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Sep 282012

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Achieving a successful software deployment requires that we get users to accept, even embrace a change. After all, adoption of any new business software, from the smallest app to full enterprise systems requires that users change the way they are doing their jobs. In a recent Harvard Business review article, Rosabeth Moss Kanter lays out Ten Reasons People Resist Change and notes the consequences.

Resistance to change manifests itself in many ways, from foot-dragging and inertia to petty sabotage to outright rebellions.

Yup,   and as software marketers, we have seen them all.  So why, what causes the resistance?  Of the 10 reasons Kanter lays out, 3 seem particularly relevant to software deployments.

  • Excess uncertainty.
At a  recent process improvement workshop I attended, the instructor insisted that people aren’t really afraid of change, they are afraid of the unknown.  Once you can paint a picture of how life will be better, most people will embrace change, but until people have the vision, uncertainty can paralyze them and undermine your efforts.  The key to successful deployments is removing uncertainty, and replacing it with vision.
  • Concerns about competence.
Once users have achieved a level of competence with an existing system or methodology,  they may be reluctant to change if they are unsure about their ability to reestablish the competence with a new system.   They may be worried that their skills will be obsolete,  or they may be afraid about  appearing stupid if they don’t catch right on to the new tools.  Software vendors can mitigate these concerns by providing training,  resources, and help to users.  One more thing I have seen.  A  lot of times, software developers will bake in a certain vocabulary to their systems.  If the vocabulary doesn’t match what the users are used to, resistance will be higher.  Developers need to spend a lot of time early with users to understand their processes, and use their language.
  • More work.  
 As Kanter points out, ” Change is indeed more work.”  For new software deployments, this is particularly true.  Not only do users have to learn a new system, but many companies will require a period of overlap, when both old and new systems are used.  This means that users will be doing double work.   In addition, many software systems are designed to provide information to management, with little or no thought to how this affects the users, or how to make the jobs of the users easier, better, or more satisfying.   Overcoming this issue requires a two prong strategy.  First, the software itself needs to be designed in such a way that it really does help the user do his or her job better and easier.   Information collected should be the result of helping the user, not an additional burden.  Second, we really have to take the time to paint the vision of a better future, and hold the user’s hand till we are there.
Make your software deployments effective.
Successful deployments where users embrace the new software and use it effectively are key to a sustainable product.  Successful deployments lead to referrals, testimonials, and ultimately new users.   In order to have successful deployments, software vendors need to:
  • Develop software that helps users do their jobs easier, faster, and more effectively
  • Provide guidance, training, and needed resources
  • Paint the vision of how life will be better once the software has been deployed.

How about you?  Do you have a story of a particularly good or bad software deployment?  (for bad ones, please change the names to protect the guilty).  Or are you involved in a software deployment right now that you would like to make more effective?   Contact us, or join the discussion on our LinkedIn group on software marketing. 

We look forward to your input.


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