed in the right direction and not about to drive off a cliff.
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