Arun Nithyanandam –
This is a series of posts, if you haven’t read the earlier ones, please read it here.
Sell Business to Business Users – Part 1: The Need
Let’s look at a few ways that you can sell the system to the users:
* Identify Your Champions
Identify the heads of departments, key stakeholders or users who will champion the project. You should work upfront to get their buy in, take care and address their concerns. It is always helpful if the directive to use the system comes from the department heads.
* Identify Your Evangelists
Your evangelists will be the people who conceived the project, people who attributed to the concept getting critical mass, and people who are very directly benefitted by implementing the new system. As with the champions, you should get your evangelists on board upfront, and involve them in your design process. These people will eventually evangelize the system, talk about it with passion and enthusiasm and sway the other users to adopt and use the new system.
Empower the users to get involved during the design process. If it is logically not possible to get the entire user base, which could very well go into a large number based on the complexity and size of the project, you could pick out certain key users and get them involved. The users that you pick should be influencers, people who are looked up to in their respective domains, Subject Matter Experts. In our experience, we have always seen, users are committed to what they helped build.
* User Board Sessions
Conduct regular user board sessions, sometimes called project user board sessions (PUB). Regular sessions will help in resolving any issues on interactions, business processes, accessories, security, and other entities which could go into the system. PUB sessions are also useful sessions to get buy in from the users in designing and implementing the new processes.
Continually show the pre-reviews of the system as it is being developed. This way, the users don’t get surprised on go live. They will not feel, Oh, I thought the system will function this way. Pre-Reviews will go a long way in the users getting familiarized with the system upfront, instead of a costly familiarization and certain resistance to get familiarized with something new in the end.
* Create Training Programs
Many projects treat training as an afterthought. However, you want to plan your user training programs early in the development phase. On launch day, you might have a perfect system. But if they users don’t understand it, they will resist change. Just like a system, it takes time to develop effective training programs that build user confidence and create behavior change.
* Demonstrate Value
Show how the new system will benefit users. Demonstrate the value-adds through quantitative numbers—not just guesstimates or strong convictions. Ideally, these numbers should be reviewed and endorsed by the evangelists within the user community. For example, you could demonstrate that the amount of time to do a certain primary function will now take 40% less time. Clearly articulate the current environment, and the future environment. Then show your statistics.
* Explain the Timeline
As the launch date occurs, stay in contact with the community. Communicate how and when the launch will occur. Give them time to understand the changes they will be asked to make.
* Allow Time for Practice
People need time to practice new skills before performing them in a live environment. This may be classroom training, e-learning, or webinar. Ideally, people learn best when they have time to practice and receive feedback on their performance.
* Job Aids
When introducing a new system, it’s important to provide easily-accessible job aids. Research shows that job aids are highly correlated with users successfully adopting the system long-term. When people leave training, they’ll have to use the new system on their own. They will get stuck. If users can find easy-to-use job aids, they will be able to solve their problems themselves and move forward. Otherwise, they will be frustrated and need external help (perhaps from a super-user or help-desk).
Next week on these pages, we cover:
Sell Business to Business Users – Part 3: The Exception
About the Author
Arun Nithyanandam is a Strategy and Management Consultant based in Silicon Valley. Arun has managed multiple multi-million dollar IT projects in US and Europe across verticals. His current focus areas are Enterprise Contract Management Systems (deploying Nextance proposal-to-revenue and source-to-savings solutions to help companies improve financial performance and lower risk) and Enterprise Content Management Systems. Arun works with CIGNEX Technologies, a provider of Open Source based enterprise content management solutions.
During his spare time (if any) Arun enjoys hiking and reading.
Arun is currently working on a book (co-authored with Bill Sherman) code named “Managing Multi-million dollar projects” to be published in 2008.
For the collection of all Arun’s articles, please visit Squidoo Lens Arun Says