Issues and answers for I.T types around user adoption in the digital workplace
In today’s digital workplace, being an I.T manager carries an echo of James Bond’s Q – equipping the workforce with the tools and technologies that give them an edge.
But just as Q’s role has evolved over the years, the I.T expert’s role today is as much about user adoption as it is the actual technology. After all, technology only make a difference to the business if your people take it into their hearts, and make it part of their everyday lives.
That’s why the Q of recent films has been more of a field agent than backroom staff. An increased understanding of how people use technology, and how it affects their hopes and dreams as people.
Making sure that I.T meets the needs of your employees is a big ask. And you can’t do it alone. So let’s look at the core concerns of your workforce… and who can help, as the digital workplace goes from business-critical to mission-critical.
The digital workplace is a revolution, not an evolution
New technologies aren’t just letting us do our work faster, cheaper, easier. They’re wholly different ways of doing things. And with them, the entire nature of what we call work is changing.
Departments are dissolving, with teams emerging on-the-fly to tackle specific projects spanning countries and time zones.
The old hierarchies of the workplace are flattening, with functional competence far more valued than seniority. CEOs are wearing jeans to the office and pranking their juniors on social media.
Work isn’t “what you do” any more, it’s “who you are”.
And it’s blurring the lines between home and office. What matters most: the same thing applies to the technologies people use.
You don’t need a different chunk of hardware for your work and home emails. Mostly, you don’t even need a separate app. Sharing an Instagram of the new office on their private account, or writing a Facebook post about their business trip, comes naturally to people fully immersed in a digital world.
They’ll happily take a business call while catching ‘em all on Pokemon Go. “Approved lists” and “Acceptable practices” are seen as limiting.
(And it’s not limited to the Millennials and Gen Z. Indeed, the whole idea of work as personal fulfilment kicked off in the 60s, as the Baby Boomers drove social change.
And there are still plenty of Boomers in the workforce. Indeed, the number of retired people returning to work – discovering they weren’t ready to put their feet up – is a major factor in the UK and USA.)
So in the digital workplace, technology is a more personal choice than ever. People don’t want their mobile phone or tablet decided for them by the I.T Department. So that’s first rule of meeting your employees’ I.T needs: understand it’s about unleashing freedom, not forcing people into straitjackets.
Meeting employees’ tech needs starts with giving them freedom.
Shadow IT is a signaller of needs, not a monster to be crushed
Many people suffer a big misunderstanding about user adoption: it isn’t about persuading users to use what’s specified. Often, the battle is won or lost before the first user tests your app. User adoption goes smoothest when it answers the user’s needs in the most satisfying way.
When adoption isn’t going well, there’s always the temptation to impose an enterprise-wide upgrade on your users, or think one more training session will make everything alright. Fight it. There’s another way to ensure your technology choices are enthusiastically taken up. It involves shadow I.T.
All over the world, people are using DropBox in preference to secure servers. Skype instead of the approved telecoms provider. Their own tablets and mobiles instead of company devices.
But there’s another way of looking at shadow I.T – as a signal?
If Skype packets are clogging your connection, it means people aren’t satisfied with the phones. If logins from iPads are outpacing Windows, it means your office PCs aren’t doing the job they should. If data traffic is heaviest after 5pm, it means people are having to save up transfers until the office is quieter.
(Either that, or you missed the invitation to the Game of Thrones torrent-party last night in Accounts.)
Talking to people can reveal what they want, but shadow IT can signal what they really need. This is our second paradigm shift: to increase user adoption in the digital workplace, embrace shadow I.T.
To increase user adoption, embrace shadow I.T
To build a better I.T department, team up with Human Resources
What the above confirm is that user adoption isn’t so much about technology as people. And who knows people best? Human Resources.
Together with HR, you are the digital workplace’s new power couple. HR have a natural understanding of what employees really do at work, and it can be very different to what’s written on their job description. So instead of huddling in an IT clique, why not work with HR to define the needs of your users?
By 2020, a huge number of enterprises will treat employee engagement as a shared metric between IT and HR. The reasons are sound. How engaged workers feel is a key indication of how motivated they are.
Giving people freedom to choose how they work with each other through technology is a huge boost to user adoption. When workers can time-shift their days to be more efficient, work from home to avoid a commute, select colleagues for a project no matter how far away they are – this is how revolutions happen.
So that’s meeting your employees’ IT needs in a nutshell: it’s not about locking them down, but freeing them from shackles.
Give people the freedom to choose how they use technology to work with each other.
Summing up: IT + HR = Q= Heroes
All this adds up to a huge opportunity for today’s IT Department. Many in the C-suite still think of you as a cost centre. Focussing on user adoption turns you into a profit centre.
Working as a team with HR, you can demonstrate how your technology choices are adding value and reducing risk across the organisation. Just like the real Q at Vauxhall Cross – whose brief, in real life, is more laptops and mobile phones than handguns and bulletproof cars.
In today’s digital workplace, you are Q and you are a hero. And unlike him, you’ve no need to keep it secret. Indeed, if your efforts lead to greater user adoption, it’s worth shouting it from the rooftops.
- The digital workplace isn’t a step up, but a complete paradigm shift
- Shadow IT isn’t a risk to be crushed, but a signal of what your users want
- Working with HR, the IT department can give all employees the freedom to shine