Parties, persuasion and pot luck to overcome end user resistance

IT professionals are getting creative when it comes to overcoming end user resistance to new technology projects. Recognizing that users don't like change and that old habits can be hard to break, IT pros are using strategies that range from staging 'go live' celebrations to creating 'change champion' positions across the organization.

As Enterprise Applications Consulting analyst Joshua Greenbaum points out change management is often more important than the software itself when it comes to large projects.

"Without a well-mannered change management process, everything else will roll up on you," he said.

Throwing go-live parties is fast becoming a common practice in the enterprise, because it breaks down the barriers with end users, raises the profile of IT and there is a likely chance beer will be served.

Change management consultant and managing director of RNC Global Projects, Diane Dromgold, said go-live celebrations have become common in Australia, but companies can throw them a little too soon.

"It is better to throw them further down the track when everybody has adjusted to the application," she said.

"When tackling user resistance, IT departments should also use a combination of one-on-one tutoring and tough love.

"I am a huge fan of going overboard to support good communication, education and training for a project."

Victoria University client services manager, Malcolm Gill, said the best way to combat end user resistance towards new software and applications is to discuss what the various departments specifically want in a face-to-face setting. A go-live party is more of a way to show that the IT department is in fact human.

"Go-live parties would be great to raise our profile and we could talk informally with users, it would overcome the 'us and them' mentality," Gill said.

But Ron Gascoigne, IT manager for Holmesglen TAFE, believes parties aren't always the answer.

"It's about good communication, go-live parties are just an excuse for a drink," he said.

Gascoigne admits the university has had to overcome an anti-technology mentality among users but strong leadership from management ensured greater acceptance.

"IT tends to take a back seat when successes occur with users not always recognizing IT's contribution to improved processes," he said.

Holmesglen TAFE releases about 12 homegrown applications every year and is constantly tweaking off the shelf applications.

Dealing with the hangovers and inertia

Peter Seddon, associate professor of Melbourne University department of information systems reckons the term end user is a hangover from the 1980s and said the two necessary parts for ensuring new software acceptance is training and subsequent support.

Seddon said it is not resistance that IT managers need to get their head around, it is how to handle inertia.

"End user is a relic from the 1980s when IT just ran batch processes, but it is quite understandable that people do not welcome change," Seddon said.

"It is important IT managers focus on five channels of training to keep a project on track: active, helpdesk, user groups, power users and talking to buddies.

"IT managers should also focus on training and the helpdesk ... they also do not realize the benefits of user groups to share information."

Carol Tyler, change management director at Catholic Healthcare creates 'change champion' positions at each facility to promote the new software.

Tyler's position was created to help shepherd major technology projects because of huge resistance from users after a failed ERP installation.

"They had a very, very strong distaste for a new IT project; we were forced to face demons from the past," she said.

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