You can lead a horse to water, but…

Simply getting a solution deployed doesn't necessarily translate to success. Solution adoption and change management are critical success criteria that should be evaluated early and thoroughly.

My wife and I have three horses at our home in Colorado, and we thought it would be a good idea to give them a nice shelter so they could get out of bad weather on their own. We put a lot of thought into what would work best and finally settled on a large, three-sided metal shed that we installed in the central pasture. We were pretty happy with the result.

But then the first big wind-storm hit and the shed took off like a kite, landing upside down. That’s when we learned there’s something called “anchors” to keep these things firmly on the ground. A week later, the shed was back upright with four brand-new anchors.

When the first big snow storm of the year hit, we were confident the horses would be happy and warm in their new shed. But as I looked outside, I saw them huddled together outside of the shed. They appeared to be mocking me, as if asking, “Do you really expect us to get in that thing?”

Approaching solution adoption

This experience reminds me of a big challenge for some IT projects. Simply getting the solution (the shed) deployed doesn’t necessarily translate to success. Some or all of the end users may reject the solution, sometimes because it doesn’t align to their needs and sometimes because they’re resistant to change or skeptical (perhaps they were privy to a prior “failed” experience). Even worse, implementers of IT solutions often don’t even realize they have failed. They’ve deployed the solution into production and celebrate what appears to be success, not realizing that lack of adoption could mean that the intended value will never be realized.

The focus on solution adoption and change management typically comes too late in a project or is ignored entirely. Truly successful projects need to focus on these issues from day one.

Here’s how: Stakeholders and end users need to be interviewed early to determine their needs and ensure that the solution aligns to them. The team should perform a detailed analysis, which can reveal previously unknown needs and expectations. This can help the project team manage expectations, if need be, or adjust the solution to align to requirements.

The analysis can also reveal advocates and key influencers that the project team can leverage to help with internal communications and drive excitement about the new solution. On-boarding key influencers from all levels of the organization as advocates for the solution will greatly increase the chances of solution adoption.

Ensuring everyone is on-board

Just as importantly, the analysis can also reveal stakeholders or users who are resistant to the change. If key influencers are against the change, the project has little chance of success. When the objections are analyzed, they can be addressed and mitigated. This can be accomplished by adding adoption risks to the project’s risk register, developing and documenting a response plan for each risk and executing the mitigation strategy. Mitigating adoption risks will typically focus on groups of users, but can also be targeted to key individuals. Strategies will often focus on enablement plans and communications. Another strategy is to ensure that key influencers feel they are part of the project team early, have a say in the project’s direction and have ownership in the solution’s success.

As for my horses, it took some buckets of grain and coaxing to teach them the shed is not something to be feared. Turns out all we really needed were some education and communication to drive their adoption.

Do you know which horses in your organization will refuse to go in the shed? Please share your thoughts by adding a comment below.

By Mark Elkins

New voices, thoughts and insights. This CA Technologies blog post features content written by an…


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