Making smart choices about enterprise content management (ECM) solutions and other business technologies doesn’t result in meaningful change if you don’t have a plan for user adoption. Plenty of technology projects start with great energy and enthusiasm, only to stall out when the new system fails to take hold in the company.
To avoid letting your ECM project go to waste, make sure to incorporate the basic change management principles for driving user adoption.
A first important step is to choose effective project leaders. Companies often make the mistake of relying on IT staff to drive technology projects, which isn’t the most effective way to reach business users in your organization. An IT expert doesn’t have information about the needs of specific business units.
That’s why an electronic document management project needs visible support from senior management and department heads, as well as workers that handle the document management process. These employees offer a ground-level perspective on how document processing actually works, helping to make sure that the new document management system accounts for all the necessary steps and details.
When you’re introducing a new process or tool, you should expect your user base to fall into three groups, sometimes called “the 20-60-20 rule.” This concept suggests that about 20 percent of your users could be considered super-users or early adopters: people who are eager and enthusiastic about new technology. Another 20 percent consist of the naysayers, who tend to be change-averse and resistant to new tools. In between those extremes, you have the remaining 60 percent, who are undecided or indifferent to new technology.
Too often, the people leading an ECM or electronic document management project spend the bulk of their energies trying to cajole the naysayers into using the system. The 20/60/20 rule suggests a different approach: Use that energy to support the 20 percent of early adopters so that they are able to champion the technology to the middle 60 percent of users on the fence. Once you’ve reached 80 percent adoption, the naysayers tend to bow to the inevitable and get on board.
The people who seem like prospective super-users need to know as much about the system as possible, so involve them in beta testing and special training to make sure they’re well-equipped to champion the new technology. You may want to change some of their responsibilities in order to allocate more time for them to play an active role in the implementation. Building up these early adopters pays off when the new system is rolled out to the whole company, because employees then have peers who are enthusiastic about the project.
To prepare your organization for getting on board with electronic document management, it’s important to start your project by setting clear business goals that your company wants to achieve. Those goals might include meeting customer needs more effectively, using less paper, reducing processing costs or driving new business.
These goals help to clarify and communicate why your company needs to make this change. Business goals are usually straightforward and an easy way to engage people with different attitudes toward technology. From there, focus on communicating how the company is going to achieve the business goals by implementing the electronic document management. This early communication should help you engage the middle 60 percent of your users, making it easier for your super-users to sway them.
User education and appropriate training are also vital to implementing electronic document management. A person who files documents all day needs specific training for those tasks, while people who use the system for more general purposes probably only need the basic system training.
In the end, good leadership, planning, communication and training should help each individual understand how their actions fit into a larger process and build toward achieving the big-picture goals set out at the beginning. And building that awareness requires ongoing communication along with sharing accomplishments and improvements in highly visible ways.