Of all the measures of success for information management solution implementations, there is one critical success factor that stands above the rest: user adoption. In other words, your solution is only successful if it is actually used by the people in your organization.
User Adoption in Context
Getting people to use your system cannot be an afterthought. It must be part of the entire lifecycle of any solution from planning to implementation to ongoing operation.
What are we trying to accomplish? What are the Critical Success Factors (CSFs)? These can include things like efficiency gains and cost savings, as long as they are measurable. To ensure success, a primary CSF should be user adoption.
How do we organize and structure things to support the strategy? This is information architecture as well as solution architecture, which should align with business architecture and strategy. This is about organizing, labeling, navigating, and finding information. It should include master data and metadata management, which enable better management of data, content, knowledge, and records in all formats and locations.
How do we get people to use systems in the ways we intend? That may seem like a simple definition, but realize that information and technology governance is a descendant of quality management and the ISO 9001 standard. True governance is about ensuring that people, processes, technology, and information meet the quality and control standards that support the enterprise’s strategy and architecture.
How do we build out the solution and get users started? Strategy, architecture, and governance define the requirements. Solution implementation can be done all at once or in phases by group. Either way, the infrastructure should be built with capacity growth in mind. There is no sense in delivering a new solution that fails to handle users’ needs.
How do we support users and drive adoption? The solution should remain in good working order, and capacity and resources should be continuously monitored so adjustments can be made proactively. Improvements, including new features, should be iterative. Good communication, learning resources, and support are essential.
Information systems come with a lot of additional concerns, including security, privacy, business continuity, and retention. While the primary business drivers should be tied to business goals, these supporting concerns are still essential to success. From a user adoption perspective, it is important that the strategy, architecture, governance, implementation, and operation of the system meet these supporting requirements in ways that do not negatively impact overall user experience.
Steps to User Adoption Success
Put simply, a successful information system is one that is useful, usable, and used. This is a combination of user experience and user adoption.
Make it Useful
To be useful, a solution must meet real business needs. Solve a problem. Simplify work processes. Improve efficiency and quality. Help staff and leadership do their jobs better. Give users a reason to want to use it.
Make it Usable
To be usable, a solution must be easy to use and accessible to users with varying abilities or disabilities. Don’t make users think about how the solution works. Eliminate information ROT (Redundant, Obsolete, Trivial). Make it easy to put information in the right SPOT (Single Point Of Truth). Make information findable, easy to use, and easy to reuse as needed. And when it comes to knowledge, quality, and records management, build these into processes so users don’t have to think about them, either.
Get it Used
To promote user adoption, provide ongoing communication, learning, and support. Communicate to users when the solution is coming, when it is ready, and when changes will happen. Promote the solution with training, help guides, and a wiki. Support users by setting up their tools, managing access, and resolving issues. And handle change management well.
The Path of Least Resistance
People will take the path of least resistance. If you leave legacy systems like shared drives in place, many will keep using them. And if users don’t find your new system to be useful and usable, they will find other ways to do their jobs that are outside of your control. You can try to limit their options (thereby adding resistance for shadow IT), but why not make your own solution so useful and usable that they actually want to use it?
This is all a lot of work, but it is less work than starting over when a system fails from poor adoption. Good user adoption is essential for information management solution success.
Note: This blog was originally posted on the aiim community blog by J. Kevin Parker, CIP. Kevin is a recognized industry expert, speaker, and content contributor on a wide range of topics, including information management, information architecture, user experience, technology, and SharePoint. You can find him at www.JKevinParker.com and on Twitter @JKevinParker.