You’ve heard this story before. A CIO asks his or her team to help solve a big problem and they spend months framing up a solution. The team conducts intensive research, reviews analyst reports, meets with sales reps and negotiates an agreement. Finally, they launch the new solution but to disappointing results. Despite assurances from their vendor, many employees didn’t adopt the new technology. Now, the CIO must deliver the bad news to the CEO.
It seems every day I am asked two big questions: What’s the next trend? And how do we create pervasive adoption? As the CTO of a company that focuses on crafting technology to focus on the user experience, I believe it’s time everyone in the tech industry wrote a different ending to this story. It starts by recognizing that the biggest dilemma technology leaders face today is the alignment of multigenerational perspectives. How people respond to technology and how these generational perspectives impact adoption is the biggest challenge to success.
Just a few years ago, the success of enterprise technology was largely measured by trouble. How many helpdesk requests do we have? Metrics like this remain critical, but the questions asked today by IT leaders are less related to service availability and more related to workforce utilization.
Success is measured in pervasiveness, workforce productivity and adoption. Adoption leads to a return on investment, which means IT is fueling the business rather than responding to someone’s request for a gadget.
What does this have to do with multigenerational perspectives? Plenty. Without this in mind, adoption will be mediocre at best. Once organizations understand how their multigenerational workforce uses the technology, they are on the path to a better outcome.
Aligning Expectation With Reality
For the first time in the history of modern IT, we have three to four generations working together, solving the same problem and using the same technology. Because of this, we have seen the adoption dilemma for the first time.
The basis of solving problems is profoundly different between the generations. Members of one generation may want to work independently and then bring the solution to the team. Others may believe solving the problem is the team itself. In this type of scenario, employees are bound to become frustrated with the way the others wants to solve the problem.
It is these differences that have a direct result in the "this-stuff-doesn't-work syndrome." Our experience is that often the technology works just fine. The problem is that it’s designed for the wrong generation. The technology doesn’t fit into the specific generation’s expectations and as a result, it doesn’t work. More accurately, the technology doesn’t match the expectation of how it is supposed to work.
The Source Of The Disconnect
A group of employees walks into a conference room for a meeting with employees at another location. The room is equipped with two monitors at the front, a camera, some mics and speakers and a touch panel to control it all. Of course, while every individual has their own thoughts and ideas, those in charge of arranging this meeting may run into the following reactions:
- Those in the generation known as the traditionalists -- someone who remembers the Korean War or maybe even WWII -- may be concerned about the cost and need for such tools.
- Some employees that are part of the baby boomer generation -- who remember when phones were wired and TVs were wireless -- may recognize the usefulness of the tool, but they may wonder who on the team could operate it.
- Some members of Generation X -- who remember where they were on 9/11 and have been around technology a majority of their professional life -- may see this as an innovative way to improve their current methodology.
- Finally, some millennials, employees who are used to working through mobile devices and constant innovation, may wonder if the team would be better off using established technology such as smartphone applications.
If the system in the example above dials and connects all employees to the conference, delivers the ability to communicate and share content, then it works. But if the system doesn’t match the user’s expectation, then it doesn’t work. Adoption failure.
No matter the example or situation, whether it be communication technology or CRM tools, adoption requires a strong focus on the experience that is provided when the technology is consumed. That includes quantifying user expectations and then providing system designs that meet these expectations. Listen for more than specifications about “what” the user expects the system to do. Listen to the “why” and “how” they expect to accomplish tasks.
Systematically draw these user experience expectations from the stakeholders, synthesize these across multiple generations and then make these perspectives the key “specs” that influence adoption. Focus on workflows and try to eliminate places in the users’ workflows, where they make decisions about using technology.
Accelerate Adoption To Boost Return On Investment
Using these steps, look at the end users’ normal workflow and reduce the friction points along the way. Integrating multigenerational perspectives and aligning the technology with these natural workflows accelerates adoption by conforming the systems to how people already work.
The same premise applies to whatever IT issue you’re trying to address. Join user expectations with specific workflows and communicate which use cases can be adopted right away, along with which need training or support to be accomplished.
These metrics include user expectations across multiple generations. Baby boomers can collaborate with the team. Members of Generation X can receive training. Millennials might have access to apps that fit into current expectations. Each generation has a workflow that looks like the way they already work.
The goal is aligning these expectations to the technical workflows. By doing so, we limit or eliminate the requirement to choose certain workflows for certain outcomes. The technology works the way we expect it to and it conforms to how we already work, which accelerates adoption.
[AVI Systems Chief Technology Officer, Brad Sousa, contributed this article. It was originally published in Forbes.]