Tips for end-user acceptance

Any solution, no matter how well it has been conceived will not be successful unless it is embraced by its intended end-users. Here are some quick tips to help promote acceptance (though I don't guarantee it.)

  1. Understand how end-users work: Find out why they do the things they do. If you show an interest in them, they will be more comfortable with what you're trying to accomplish.
  2. Provide opportunities for feedback: This is particularly important when there are user interfaces involved. At regular intervals, let people see the development and direction and be willing to listen to suggestions and feedback.
  3. Manage change: If something has to change let your customer understand the rationale. "Because it has too..." is not a useful response. If the change is meant to make things better explain how.
  4. Make it seem familiar: People by nature are resistant to change. Perhaps there is opportunity to gradually phase in changes (smaller changes are easier to digest) or provide an interface that is similar to an existing one.
  5. Enlist champions: End-users that can teach other end-users are a great way to provide support. It also gives the champions a sense of ownership for the adoption. Early adopters are good individuals to use as champions.
  6. Teach don't point: When someone asks for help one of the worst things you can do is point them to a manual. Spend time to teach them how it works. Show them they're important.
  7. Measure & report: If the new solution is meant to improve productivity, show them the gains that have been made over time as the end-users become more familiar and move up the adoption curve. This type of information shouldn't just be provided to the project sponsors and management.
Projects are usually justified quantitatively based on achieving benefit targets (e.g., gains in efficiency or increases in sales.) Maximum benefits will not be achieved if the end-users do not embrace the solution wholeheartedly.

Why we do things - ROI

Long ago, one of my professor's told me, "The purpose of education is to increase pleasure enjoyment." I've yet to fully grasp exactly what he meant (he was a professor of philosophy and often spoke in riddle), but I think it was something along the lines of, "Knowledge allows us to improve our station in life." It may take the form of allowing us to obtain better jobs, improve our ability to appreciate things or allow us to take better advantage of the opportunities presented to us.

Let's examine a familiar concept - investing. Whether it is because we want to be able to make a large purchase (a house or car), enjoy a comfortable retirement, or live out some of our dreams, most of us are putting money aside. This money is invested based on our individual risk / reward preferences. If you lie awake at night worrying about your investments, you may be outside of your risk / reward sweet spot.
Individuals who want to be safe, invest in financial instruments such as money market mutual funds, treasury bills or other assets where the risk of losing the investment is small (note that small risk generally implies small potential return.) Individuals with a higher risk tolerance purchase financial assets with higher potential returns.

The prudent investor analyzes their assets periodically to ensure a suitable return on investment (ROI) is being realized. There is a good guide on ROI available on explaining basic ROI concepts from a business perspective.

I want to introduce another concept - opportunity cost. Opportunity cost is defined as:

The cost of an alternative that must be forgone in order to pursue a certain action. Put another way, the benefits you could have received by taking an alternative action.
In business, all else being equal, you fund projects that have better rates of return for your company. Businesses use capital from their shareholders and money they've borrowed to fund their projects. Furthermore, a company is expected to invest in projects with ROI that exceeds their opportunity costs (e.g., projects that make them grow!) From the perspective of an individual investor you probably wouldn't be willing to purchase shares in a company that wasn't trying to increase its future earnings. Would you?

Thus, in business the ultimate goal is to increase profitability. A business does this by undertaking projects that are expected to yield a return above their opportunity cost. These projects have specific goals and objectives that support the business' strategy. This is why it is important to tie requirements back to business goals and objectives. As well as business goals and objectives back to strategy.In business and in our personal life, we do things to improve, to grow, and as my old philosophy professor would say, "...To increase pleasure enjoyment."

Webinars: PPM & ITIL

Here are some webinars that may be of interest. Note that you may need to sign-up to get access to them.

Project Portfolio Management for the Skeptical IT Organization
You want to run IT like a business; you know Project Portfolio Management (PPM) can get you there, but you are worried about long implementations, high price tags, and consultants taking residence in your shop. In this webcast you'll learn how a web-based model with the right level of functionality has helped organizations like yours get a PPM solution up and running in two weeks and producing value right away.

Part I: Introduction to ITIL for the IT Executive - Podcast - Expert Podcast
Based on a practical approach to addressing real-world challenges of IT service management, ITIL allows organizations to better package and deliver IT services to their customers. ITIL enables IT organizations to align their capabilities with business requirements.

Leadership styles

I remember taking a course developed by the Leadership Research Institute on leadership styles. The purpose of the course was to help identify the most appropriate way to interact with an employee given an understanding of an individual's:

  1. Ability to perform a task.
  2. Motivation level to perform a task.
Using these two factors to create a simple matrix you get a picture similar to the one below. For each quadrant a different approach is warranted for handling an employee.
  1. High ability to perform the job but low motivation to do it. Convince the employee to persevere and outline the task's importance.
  2. High ability to perform the job and motivated. Allow the employee to perform the task unhindered. There is no need to provide direct support or exert control.
  3. Not able to perform the job and not motivated either. Basically you need to tell the employee exactly what to do to complete the task and monitor his (or her) progress.
  4. Not able to perform the job but motivated to try. Provide support, feedback and guidance to help the employee complete the task.
These guidelines assume that you are able to determine the competence and motivation level of an individual.

Intuitively, this framework makes sense. When you understand how to perform a job well and are highly motivated to do it, you don't really appreciate someone looking over your shoulder, telling you what to do and asking for constant status updates.

The purpose of the course was to improve managing employees, however, I feel that these fairly simple guidelines can be used in any situation where you need a task performed by someone other than yourself.