Letting Users Take the Lead in Choosing their Tools Can Benefit the Whole Business
Recently I came across an article about how hard it can be to introduce new enterprise business intelligence technologies to a company. This article reflects an important corporate phenomenon: “mandating and forcing users to adopt a standard practice or technology will often create resistance and political backlash.” The author underlines that transforming and changing the way people do business is never easy, and she advises the heads of IT departments on the best ways to implement the changes.Why is it so hard to make users adopt the new software introduced by IT departments? One of the reasons is that sometimes the choice of software is made levels above the actual users. In these cases software is adopted without taking users’ opinion into consideration. Often users have no budgets and little decision power, and that is why all software vendors’ marketing efforts are targeted at top management and heads of IT departments, who make the final choice of software. Many experts agree that this fact is convenient for the IT departments, because they get as much control as possible over users’ operations. Top management sometimes may not know the specific character of their employees’ work. That’s why the managers’ choice for software may become an additional barrier for effective collaboration, instead of being a helpful solution.  As a result, people can be forced to adapt to the imposed tool that does not answer their requirements and can be hard to master. They may have to spend weeks or even months on training. Still, after all the training efforts, the IT-introduced solution might turn out to be ineffective for successful team work. Information can often be hard to find, as it is kept in disconnected files. Sometimes lack of built-in collaboration vehicles in an IT imposed solution can slow down the whole business. Change in enterprise management software adoption All these factors are making the top-management of many companies change their views on the IT department’s role in the adoption of a new business solution. Now there is a strong tendency of transformation in enterprise software adoption due to growing user sophistication. Social networks, blogs, wikis and other Web 2.0 technologies people use at home help them find similar tools for more effective work in the office. People find new ways to work together and collaborate without any help from IT departments. These ways are Enterprise 2.0 technologies, and they turn out to be more efficient. Why? An Enterprise 2.0 online collaboration platform can make team-work frictionless, as it is more flexible. Second-generation software is designed with user needs in mind. Team members can customize their collaborative space and make it specific to their own needs. The new-generation software is easy to use. Simplicity has become a key driver of technology adoption, especially in the last 10 years, as advanced technologies have developed simpler user interfaces. For example, blogging can be called a revolution of simplicity. To blog, all you need to do is write a title and, some content, and then click publish. It is that simple to share your ideas with the rest of the team and get their feedback in the comments. Collaboration software can do even more for business productivity. It may be the key for streamlining the work process and may help companies avoid unnecessary paper work and phone calls. Everything is kept in one place – a collaborative space that can be accessed by all the team members. Many companies today realize these benefits and take advantage of them by letting their employees choose the software, which will correspond to the end-users’ needs. As an example we can take SightLines Consulting – a consulting company where employees had lots of complaints on complexity of their CRM software. The application was chosen by the top-management. The tool was stable, but end-users kept saying that the application is inflexible and hard to use. The sales people - the end-users of the software – tend to spend most of their working time out of the office, on the road. The major inconvenience was that the application was impossible to access any other way than through their internal network. However, “sales people are motivated to produce” says SightLines Consulting president Thomas Foydel. This means, that they are motivated to find ways and tools to be more productive. The end-users turned to Enterprise 2.0 technologies. When they found a solution that adds actual value to their everyday job, they adopted it. The result was doubling the speed of sales team work and improved customer satisfaction. The whole business became more successful. The top executives at SightLines Consulting are now sure that they made the right decision by letting the sales team choose their tools.
Enterprise 2.0 software brings new ways of collaboration and is adopted according to different standards. It’s easy to use, effective and flexible. This software is brought to the enterprise the bottom-up way, and very often is suggested by end-users themselves. It’s no surprise that the second-generation software adoption and usage are more thorough than those of traditional software. Peter Coffee, a recognized software-as-a-service advocate, said that the software that end-users had before might have been stable, mature and predictable, but “it was not transforming people's ideas of how they do business”. I would add that it was not giving them enough space for implementation of their ideas. IT-departments should not ignore this fact. Changing IT-staff altitude towards the new-generation technologies will benefit the whole organization. IT departments need to learn to evaluate the new opportunities. In particular, IT needs additional competency in evaluating and administering service agreements. Enterprise 2.0 is not just software. It represents another way of managing IT. This means that IT departments should now shift their focus toward managing Enterprise 2.0 vendor relationships, as operational responsibility over the actual hardware and software moves to vendors. Some CIOs have already begun to move in this direction. For example, Alastair Behenna, CIO of Harvey Nash, says that their IT staff is looking into emerging technologies and trying to stay in the loop. “We have a lab where our team—from the help desk to the Web folks—is encouraged to spend as much as 10 percent of its time figuring out if there is commercial benefit to something [new] and doing a proof of concept if so,” - Behenna confirms. Of cause transformation of the software adoption process  will be different in various companies. Some enterprises will still preserve the old ways of choosing software without taking the end-users’ opinion into consideration. Others have already realized the benefits of letting their employees take the lead in selecting their tools and making teams more productive.  Examples of companies like Shell, Harvey Nash and many others, prove that allowing end-users choose the software according to their needs can make the whole business performance better.
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