Integrating new technology into organizations can play a massive part in aligning the company culture. But with such a high failure rate of IT projects, (estimated anywhere between 50 and 75 percent), the stark reality is that many organizations won’t benefit from the full potential of their investment. No matter how innovative and creative the ever-growing wealth of business applications are, utilising them for cultural - and hence competitive - advantage often simply doesn’t happen.
When IT fails to deliver its part in the much desired cultural changes, it’s often because the technology has been rolled out without adequate consideration for why people will want to use it. Take email for example, as a communication tool it remains extremely popular and for many it’s the one that employees are most familiar with and confident about using. Sending an email with an attachment is going to seem quicker and easier than using a SharePoint discussion board…
So how do you persuade your business to step away from the tried and tested and instead embark on new communication and collaboration tools?
1) Understand the culture you’re investing in: First and most importantly, you need to know your culture inside out and whether it’s actually ready for the new investment. If you plan to introduce a collaboration tool, be realistic about how open and willing your culture is to be collaborative in the first place. A new icon on a desktop is not suddenly going to transform a silo culture into an all-sharing, all communicating one!
2) Create the WHY: This is such an important phase of any roll-out but it rarely gets the focus it needs. Creating a strong why from the outset – championed by senior leaders and mangers – helps people understand the onus on them to use the new technology, and crucially, why this requires new actions and behaviours from them. The why has to be compelling enough to persuade them to stop one habit – for example communicating via company-wide emails at every opportunity – and start embracing a new, different one, such as using Yammer to target the most relevant people who need the information.
3) Build the desire: A good way to spur interest and support for new technology is to first make the tool accessible to the right people: is there a particular division or group of users who you think would most benefit? Get them on-board beyond basic, ‘how-to’ training and show them the scope and potential of the tool for their particular need. Once they’re on-board, you can capitalize on their enthusiasm and experience to help connect with other user groups across the business.
4) Make it meaningful: People need to know what’s in it for them rather than viewing it as yet another requirement on their time and effort. Communication plays a key role here, as does training that goes deeper than user functionality. Keep the ‘why’ firmly in mind at every communication opportunity to help people make those new habits and not revert to how they’ve always done things.
5) Communicate the ‘why’ before the ‘what’: By the time IT projects get sign-off, the cycles of decision making and discussion are often a dim and distant memory for those involved. But for all other employees, the richness and context from these discussions helps to secure ‘why’ the technology is being embraced, and not just what it is and how it works.
6) Create waves: Often the first employees hear about a new roll-out is the fact that it’s happening! Start early, start communicating and if possible, get input and ideas from as many people as possible: what do they want from the technology? How will it support them? What are their concerns and hopes?
7) Set the cultural tone through senior leadership: It’s a cliché for a reason: if you want behaviours to change at the bottom, you need to display them at the top. If the investment is aimed, for example, at securing greater collaboration, be sure that senior leaders are showing how they’re networking and involving themselves in new discussions with new people. Likewise, if they adopt a formal style of communication, be prepared for the organization to follow suite. Conversely, if the aim is for a more informal communication channel, make sure the tone fits.
8) Keep going: Launch day is over and the buzz and build-up has peaked: even the best intentions can slip as new projects and deadlines take over. Make sure you re-visit target groups to see how they’re progressing and invite feedback – good and bad – from them. Remind leadership of the influence they have over the prolonged uptake of the technology and celebrate when it has had a real impact.
Technology can often get bad press when projects fail or only limited benefits emerge. At the end of the day, its failure are often much more complex than the properties and qualities of the technology itself, or indeed, the roll-out. If the technology implementation is not aligned to the culture of the organization, its long-term impact and success will never be fully exploited.