Deployment Allergy: 12 Frequently Asked Questions About Why Users Reject New Products

    In September of this year, I held the first webinar of my life. As part of the DOCFLOW project, I had the opportunity to speak to fifty engineers, managers, managers and analysts interested in the problems of implementing corporate information systems.

    During the webinar, I was asked unexpectedly many questions, so I continued to discuss the same topic a few days later at the ISDEF-2015 developer conference. After the speech, I talked with the participants and noticed that their questions coincided with those asked by the listeners of the webinar. Therefore, I suggested that the problem of involving users in the introduced product worries a wider audience, and decided to reproduce my answers to frequently asked questions on this topic.

    Allergy to Implement
    Photo: " Day 260 Allergies " byparrchristy ( CC BY ) .

    1. How to prove to the business that to implement an IT system you need to spend up to 20% of the budget on user training?

    The most obvious example is failure due to savings in training. The easiest way is to turn to world practice. Alas, most vendors tend to share only success stories, but there are pleasant exceptions. Take at least two old cases already included in the MBA program.

    In 1995, the implementation of the ERP system failed at FoxMeyer Drugs, an American supplier of drugs with a turnover of $ 5 billion. Implementation of SAP R / 3 was carried out using the “top-down” method, without involving end users, which first resulted in mass sabotage of the company’s work by ordinary employees for fear of being replaced by an information system, and ultimately led to the bankruptcy of the company in 1996. The owners of the company tried to hold accountable both the developer, SAP company, and the implementer, Andresen Consulting (now Accenture), demanding compensation for losses of $ 500 million each.

    This case is discussed in more detail in the Information Technology for Management: Advancing Sustainable, Profitable Business Growth textbook.(Efraim Turban, Linda Volonino, Gregory R. Wood. 10th Edition International Student Version. Wiley, 2015) and in The FoxMeyer Drugs' Bankruptcy: Was it a Failure of ERP? (Judy Scott, 1999).

    Another similar incident occurred at Hershey Foods Corporation in 1999. The confectionery conglomerate then introduced three IT products at once. However, insufficient training for employees in using this software turned into a slow execution of orders: delivery dates for goods totaling more than $ 100 million were disrupted. The exchange reacted to this by reducing the value of the company's shares by 8%, and the IT director had to resign. By the way, the new CIO, George Davis, successfully completed the implementation due to the fact that one of his first decisions was revised and significantly expanded the training program for employees.

    The details of this implementation are described in the ERP Implementation Failure at Hershey Foods Corporation case study (Indu Perepu, Vivek Gupta, lCFAl center for Management Research, 2008).

    Both high-profile failures are the result of insufficient user training, their late involvement in the study of the chosen corporate information system, and not at all technological problems or the incompetence of the implementation team.

    2. How to find people with experience of unsuccessful implementation, if companies are in no hurry to admit failures?

    Companies are in no hurry. But some people - implementers, business analysts, project managers - with joy. As a rule, IT specialists are very open to communication on professional topics, even if the question is “sensitive”. They are ready to share their experience, if you are sincerely interested in it and are going to use it in your work in order to avoid the next "rake". According to my observations, people who have recently changed jobs, as well as independent consultants, are most likely to share such experiences. The latter, however, are likely to want to monetize their knowledge, but the former will gladly open the curtain on past projects - without giving specific names.

    Searching for these people is best done through professional communities on LinkedIn or Google+. But it’s more convenient to talk, of course, offline, in an informal atmosphere - in a cafe or at a beer. If you are embarrassed to bother strangers in social networks, attend thematic conferences: there, on the sidelines or after parties, the topic “Who is to blame and what to do?” Is very popular.

    3. Are there successful practices for implementing information systems with insufficient training or without training at all?

    Obviously, saving on user training, you reduce the project budget and approach the launch date of the information system. Only it will be a mistake to consider that the introduction of the information system ends on date X, when users begin to work in the new environment. Whether the work has become more efficient and whether the implementation goals have been achieved can only be judged after a few months of real daily work. As a rule, by then, the implementers are already leaving the company, and on their website there is a case about the next "successful implementation in a short time and with a minimum budget."

    4. The implementation of the information system should lead to the adjustment of the organizational structure and the redistribution of job responsibilities. It is necessary to stimulate management to decide on these changes. That is, not just to force all those below to use this new program, but to adjust the organization’s work schemes so that the program brings tangible benefits. What words and what to say to such a leader so that the implementation becomes successful?

    Now it’s fashionable to debate on the topic: should the business adapt to the selected information system, or should the information system adapt to the business processes and the existing organizational structure of the company? Alas, there is no universal algorithm for making this choice.

    On the one hand, if the introduction of, for example, a CRM system involves working with a "sales funnel", and the company is not even familiar with this concept, then it will face changes that cannot be avoided. Today, any modern CRM involves the use of a "funnel", and its effectiveness has been repeatedly confirmed. So the company has no other way but to decide on changes.

    On the other hand, no one will change the established supply chain, the procedure for approving documents or the production process just because the chosen information system offers some kind of its own way of performing these operations, which seems more effective to developers. In this case, the effectiveness should be economically justified and proved by examples of implementations in other similar situations, in companies of a similar scale and field of activity.

    The task of the implementers is to conduct a dialogue with business, ask, propose, advise, discuss. What language this dialogue will be conducted - the language of numbers, Russian obscene or beautiful pictures - you choose, you know your client.

    5. Does the reaction of users to the implementation of “boxed” information systems differ from their own reactions to the implementation of a “self-written” system or a system developed by an individual order?

    Is not different.

    The end user usually knows little about the origin of the product and is not interested in who its developer is. The words "vendor", "outsourcing", "boxed product" for users - white noise. Of course, sometimes the user recognizes familiar names in the product name, for example, SAP or Microsoft, but there is no evidence that the name affects the reaction of users. The success of implementation is determined by the approach to the user, his involvement in the process of choosing a solution, collecting requirements, pilot operation, but not by the name or origin of the product.

    6. What key factors create the conditions for the successful implementation of an information system?

    If you focus on "human factors", then I will highlight the following five.
    1. Providing the project with support for leaders and leaders throughout its duration.
    2. Attracting users (and not only innovators!) To the selection and evaluation of competing solutions.
    3. Informing users about what is the benefit of introducing new software personally for each of them, and in what way - for the organization as a whole. Use the principles of goal-setting: tell us what business goals your organization sets for itself, track progress and reward users for their contribution to achieving the goals on time.
    4. Providing users with the opportunity to gain new knowledge and share experiences, express their opinions, make suggestions and discuss new ideas.
    5. Eliminating the need for users to manually transfer data from the old system to the new system.

    I emphasize - this is not a “self-check list”, but a list of tasks that should be taken into account and worked out at the planning stage.

    7. Why, even with the current level of general IT literacy, does the resistance to implementation not get weaker?

    The level of resistance does not depend on the level of IT literacy. Judge for yourself: computer science lessons, specialized courses in universities, additional computer courses - they all teach you what sequence of commands you need to enter using the keyboard or mouse to achieve the desired result. They explain how to do something, but almost never tells you why. Resistance to implementation will weaken, most likely, when users see its meaning, when they feel that the new information system is able to change something more significant in the organization than combinations of “hot keys” or the design of pieces of paper emerging from the printer.

    8. How to overcome the reluctance of ordinary users to perform "additional" work when implementing a workflow?

    It is enough to save users from the need to perform this very additional work. This is especially true of the routine tasks of processing data, transferring information from the old system to the new one, and setting up and configuring the new system. All such tasks must be automated or solved by IT staff. If the task is not automated, then you will have to explain to users why they should do this work right now, what benefit will be for the user and the organization as a result. People carry out meaningful, useful work with a greater desire, and if the result of the work concerns themselves, then it is also more qualitative.

    9. We select a warehouse accounting system and are tired of hearing: “Each warehouse is unique, and only we are able to customize our system for you.” The depressing inability of the solution vendor (which positions itself as the center of competence!) To see behind the particulars is common, in different words - similar entities ... It seems that each vendor wants to become a “provider of eternal support”. How to motivate a solution provider to a “rejected product” that is suitable for “self-service”?

    In this case, you are faced with a business model of implementers, it’s called “make money on perpetual support”. They are better off having five clients with “perpetual escort” than fifty of those who have covered 80% of their needs with a boxed version, and then occasionally handles microprojects for revision. Therefore, it is unprofitable to make a “rejected product”.

    You just have to either continue to search for a suitable vendor, or “tear it away” on your own: buy only a box with the right to modify it on your own or by any other contractors. Perhaps open source software will come to the rescue - at least there is a competence center in the form of a user community.

    10. Older software products for DOS had a small volume, intuitive interface, decent performance. Now progress is (not always justifiably) towards strengthening the requirements for resources and education. So, maybe that's why users are allergic to the introduction of this useless "beauty"?

    There have been problems with implementations at all times, and in the DOS era too. And the requirements for education were not weakened now or then. Today, almost 100% of office workers have computer literacy at least at some level, so mastering a new work environment takes less time - they no longer need to explain what a keyboard, mouse is, how to turn on a computer and work on it so that avoid data loss. Many concepts of that era are already gone: it is almost impossible to face the lack of free disk space, the need to exchange data on physical media.

    That is, it is not a matter of education. What then? I suppose that the problem is in the level of penetration of information technology into business and personal life. If earlier corporate information systems were isolated within the office and solved only accounting problems, now they have penetrated into our houses, into pockets, into cars, where they are trying to subjugate our working day, manage communication, prompt, plan. It is not surprising that many resist such penetration, especially if they feel their inability to control what is happening.

    11. What are the main tasks of the project manager that need to be solved for the successful implementation of corporate information systems?

    The main task of the project manager is to assemble a competent team consisting of motivated representatives of all interested parties (but without extra people), and then establish communication within the project team. This is all in addition to the tasks that the selected methodology poses to the project manager.

    12. How to deal with negative previous experience of individual project participants?

    Attract these people to participate in the project. These people have already stepped on a rake and are a carrier of valuable knowledge that will help your project. At a minimum, you should ask them for advice.

    Other questions were asked at the webinar that were not included in the frequently asked list. The answers to them are heard on this video:


    If you are only interested in slides, please:

    I invite those who care to share their experiences - successful and not so - in the comments. Scold, criticize, refute, doubt - I will be glad to a constructive dialogue.

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