It's not enough to show users some training videos and set them free with a new system. Here's how to implement a period of supervised learning to ensure success.
Most IT professionals are familiar with the concept of burn-in, or the process of exercising a system prior to placing it in service. It's what we do to ensure that systems are working properly, and that they have run for sufficient duration without failure, which means that they will remain reliable over time.
But how many of us, if we are project managers, consider the human burn-in factor for new project implementations?
If these systems are not tuned to the business processes that users are accustomed to in their daily work, or if users are not supportive of business process changes that are needed to facilitate a new system—that new system risks becoming shelfware.
Here are five steps to take towards instituting a human burn-in period that ensures users have enough time to get familiar and comfortable with new systems and processes:
1. Assign a project "account executive" to shepherd in the new project
This could be an someone from IT or a user department who is an empathetic communicator and can serve as the point person for questions and resolve user concerns. Having a designated person to deal with questions and concerns helps diffuse anxiety about new systems and can pave the way for system acceptance.
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2. Aggressively resolve system issues with IT and outside vendors
If there is a major issue that comes up while end users are trying a new system, get on the issue right away and resolve it—whether the issue originates in IT or with an outside vendor. Rapid issue resolution will impress and build confidence with your users because they will feel you have their backs.
3. Offer on-the-job training and follow up
Never cutover a new system without training users how to use it. This means training them within the as they're using the new system. On-the-job style training is important because theoretical classroom training, or just practicing on the new system in isolation, isn't going to get users "burned in" to use the system in practice. Also be sure to follow up and see how users are doing after training concludes. Too many project managers just check off the training line item in their projects, and consider system adoption a closed book.
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4. Dry-run the new system in a business process simulation before the system goes live
Once all user training is completed and the system is ready to go, take one more step by dry running the system in a simulated business environment that includes all of the revised business processes as well as the system. This simulation is ideally run over a two-week period. It is an opportunity for IT and end users to work together to uncover any bugs and solve them before the system is fully implemented in production.
5. Perform system follow ups with end users at the three month, six month and one year marks
One of the hallmarks of great customer service is following up with your customers after the sale, or in the case of new projects, after implementation. As part of the human burn-in process that addresses the staying power of a new system and whether it will serve the company over the duration, IT should plan to meet with end users periodically over the first year of system use to assess whether the system is meeting company, end user and IT goals.
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