Any successful IT implementation requires support from the people who will actually be working with the tools that IT provides. However, in some cases, getting that user support can be difficult.
When deploying new software, the IT manager is faced with two distinctly different, yet interrelated, challenges:
- Technical: Ensuring that the company has the best technology tools needed to accomplish tasks, and
- Consensual: Ensuring that the company and employees agree on which tools to use and that they know how to use them.
IT managers must spend a lot of time executing both of these goals. The company might have the best technical solutions, but if users don’t agree that it’s the best solution and/or don’t understand how to use it, people will use their own solution.
The problem, of course, is: Where do you start? If you start with building consensus, you might lose it by the time you get the technical side finished. If you start with the technical solution, you might build it but they never come (so to speak). Sounds like a catch-22, doesn’t it? However with the right approach, you can make them both happen together. Here’s how:
Start with the IT team
Have the conversation with your team first. Talk about the solution you’re considering and ask for their feedback. This does two things. First, it builds consensus around whatever solution you choose. It’s safe to do so with your team because they understand the timeline behind delivering the solution – which means their consensus won’t fade.
Second, it will inform the decision behind the solution. You’ll have some concrete, well thought-out reasons for the solution once you start building consensus company-wide.
Go to the executive team
Take the technical solution idea to the executive team. Explain why you think it’s necessary and lay out the plan for implementation. You have two goals in this meeting. First, build consensus at the highest level. Second, enlist department heads and other people in leadership to build consensus among their team. Ask them to mention briefly to their team that the solution is coming down the line. Also ask them to take an active effort to build consensus around the solution later.
Finally, open yourself to any feedback. One department, for example, might use a piece of technology that will cause a problem with your chosen solution. Knowing upfront can help you prepare for that problem during deployment.
Prepare to deploy the solution
Get the solution ready for implementation (or as close to ready as possible). This is where you put your nose to the grindstone so that you can deliver the solution on time.
Educate and Deploy
These two steps happen almost simultaneously. You can educate before deployment, but then the solution seems too abstract to employees and they won’t learn how to use it well. Instead, deploy the solution and then teach department heads how to use it. This empowers department heads to educate their team on the solution.
Report to the executive team
Explain the process you’ve been through, reporting both on how well you’ve built consensus (and how the department heads have helped with this) and on how the solution is working. This does two things. First, it makes the solution a reality to the executive team. Second, it shows all the work you’ve done since your initial meeting. You want to make sure the executive knows you’ve done more than developed a technical solution – you want them to know you’ve both worked hard to build consensus around the solution and to educate employees on how to use it.
No longer can IT managers concern themselves with simply providing solutions. Since employees now have the power to go out and find the technology they prefer, you have to convince them that your solution is the best. It’s not easy, and it may not be fair, but it is necessary if you want to succeed.
About the author: Richard Turkel is a system admin by trade but a writer by passion. His interest in computers began when he took apart his parents’ VCR player just to see how it worked. When Rich isn’t browsing the web or stuck in a server room, he writes for BMC, supplier of fine IT services.