It’s a common struggle among project managers: getting team members to use new technology tools. As a result, implementation of new project management software tools often fails.
So here are two points to consider if you’re planning to introduce new software tools to your organization:
- Why business software implementations fail
- Best practices for team adoption
Why implementation fails
Seventy percent of all software adoption efforts fail, according to a 2011 white paper titled “4 Stops to Navigating the Treacherous Highway of Enterprise Software Adoption,” by University of Washington lecturer Joe Dodson. Dodson, who surveys research on software deployment, teaches classes in Marketing High Tech Products, Marketing New Products and Innovation, and Service Marketing and Operations.
Here are five reasons why adopting new software so often fails:
- It changes the job people do. People rarely appreciate having their jobs changed. So, when a company chooses to standardize processes using more efficient software, this strategic disruption can cause resistance among employees—even if it will make their job more efficient.
- People are unclear who owns the application. When no one is explicitly responsible for the adoption process, implementation has no way to take hold.
- There’s no clear way to measure success. As the old adage goes, you can’t manage what you don’t measure. How can a project succeed if success can’t be defined?
- There’s no communicated change management or internal marketing. It’s key that leaders let their teams know about any new software tool that’s coming down the pike — from why and how the company will adopt it, to how it will change people’s job for the better. If people don’t know about a tool’s implementation from the start, how can they get excited about it, and adopt it?
- There aren’t enough incentives for employees to change behaviors. People look for benefits in changing their established ways of doing things. Incentives don’t have to be monetary, but they need to be tangible, such as a process that works better than the previous one, being easier to use, more efficient, reliable, etc.
So how do you learn from these common mistakes, and motivate your team to adopt a new tool?
Best practices for team adoption
- Get buy-in at the top. Nothing speaks louder than when your boss—or your boss’s boss—uses the new software. Ask your boss for support if you’re trying to evangelize your new tool to your team.
- Use the new tool yourself. Be the one to initiate replacing the old process with the new. For example, assign task lists to team members. Set up your own work flow in the tool. Then, team members have to engage with the software. Everyone can start executing and recording their work together—and learn to appreciate the new process.
- Emphasize the familiar. Since so many people use social tools such as Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, software developers are incorporating social features into business software—such as a comment feed that works like Twitter, avatars for personal identification, etc. Used within project software, the social tools are closely associated with project tasks and history.
- Stress the fun. Going off the fun of avatars, have a contest to pick avatars. Initiate a great ideas contest for ways to personalize a tool. Learning a new process can have growing pains, so don’t forget to include fun moments and initiatives that work for your culture.
- Emphasize the useful. For example, some online project management software automatically generates lists that prioritize work tasks. There’s no question about whether to do task A or B when a manager use the same project management software. Let the team know about these useful processes, and how they’ll streamline their work days.
- Embrace metrics. Get your team members using the software to measure progress. The process can be easy, and inspire your team to stretch and grow. Only with a metrics system can you declare victory.
Tim Clark is an industry analyst with The FactPoint Group, a boutique Silicon Valley market research firm.