Embracing New Technology – Achieving High End-User Adoption

The Mosaic Company

Large-scale and even small-scale technology or software changes are often disruptive and puzzling to end-users. It’s especially true for companies with an aging workforce and those averse to technology, remote field locations and mergers. Employees feel pressure knowing their jobs are likely dependent on learning the new technology.

According to a study conducted by AMR Reach (now part of Gartner) in 2009, nearly 50 percent of companies faced serious challenges with business software changes and user adoption. A survey of Fortune 500 executives in 2011 cited “resistance” as the primary reason that changes fail in organizations.

Consider the story reported by the Wall Street Journal last year about a failed, multimillion-dollar SAP software implementation. The newspaper reported that Avon Products halted a massive, multiyear software project because, when it was implemented, it was so complicated that no one knew how to use it – so they didn’t.

“You can buy the greatest software in the world, but if your employees don’t use it, you won’t get your money’s worth,” said Alvin Reyes, executive vice president of Mosaic, a training and workforce consulting firm based in Renton, WA. “People have problems embracing new technology because human nature itself often resists change. Even if you had the best training content in the world, you won’t get employees ready or increase user adoption, if the training is developed or deployed in a vacuum.”

If You Implement It, Will They Come Use It?

So, how do you get employees ready for something as important as adoption and use of new technology tools?

Workforce performance and training experts at Mosaic specialize in a wide range of consulting services in the utility and oil & gas industry. Although the team’s experience is targeted for the energy sector, achieving high end-user adoption for software implementations and upgrades is applicable for any organization.

“The goal is to get to organizational readiness,” said Sam Rizzico, Mosaic account director. “Your company is trying to solve a business challenge and they want everything to fall into place in a neat package. The thinking is that by the go-live launch, that should be it – everyone should be using the new software tools.”

In reality, it doesn’t work that way, said Rizzico. Companies make the mistake of treating the go-live launch like a one-time event. ‘We implemented the software, we trained and we’re done.’

“There are many companies who believe the finish line of a software implementation is the day the system goes live. The team gets everything built and Herculean efforts are made by all to train and launch,” said Rizzico. “The thing to remember is it’s more than technology—it’s people, process and technology.”

The actual finish line in a technology implementation is when the company achieves increased productivity or meets the business goals they developed ahead of time. The goals could include a need for better information / data, standardize processes and better tracking of assets.

An example of a company who spent the time to get their employees ready for a new software launch is Avista Utilities, based in Spokane, WA.

Taking the Plunge

For years, Avista Utilities ran a legacy work management system with homegrown, 20-year-old technology. “Our system served the company and customers well, but we knew a new system was needed to meet the changing needs of our business customers,” said Peggy Blowers, organizational change management project manager at Avista.

The utility began replacing its legacy work and asset management in September 2013, implementing an enterprise asset management software using IBM Maximo. Knowing that a big software rollout in Avista’s operations throughout three Western states might generate some challenges, training was of utmost importance. The company hired Mosaic and the first task performed was a front-end analysis to determine the extent of training required to support the company’s goals.

The Avista approach was to support the learners in three parts: pre-training to prepare workers for the changes; classroom instruction with targeted hands-on practice; and ongoing support after the launch to ensure that workers have help until they were fully proficient. Officer and director-level involvement signaled strong support, which encouraged employees to embrace the change.

A strategy was developed to foster stakeholder support that included meetings with employees at all levels. Postcards sharing the project’s journey were mailed monthly to keep employees informed of the progress, and staff also offered lunch and learn programs. Internal communication was humming with newsletters and the intranet site. The utility built momentum and created excitement around the go-live event for Generation and Production.

“Having officer and director-level support and involvement at the earliest stages was extremely important,” said Blowers. “From the beginning, they understood the importance of this project for Avista and how important it was for each employee to embrace the change.”

Managing the natural resistance to change and helping users accept new technology must be a planned process. For successful training and user adoption of the software, Mosaic recommends:

A curriculum map: This identifies courses based on logical job and task groupings, and then matches them to workers who need training in those tasks.

Training project plan: This plan includes key project milestones that reflect the critical dependencies and inputs to training development, such as conversion / migration, and system testing activities.

Visual process training: The Maximo implementation for GPSS (Generation, Production and Substation Support) drove changes to how work would be accomplished. Visual process mapping provides an effective method for explaining process changes and for establishing a consistent, shared view of work processes across different business units. The process changes were communicated via PowerPoint presentations illustrating the overall process changes and impacts to provide employees with a clear picture of the relevant changes in work process.

Electronic Performance Support System (EPSS): This provides critical post go-live support, enabling employees to access support materials, view business process documentation and view important communications from a single point of access. The consulting firm uses a specifically developed task analysis to determine how much time is needed for presenting each topic, for providing hands-on practice and task support. The analysis is used to determine the most effective training strategies for the situation in order to reduce training time and ensure learner performance meets the post go-live requirements. For example, some topics will be addressed in formal training settings that allow employees to practice in a training environment; other content might be best offered as small group workshop sessions where employees bring their current work tasks.

Mosaic then worked with Avista to build an effective, blended delivery system for their employees. This includes Web-based training, instructor-led training, on-the-job-workshops, job aids and more, to help reduce the training burden on the workforce. Prerequisite courses were offered to employees to prepare them for the new roles. Part of the change management / organizational readiness plan also included “just in time learning,” which allowed users to receive training when they needed it, not weeks or months later.

Successful IT Implementation Tips

Mosaic’s Reyes and Rizzico said the challenge is aligning people and job roles to training modules.

“Targeted, role-based training is how you want to fill the seats,” Rizzico said. “You don’t want functional training that treats the software as the all-encompassing solution – you want to focus on the end user and their job tasks, and treat the software implementation as the new tool they can use to perform their work.”

To get the best end-user adoption, Mosaic suggests the following tips:

  • Include the “why” of the implementation or upgrade. Being able to answer this question succinctly to different audiences is a key component of change management strategy. People need to know where they are in the new process and most importantly, why is the change occurring – “what’s in it for me?”
  • Start a project by understanding the challenges ahead of time. For example, employees use email, phone or face-to-face communications to ask for help with tasks. While sometimes these forms of communication are necessary, they can also potentially decrease productivity for both those who ask the questions and those who answer them, often incorrectly. To address that need, an internal web tool / EPSS was created, enabling end users to quickly find the right answers to their questions. This electronic performance support system (EPSS) housed all the step by step instructions, verified by the business, on how to use the new system.
  • Remember that the process of learning new technology can be slow, so build time into your project and monitor the timeline every day in order to make adjustments as needed.
  • Communicate frequently and candidly about job impacts and challenges, but also make it fun, with events building up to the go-live event.
  • Include blended training – a mix of job aids, step-by-step training, web-based and classroom training. It breaks it up for employees.
  • Carefully build the budget. Project delays in building and configuring the software are part of the complexity of implementations, so training and readiness efforts should be flexible in adapting to changes while still focusing on the targets and end goals.
  • Post go-live support is a critical success factor. It captures real data from users to assess whether or not they comprehend what they’ve been taught.
  • Go-live is the beginning of the effort for most end-users / employees – it’s their starting point. In general, training will need to be done as close to go-live as possible. Too early, and people forget; too late, and well, it is too late. Some groups might be best to train after go-live.
  • Communicate, communicate and communicate some more.

“What we’ve learned in our experience is that you have to understand people, process and technology so you can decide, integrate and build the best system for your company,” Rizzico said. “If you don’t know why you are doing it, or what it means to your employees, then you will not get the results that you want.”

April 20, 2021, 9:45 PM EDT