Friday, April 26, 2013

Providing Services Isn't Enough

I was doing a demo with some co-workers for a product we are considering subscribing to. A nifty product that facilitates polls to determine the best time for meetings among many participants. While we were looking through the interface a few questions were asked by my co-workers about polling internal participants and syncing calendars with the product in question. They basically wanted to sync many employee calendars to the product to view the best time to set poll questions.

Of course, you can already do that in Outlook. The Scheduling Assistant has been there all along and does exactly what they were looking for in that use case. I flipped my screen over to Outlook and showed them how it worked.

"Why hasn't anyone shown us this before?!"

The response I got, almost verbatim.

Look, IT can provide services and tools and tech all we want but in the end we have to communicate to the end-user what they can do with the STUFF we provide and put it in a context that makes sense to their jobs.

Front line staff are a great example of this scenario. Whether you're dealing with bank tellers, cashiers, customer service reps, etc they are essentially the modern assembly line worker.Their jobs are 100% volume based. Instead of assembling widgets they're assembling customer service. Front line workers don't get paid to be innovative (the low wages they get paid reflect that), instead they are paid to be as efficient and consistent as possible. As a result, staff in those positions are often most resistant to change. They stick to the old processes like glue because change impacts their primary purpose, often negatively.

However, they'll accept change in a heartbeat if it the usefulness and context to their jobs are made clear! I've seen cases where a new tool I offered was immediately adopted because the benefit and usefulness was obvious. The acceptance was not solely because of me providing the tool, it was in me matching the tool with the need and the legwork it took to explain its purpose and use.

This is more than a training issue, although training is certainly an aspect when trying to get people to use a tool. When IT is not working side-by-side with their co-workers in other business units the worse this problem gets. Context is the most important ingredient.