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News & Updates

26/07/16
At the recent Alpine’s joint conference with the Local Government Association it struck me how much anxiety the Autumn Spending Review was generating. All the attendees were trying to figure how they continue to serve citizens amid more cuts.

Despite the room’s understandable preoccupation with finances, it amazed me how open everyone was to change, innovative ideas, and new ways of thinking around commercialisation. But then I thought - of course they are. The people who attend conferences like this are the early adopters: they’re the easy ones to get on board. So what about the people who weren’t there?

Of course there were those that could not get a place at the event (it was fully booked after four days!). But unfortunately it’s true the majority wouldn’t attend anyway. Yet they really need to hear these ideas, interact with inspiring people and be part of this discussion. Enthusiastic, open, early-adopters are only part of cultural and organisational change. It’s only when we can engage the majority, that we can truly embed sector-wide change.

New ways of working

There was a time when IT departments would develop tools and launch them with an organisational ‘big bang’. That was that: the IT department provided the tools, and moved on. But that is hardly an efficient way to lead and few within the organisation would use them.

No digital system exists in a vacuum and if it is to support better ways of working, proper change management is needed to help understand the people requirements alongside the business requirements. Change management is more than communication and marketing, training; and support on the day of launch. It should be about working with end-users to reduce their anxieties, help them learn new skills, and supporting them to adjust to the ever-changing needs of citizens in a digital world.

It is about understanding who your users are, how they function in the organisation, what and what working benefits the new system will provide them with. Based on this information you can design the overall journey for your users, taking them from concept to design, and from beta through to release and use. Back in 2008, I developed the ‘Get IT’ change methodology, to help engage users and involve staff at every stage of technical development. This provided a phased approach to help organisations increase adoption of new ways of working. When ‘Get IT’ was applied to the Department of

Education’s re-launched SharePoint intranet, we reduced transition time to business as usual by 30% – meaning, we helped people get back to working productively and as efficiently (or more) in less time than previous launches.

Understanding needs

To understand your users, you’ll need to get to know who they are, what they expect, how they like to be communicated with, and how they like to be supported. It doesn’t matter how you assess these needs - interviews, shadowing, or informal chats – as long as you observe, ask questions, and actively listening.

A couple of top tips:
  • Perfection is the enemy of the good: You’ll never get a truly ‘representative’ sample, so keep communicating and listening. The information you’ll get will help create in-depth profiles and use-cases.
  • People across the organisation will have different levels of skills. Some are ‘digital natives’ (never known a workplace without digital) and can adapt to using a variety of different tools with ease; and others are ‘digital immigrants’ who have learnt, but do not understand all the technical terms. Such know-how can be easily taught
  • The lesser skilled people are not your main challenge: understand who is willing to experiment, learn, and change - as this is harder to address than technical skill.

Once you have the information about your users’ skills you need to analyse what the new system will mean to your audience and how it will affect their working. That will inform how you communicate, train, and support staff in their transition.

You can also share this research with the senior management team to help them move away from the ‘one-size- fits-all’ approach to digital transformation, and to gain the resources and time required to address to meet the user needs you’ve discovered.

All new technology – whether it’s CRMs, mobile apps or intranets – is just a tool. The success of a transformation is not about the system, it’s about understanding the people who need to get things done, taking them on a journey to achieve the vision and, and giving them the means to get there.

Erica Hodgson is a digital business transformation professional specialising in improving organisational adoption of new technologies. Erica has a more than 10 years’ experience helping government departments improve their user engagement within cultural change programmes, and has implemented a number of award-winning, effective and sustainable change programmes across public and voluntary organisations.

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020 3478 1340

info@alpine.eu.com

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