IT Modernization only works if people can use the new technology

A male IT professional is concentrating  on the lines of code on his computer screen.

Modernization is at the forefront of the government’s agenda, with virtually every agency being tasked with modernizing operations to better serve citizens.

While agency managers work to comply with modernization mandates, streamline operations, save money, and provide better outcomes, it is easy for them to lose focus on the employees who are serving citizens and how modernization affects them.

The introduction of digital solutions doesn’t mean that employees will intuitively know how to use these new tools to better serve their customers. Agencies looking to contract for digital solutions need to look beyond the nuts and bolts of the technology; they need to consider how that technology will be rolled out to users.

A great technological solution will not meet its promise if no one understands how to use it.

One best practice for digitization includes preparing employees for change by including change management and user-adoption criteria and metrics in requests for proposals (RFPs) and statement of work documents. Agency leaders can also maintain a focus on the role of user experience (UX) in managing change, and they can critically evaluate the right type of training to use when implementing digital solutions.

Bake Change Management into Proposals

When developing requirements for a new system or a change to an existing system, be sure to include requirements that address user preparation and user adoption.

User preparation includes factors such as ensuring usability through human centered design and usability testing. It also requires detailed plans for how employees will learn the new system. These plans should account for all employees touched by a new platform—not just end users. Other constituents to address include help desk support personnel, managers, and agency leaders.

As early adopters share their positive experiences with the system with peers, everyone’s comfort with the change will improve.

User adoption requirements should include monitoring usage of the new system, identifying barriers to usage, and addressing these barriers quickly. Identifying and resolving issues early will prevent user frustration. As early adopters share their positive experiences with the system with peers, everyone’s comfort with the change will improve.

As the pace of change continues to increase, it becomes ever more important to address how changes will be implemented. Having a strategy ahead of time will save headaches in the long run.

Focus on UX in Rolling Out Digital Systems

It’s one thing to have a training plan in place to support the new system. It’s another thing entirely to think ahead of time how User Experience (UX) will reduce or eliminate the need for training.  

Consider the iPhone.

The iPhone’s interface is extremely intuitive, so that every time Apple rolls out a new phone or an updated operating system, most users feel confident in their abilities to navigate the changes they encounter. A widget or setting may move, or previously disparate settings may be coupled for ease of use, but after a few hours at most, users can figure out what is where. They know the design, they understand how interfaces are set up, and they can go from there.

It may seem natural, but a lot of innovation happens behind the screen to make it seem that way.

Designing a system requires expertise in User Center Design. This expertise should be written into the staffing requirements and included in the evaluation criteria. In addition, User Acceptance Testing should be expanded from a focus on “does the system work?” to include “is the system easy to use?”.

Match Training to Users and Solutions

It may seem obvious but matching the type of training and the amount of change happening on a given system or platform is key. Face-to-face, instructor-led training is vastly more expensive than a webinar pushed out over email. But keeping employees’ best interest front and center is important. The larger the change, the more there is a need for face-to-face training.

If an agency is shifting the way it tracks employee time, for example, and that shift really doesn’t affect the entire workforce, the agency may be able to get by with online training. Employees can learn the few steps they need to take to record hours, make a note in a field, and see how much vacation time they have left.

But say an agency is implementing a new platform to track citizen communications and interactions. Employees will be using this system all day long.

The screens and interfaces are all new. Suddenly, they can track citizen journeys from the beginning of the very first interaction (“How do I find a pediatrician?”) to more recent and complicated queries (“What is the best way to locate government-approved hospice care that has space for my father who is a veteran?”).

If the new platform hasn’t been rolled out incrementally, employees will need to undergo robust training that includes technical instruction and possibly live coaching. For that, there is no substitute for face-to-face interaction.

It is also important to consider how savvy employees are regarding technology. Early tech adopters will probably have fewer problems training online; those who are slower to change may appreciate the support that in-person training lends.

Modernizing operations is currently an important goal across many agencies. When agency leaders consider adopting digital systems and platforms, they should keep in mind how such systems will affect all users in an agency. By making provisions for change management in RFPs, keeping best UX practices in mind, and matching training to users and solutions, agencies will go a long way in ensuring that transitions are as smooth as possible. 


This article was originally published on LinkedIn by Doug Taylor, Vice President, Operations at HighPoint.