I Can Finally Buy My Dad a Smart Phone

Just a couple years ago, my parents came back to the US after years of being overseas missionaries.  They have been in Siberia, on a random island in the Pacific, etc… and they came back to a world where cell phones were ubiquitous and information was accessible everywhere.  My father is now over 70 years old, and he loves gadgets and toys of the electronic variety.  However, simple things like programming a new DVD player can elude him – not because he could not do it 15 years ago (I guess that would have been a VCR), but because it really is a bit different.

A couple years ago I bought my parents cell phones and put them on my plan.  This way they would have something in the case of an emergency, and of course a way to call me for free without paying long distance.  I’ve held off of buying my dad a smart phone though since I wasn’t sure if the whole thing would be a bit daunting.  Sure enough he’d love it, but I didn’t think he’d use it to 20% of its capabilities.  However, the time has come that I think I can do it.  No – it’s not going to be the iPhone, and certainly not an Android (my OS of coice).  I think I’m going to get him a WP8 phone.  Yep – Microsoft has finally created something that I can give my dad and not even worry about having to teach him how to use it.  The thing is marvelous – it works the way it should, it’s totally intuitive, notifications happen in the live tile rather than in some random notification area, etc…  This is a phone that my dad will understand, and I don’t even have to give him mor than 30 minutes of training.

I’m reminded about heading to India a few weeks ago where I was coordinating some UAT for a new core HRMS I was helping to implement.  I’d stand in front of a group of managers, give them the 5 minute pitch about why we were changing and who the vendor was.  Then I’d give them the 3 minute orientation to the product.  “Here’s where your ESS is, MSS, reports, and search” basically, and then let them loose with their scenarios and see what happened.  Unbelievably (to me) the managers unanimously walked out having figured out the product on their own, and all had great experiences.  Of course there was a feedback comment here and there, but all in all, these untrained managers just did their thing and got it right.

All UX should be this easy.  Throughout the ERP era, we were so used to overloading the managers with complexity and data that we assumed they wanted.  At the end of the day, they really needed something they could understand immediately upon login (the 3 times a year that they actually logged in).  And really, they didn’t want data – they wanted insightful information about their workers.  The data just turned out to be overload.

I’m pretty pleased about this decision to get my father a smart phone.  Not only am I going to get him more connected, but I know he will be really engaged with the tool – the man is going to have fun with it.  He’ll have a phone, but now I can text him and know he’ll get it, he will also have easy email, an easy way to send photos to me from his phone, etc.  In other words, I’ll have given him a tool that will make him more productive because he can use it.  Less really is more.


The Lowest Common Denominator

I’ve been trying to sell people on the Google Android operating system for smart phones lately.  I’m not sure that it’s really about the Android versus the iPhone for me – more likely it’s the fact that I’m a long time Verizon user and won’t leave – since Apple is not currently available to me, I get the Android.  However, the user and market perceptions of the iPhone versus Android seem to be a significant difference in philosophy.  This is odd since both companies are basically known for ease of use (each in its own way).  Google is well known for the “single field search engine page finds all”, and Apple is well known for the “single dial does all” iPod.  But in the world of phones, Apple still caters to usability, and Google seems to cater to people who want more advanced ability to customize their environment.  Either way, until this latest departure, both organizations seemed content to treat all of their end users as idiots – and it worked.  They were able to bundle incredible functionality in a single element.

I recently had the pleasure of sitting in on demos of core HR platforms, a variety of talent management and learning systems.  It occurred to me that each category of software seemed to have varying differences of usability between their different types.  While my thinking is in no way complete since I have not actually seen that many vendors of late, I’m wondering if indeed there might be something to the following usability argument.

Core HR platforms have in general  catered to just the HR user community.  In effect, these are generally specialists and power users of HR systems.  Next in line, talent management systems rolled out HR technology to employee and manager populations, but most of the major interactions in the first couple of waves of TM were manager based.  These technologies really stewarded managers through employee, compensation and succession review processes.  Lastly, learning systems seem to be the most employee focused.  Managers have proportionally less interaction (compared to TM) while employees actively look up courses, participate in learning, and manage their transcripts.

My theory is that learning systems will tend to evolve the fastest when it comes to highly usable systems (again, assuming that legacy systems can adapt quickly, or newer platforms will already be there).  Basically, the more end users you have, the less room for error you have when it comes to creating simple transactions.  Lets say for learning, you have at least 5 times as many end users as with most core talent processes.  (I realize that many of you will want to tell me that employees participate in reviews and talent profiles, but come on, I think we can all admit that most TM processes are really focused on the manager in today’s world).  Similarly, core HR has about 20 times fewer users than TM and 100 times fewer users than learning.

Basically, what I’m saying is that we all complain about the usability of some systems.  Some vendors are burdened by legacy technology that they simply can’t get out of.  but other vendors who seem to be more capable of advancing usability have not.  My theory is that when we talk about core HR, vendors simply have not had to make systems significantly more usable.

Users First, Company Second

I feel like I always talk about change management and adoption.  When implementing a new system, I can definitely say that over the last few years I’ve seen a marked improvement in the diligence of internal implementation project managers in stressing the importance of behavioral change and end user adoption.  It is honestly so easy once you get into implementations to forget about the strategic components of the implementation and simply sit around doing functional requirements and config.  Unfortunately this is the tactical behind the project, and often minimizes the strategic.  I was pleased to see the 2.0 Adoption Community and Jacob Morgan stress this as well.

To really see successful adoption companies need to focus on the benefits of the user first and the benefits of the company second.  You can’t approach a user and ask them to change behaviors because it benefits the company.  Companies need to approach the user and tell them how it will benefit them.  This is a bit of psychological approach but it’s important.  Employees put their needs first and company needs second so if you show them how Enterprise 2.0 can help them make their job easier then they are much more likely to listen.

You also need to focus on use cases  before deploying a platform and strategy.  So for example how is someone in the marketing department going to benefit  from Enterprise 2.0 vs someone from the product development team.  You need to develop use cases for the various departments and understand what the risks, challenges, and opportunities are for each department.  Finally, you need to understand how each department is going to measure success/failure.  I’ll go into this a bit more in a future post but the point here is that everyone is going to have different needs and you must understand what those needs are.  ((Morgan, Jacob, December 21, 2009.  “Strategic Principles for Enterprise 2.0 Implementation.”))

I like the simply phrased “user first and company second.”  While I understand that the user never gets the opportunity to change behaviors if the product does not get configured, that does not change that the primary stress is to ensure end user adoption and behavioral change.  In terms of behavioral change, Jacob Morgan is absolutely correct.  You’ve heard me talk about behavioral change and the “personal win” before.  Employee’s don’t really care about the benefit to the company.  Sometimes they don’t even care about the efficiency gains they get from a process and work perspective.  It’s about some intangible personal win that they derive – sometimes it’s the participation in the implementation that they gain advantage from, or the experience in the software that is much sought after.  Either way, you have to determine what will make an employee excited and figure out how to message so that you are deploying the right messages to the right audiences.

Support versus Change, Evolution versus Revolution

Jacob Morgan wrote a piece about adoption a while back, and he had a pretty interesting concept around supporting business process as opposed to change management.  This is really quite new to me, as we’ve always talked about change management and behavioral change as opposed to a softer concept of “support.”

You need to speak in terms of “supporting” rather than “changing”.  “Change” implies that people are doing things wrong.  “Support” however, implies that you recognize value of their efforts and you want to help further those efforts.  You can’t walk into a company and say “you guys are idiots, everything you’re doing is wrong,” because that’s not going to accomplish anything.  ((Morgan, Jacob, December 21, 2009.  “Strategic Principles for Enterprise 2.0 Implementation.”))

There are a couple problems with this.  Often, when you’re implementing a new system rather than upgrading, you really are looking for opportunities to change the current business process.  While we often implement on top of old process because we didn’t do the proper amount of future state visioning prior to kicking off the implementation, the purpose of the implementation is usually to fix the old system or process.  Seldom is it that we are spending millions on the implementation of a new product to simply support, enhance and bolster the existing.

I’m not sure you can’t walk into a company and say “you guys are idiots.”  We’ll, that’s not how I do it, and rarely do I think anyone is an idiot.  But it’s pretty common that I know their process has room for fundamental change and in most cases, they are hiring me because they know it too.  Same goes for implementing software, they usually know they need the help.

I’ll admit that the same does not go for the end user.  The end user does not see business process at the same level that corporate sponsors of these projects do, and often do think that all is ok.  But they also don’t necessarily see the opportunities that lie in leading practices around the HR industry either.  This is where adoption really occurs, is the end user and helping them get to a point of understanding that not only is this better for the organization, but also where the enhancements that will help them grow also.

I don’t think we are usually “supporting” or “evolving” their current business state.  I think usually we are trying to change things up.

Implementation and the “Personal Win”

We always end up talking about employee adoption whenever we are implementing anything whether it’s technology, process or anything else.  When we talk about adoption, we’re really talking change management, and in that we are talking about changing both behaviors of people as well as attitudes.  We want to convert both their minds as well as their actions on a daily and ongoing basis.

To really create change and adoption, we often talk about certain change paths we need to make inroads with.  First, there has to be leadership support.  Hey, if the leaders are not sure, there is no way we should be rolling anything out.  They need to be on board and vocal about it.  Second, employees need to feel like they have some skin in the game – like they have some form of influence in their own future.  Third, they have to understand what the benefit it.  And this benefit is not the benefit to the organization, it’s the personal benefit they derive that makes them feel like it’s worth the effort.  In some cases, the organizational benefit will be the personal win.  But lets face the facts, it isn’t always.

To really see successful adoption companies need to focus on the benefits of the user first and the benefits of the company second.  You can’t approach a user and ask them to change behaviors because it benefits the company.  Companies need to approach the user and tell them how it will benefit them.  This is a bit of psychological approach but it’s important.  Employees put their needs first and company needs second so if you show them how Enterprise 2.0 can help them make their job easier then they are much more likely to listen.  ((Morgan, Jacob, December 21, 2009.  “Strategic Principles for Enterprise 2.0 Implementation.  Retrieved from http://www.20adoptioncommunity.com/ on December 22, 2009.))

The concept of the “personal win” has been being used for years by sales people.  They realize that if you want an executive to buy a product, not only does it have to be the right thing for the organization, but the executive has to feel like they also derive some benefit.  The same goes for employees.  The personal win is not the threat of consequences if they don’t adopt the program, and it’s not usually the meager incentive compensation that is tied to performance either.  Rather, it’s how their lives are made easier, or given skills to make them more marketable, or provided with opportunities to interact with peers and supervisors.  The personal win in most cases not only makes the employee more interested in the program, but it will increase their engagement to their job.  Finding the right personal win tells employees that you’re looking out for them as well as making their jobs easier.

Jacob above is right.  We don’t usually tell people how the program benefits them.  We assume people are so engaged that telling them it helps the company is all we need.  I doubt we are really that good.  We need to target our communications better and increase our adoption and success rates of implementations.