By Mike Herrington

Change is hard. It’s easy to fall into a pattern of doing things the same way, and it’s amazing how irritating it can be when those patterns are disturbed. Unfortunately, technology is frequently disruptive by nature. The whole idea behind it is to change how we do certain things. The challenge is getting humans to change with it.

Technology professionals are planners. They like to know all the variables in an equation and plan for contingencies.  When rolling out a new service or application on a network, they have detailed plans of the work to be done and can execute on them. They can change out systems with little or no downtime.  These are major technology changes. The big variable — that’s almost impossible to account for — is people.

Getting people to change their behavior can often feel akin to Sisyphus rolling a boulder up a hill only to watch it roll back down again. Human behavior is much harder to change than systems — and much less predictable.

Leaders need to recognize this fact and put a plan in place for how they will get users to adapt to the new technology.  Taking the time to do this will help them get the best adoption and return on investment for their technology spending.  Here are a few tips:

1. What’s in it for me? Employees need to understand the vision and why the new technology is an improvement. They also need to know how it will make their life and job easier.  Typically, department heads or managers will need to have buy-in first and then can work to indoctrinate their teams. They have a better understanding of the individual needs and can show team members how the new solution will help them personally.  If you can bring things down to a personal level, studies have shown that you have a much more success.

2. Choose wisely. There are enough software options out there that you can afford to be picky. Look at a few and encourage your team to do a demo and provide feedback. Find software that is intuitive, if possible, and doesn’t have a 100-page user’s manual. Complex systems that take multi-day trainings will slow user adoption.

3. Leverage influencers. With every new deployment, you should focus on getting several “network champions” on your team that will be fully invested in the new solution. They will learn the solution and can help coach others how to best use the new tools. If you can get influencers to adopt the new technology, it will spread much more easily throughout your organization.

4. Highlight the wins. Another idea that can help adoption is to highlight and reward individuals that use the new system.  Draw attention to the positive impact it’s having on your organization. You can also reward the behavior you’re trying to push. Gamification is a great way to create buzz among your team and encourage adoption of new technologies.

Technology and systems are continually evolving.  Business leaders need to recognize the challenges that lie with trying to change human behavior. If they take the same time and care to plan out how they will change human behavior as they do the technical aspects of a change, they will have the success and adoption they are looking for.

Mike Herrington is the manager of business development at i.t.NOW.