Delivering successful projects through the sweet carrot of user engagement rather than the hard stick of technology
This is no doubt a familiar conundrum; how do we de-risk our business-critical projects? Traditionally we would focus on Technology by providing the best solution of tools and services. It’s what we’re famous for and we’re rather good at.
However, Technology alone is no longer sufficient. To deliver successfully we also have to consider two other influencing factors:-
- Change Management (OCM) – How we prepare our users for the incoming changes and new ways of working through better, role appropriate Training and Communication.
- Attitude & Culture Change (ACC) – How the ingrained attitudes, unconscious bias and informal processes that have evolved over time need to be dismantled and replaced by a more open, collaborative, feedback-friendly attitude and culture. The traditional ways which saw Users marginalised and almost seen as an inconvenience must change to support a more user centric approach, where users are seen as core and central to success.
Traditionally we would see the majority of time, effort and budget (nearly all in fact) spent on Technology. What ever was left over would typically be spent adding on some Training and Change Management. Cultural Behaviours? Not even an afterthought. Luckily today this ratio is changing as the importance of Change Management and Culture are being recognised.
So, Change Management? Yup we’ll send the users an email with a link to the user manual and maybe organise an all-day training session when the users are least able to make it. Next? Well actually that doesn’t cut it anymore. Users expect to be kept informed, using language they understand. One of the frequent complaints users have is that change is done to them, rather than something they are included in. By the way that email with the link! Often users will not even bother to read that email and will just try to carry on working the way they used to work.
Today users expect training to be delivered in bite-sized pieces and at a time convenient to them. Such delivery may include live streaming sessions, interactive, shared whiteboard sessions, augmented reality or a user-friendly chatbot to help encourage adoption of the change, a micro-site containing user friendly blogs, videos and users’ stories, or maybe a 1:1 session with a local advocate or change champion. Users also expect to be able to offer feedback and share their experiences so subsequent users can benefit.
In short, change has changed and users’ expectations have changed too. Their expectations are now greatly increased.
However, it is culture that is now also recognised as having a major impact too. Anecdotally, we all have experience of positive and negative cultures. However, organisations are beginning to realise the economic difference a good, open, collaborative culture has compared to a closed, siloed, hostile and occasionally downright toxic culture. Empirically the difference could be a factor of 2x to 5x, so for example, a Teams project in a positive culture may be completed in 6 months, whilst in a negative culture this may take 2-3 years with a similar proportionate rise in costs. So having a positive culture pays.
One reason for the delay caused by a negative culture is the lack of willingness to share knowledge or information. This is particularly the case in those industries or departments where “knowledge is king” and sharing may be seen as a weakness or may undermine one’s own position. Revealing our true level of expertise may diminish our standing within the community and adversely affect reputations.
Politics also plays its part too, especially in M&A situations where we need to replace the “Them & Us” attitudes quickly with a new, inclusive corporate culture to maximise the benefit of the merger.
Culture is rapidly becoming part of our identity and how we are perceived. Company rating websites like Glassdoor, Indeed, Comparably and OnGig form part of due diligence when deciding whether a potential partner is a good fit culturally. Good reviews on such sites require fully engaged users and a positive culture.
Having a rich, diverse culture not only provides greater opportunities through wider, divergent thinking, but by recognising difference is key to successful collaboration. Being able to empathise with others and see things from their perspective allows us to successfully challenge our own ways of working, beliefs and understanding. A positive culture allows challenges in a safe, non-threatening way, separating the “what we do/did” from the “who we are”, enabling such challenges not to be taken personally.
Perhaps the most pressing cultural challenge, from a business perspective, is the intergenerational culture gap which impacts the way we work. Older employees prefer to work in a different way to the younger ones. For example, Email & Face to Face meetings are more popular with the older employees, whereas Mobile, Video and Chat are more popular with the younger workers. This presents two particular challenges:-
- Firstly, how does a business provide a common set of tools and services that ensure both sets of users can work productively?
- Secondly, policy and culture is typically determined by senior management who tend to be older. How can we ensure the direction set is inclusive and able to get the best from all?
Often the best way to bring about culture change is to add a third party, like HSO, who do not carry the baggage of the current culture, but bring an industry expertise, and can provide an impartial view and way forward. The skills required are less technical and softer, typically found in our Project Management, Change Management, Enterprise Architecture and Senior Leadership teams.
Given we also have skills and expertise in the Technology, HSO can offer the unified, 360 degree view necessary, covering the Technology, Organisational Change and the Cultural Change necessary to increase the engagement of users and subsequent likelihood of a successful implementation.