You’ve already got the dread. You have your eye on an enterprise application that seems perfect for your business, but the internet is screaming at you:
Yes, the digital transformation failure rate is still hanging tough at 70%, and there are some very good reasons for that. But I’ve always been more of a glass-half-full person. So I set out to compile a list of application implementation best practices, and I had an epiphany: All the things that help your IT project succeed are the same things that make your people happy and productive. Talk about a win-win. Successful People = Successful Project
Here are 3 areas where you can bolster employee experience while increasing your chances for enterprise IT success:
Purpose: Construct It Collaboratively
Your organization’s purpose is particularly important right now. As deep work guru Cal Newport recently observed, the coronavirus pandemic threw us all into Walden Pond. Knowledge workers started asking, “Why am I working so hard all the time? What am I getting out of it? Are the benefits worth the sacrifices?” The Great Resignation and the Great Reshuffle are results of that reflection. People want their work to align with their values. They need to know they’re making a difference.
“People want their work to align with their values. They need to know they’re making a difference.”
If you are embarking on a major IT project, it’s because you’ve decided something your company is doing isn’t working and needs to change. Everyone within your organization should understand what needs to change and why. How will life be better once the change is achieved? How will this change help your company live into its purpose more fully? Together, you are constructing a change story, which is essential for effective change management.
Only IT people get excited about tech for tech’s sake. Everybody else has to see its payoff, its purpose. Show them how each new technology aligns to a specific business goal. Enterprise tech projects often fail for lack of support. The best way to grow project sponsorship at every level, from C-suite to frontline users, is to demonstrate how the technology will help people work smarter. Map each new tech tool to a concrete gain (e.g., X will save you time. Y will make your clients happier).
Always take the time to figure out the Why of your project. When your team understands why something needs to change, they can brainstorm better solutions, like McDonald’s did a few years back when revamping their milkshakes. Investigating the Why engages employees in customer-centric critical thinking and creative problem-solving, exactly the skills the World Economic Forum says they will most need come 2025.
When your people believe in and own both your overarching organizational purpose and project purpose, they will work toward change that serves those purposes. McKinsey conducted a global survey to identify best practices for digital transformation project success. They uncovered some great tips, several of which we’ll discuss below. But a change story with a fully fleshed out Why and compelling vision for the future had the greatest impact. Communicating a clear change story made a company more than 3 times more likely to report digital transformation success.
Talent: Get – Grow – Gather
Workforce Ascension℠ & Enhancement (WAE) is Mind Over Machines’ framework for lifting the global workforce to fulfill human potential. It starts with inventorying the work your company needs to do and determining who (Automation Spoiler Alert: or what) is best suited to perform each task. Once you’ve dumped all the mindless, repetitive work on the bots, you are left with a list of high-level tasks mapped to the skills each requires. Do you currently have all those skills in-house? If you don’t, there are 3 ways to acquire them:
1. Get: Hire people who have the skills you need.
2. Grow: Help the people you have acquire the skills you need.
3. Gather: Partner with companies that have the skills you need. (This is an especially appealing option for highly specialized skills you only need intermittently.)
Grow is my personal favorite and the one our Innovation Team tends to focus on because it cultivates the lifelong-learner mindset we all need to succeed going forward in the Fourth Industrial Revolution. It makes sense from an HR perspective because you’re working with a known and proven quantity. You know your existing team members – their personalities, work ethic, interests and aptitudes. Why not invest in your people?
Here again, what makes the most sense for your business is also what your people want. Workers crave growth opportunities. They long to prove they’re more than their job description. A LinkedIn survey found 94% of employees would stay at a company longer if it invested in their professional development. And the Wharton School found taking on different roles within the same company actually benefits workers’ long-term career advancement more than jumping ship.
Culture: Build Digital Confidence
In Forbes’ particularly pessimistic take on why big IT projects fail, author and professor Steve Andriole asserts “most corporate cultures are actually anti-technology.” I don’t necessarily think companies are anti-tech, but I think people are anti-change in that Psych 101 way. It’s uncomfortable to break out of old, familiar routines to cultivate new habits. Quality adoption coaching can build the confidence needed to embrace change. A good coach teaches you how to use new tech tools (of course!), but they also help you see things differently and seize opportunities that arise from that perspective shift.
Here’s how adoption coaches work toward people and project success:
- Encourage Learning: To return to the survey report mentioned above, McKinsey advises organizations to upgrade their “hard wiring” by empowering people to work in new ways. Let go of the micromanaging. Encourage, recognize and reward employees who take calculated risks, try new things, and learn from their failures. The goal is to grow the agility required in an AI economy.
- Offer Digital Tools: Again, the goal is agility; this time with data. McKinsey’s Exhibit 4 lists ways you can help workers get the most out of the information available (cross-functional teams, data analytics, self-serve data). They even quantify the bump each best practice gives your chances of digital transformation project success.
- Train & Train Some More: It’s not enough to offer new tools and ways of working. You have to teach people how to use them and give plenty of opportunities to get familiar with new tech. In our white paper on human-centric platform architecture, we include an adoption case study where our project lead offered 20 trainings over the course of 3 months: mandatory in-services, small group brown bags, one-on-ones. Everyone learns differently, so you need a variety of training styles, times and settings.
- Share Ownership: Humans love to make meaning together. (Remember that collaboratively constructed purpose section we started with?) Glossy, bound user manuals will sit and collect dust. But when users are encouraged to trade tips and share hacks, they take ownership of the new tech and build a shared knowledge base that will live on in perpetuity.
Prioritize People for Project Success
Enterprise IT project success remains elusive. Maybe that’s because companies aren’t adequately investing in their human resources. The best way to up your chances of IT project success is to take care of your people. Make sure they feel heard and empowered to succeed. Work together to construct meaningful purpose, grow in-house talent, and develop a culture of digital confidence. Successful People = Successful Project
Tally Aumiller is Baltimore born and raised. Her dad is a logical lawyer; her mom a hypercreative teacher. She and her two sisters merged those personality types for the best of both worlds. Tally channels her analytical thinking and creative problem-solving into the many and varied communities she serves.
“Growth mindset” isn’t buzzy jargon for Tally; it’s a way of life. She loves to learn and even created her own major, Social Marketing & Design at St. Mary’s College of Maryland. Since then, Tally has managed wealth and assets, tech implementations, and now, innovation. She brings ideas, people and processes together to make meaning and create solutions.
Pandemics are rough on collaborative empaths, making Tally feel a bit disconnected from her larger community. So, lately, she’s been spending her off-hours doing hikes that raise money to conserve the area she’s exploring and adding her artistic voice to the public art projects of Mural Arts Philadelphia.