Project success starts with consumer engagement every time.
Let’s see if this sounds familiar. Your teams have been building something new for months. They’ve put a project plan together, held regular stakeholder meetings, gathered all requirements that you know of, and even passed UAT and pilot phases with flying colors. Why then, when it comes to rolling this out, are you having such a hard time getting people to buy in? Steve Jobs understood this struggle when he said, “You’ve got to start with the customer experience and work back toward the technology, not the other way around.”
I put this theory to the test a few years back. At the time, I was working for a large healthcare organization and had been hired to help the IT department transition over 25,000 users from a traditional collaboration and storage platform, to a commercial and social cloud computing platform. The differences were staggering. The user experience was drastically different. We were about to completely change the caregiver’s experience in almost every way possible. What I learned during this time provided the foundation for a customer engagement program that would revolutionize the way we delivered technology. But I’m getting ahead of myself. For now, I’d like to share some of the core lessons I learned during that time.
See things from their point of view
I use the word ‘see’ intentionally because before we can truly understand, we have to see. Which is exactly where we started. For over a month, we traveled to each hospital, met with dozens of departments, and stood around watching them interact with the current platform. We took the time to understand their struggles, and truly grasp what it would mean to completely change their experience. We knew that before we could empathize, we had to experience. Before speaking, we needed to listen.
Use their language…and their channels
One of my first ‘aha’ moments was the realization that not everyone hears and interprets information in the same way. A doctor thinks differently than a receptionist, an HR specialist has different priorities than a nurse. This task alone can be daunting, so we set about building tools that would help us capture requirements and priorities across over a dozen hospitals, countless departments, and dozens of user profiles. We still had a problem, though. What was the best way to circle back and let everyone know of last minute changes, updates in status, and final completion of their particular requests? We realized that knowing each group’s preferred channels would be key. When going through change, people revert to where they’re most comfortable. We all do it. So instead of trying to create new habits, or ‘educate’ them on the channels they ‘should’ be using, we decided to understand what they were used to. We identified trusted sources, then worked with those sources to deliver messages that would resonate with each group. Essentially, we came to them, we didn’t force them to come to us.
Take the time to do things right
Trust is one of the hardest things to build, and it takes literally seconds to break. One of the hospitals we partnered with had a big concern. They had really taken advantage of the current platform’s capabilities, and had built dozens of elaborate websites that were used by a majority of their employees. From department news to cafeteria menus to patient monitoring tools, these sites were providing hundreds of people with daily guidance, information and productivity options. How could we simply rip all that out and replace it with something else? After a few conversations with key representatives from every area, we came to an agreement. They would work with us to provide requirements and priority, and we would do our best to deliver while being realistic about timing and expectations. We agreed to compromise. Over the next several months, we worked through hundreds of requirements for every department at that location. We built countless iterations and presented them with new versions weekly. Communication was constant, negotiation was key. The result? Sites were rebuilt, and in many cases, productivity and caregiver interaction increased. But the long-term result was even more rewarding. We became trusted advisors, close partners. Over the next few years I worked with them on many other IT initiatives, compromise became common practice. This part is never easy, but it’s essential to bring about lasting change.
It’s never a one-time thing
Consistency will always outweigh one-time perfection. After we were done transforming our caregiver’s social platform, I applied these simple steps to dozens of enterprise projects, and countless regional and departmental transformational initiatives. Over time, we built trusted relationships in every hospital and ultimately transformed our caregiver’s experience and perception of IT. Did it happen overnight? No. Was it worth all the blood, sweat, and tears? Absolutely. Change is never immediate, but by understanding our customers, and learning how to engage with them, it can become a rewarding experience for everyone involved.
Bringing it all together
I’ll be the first to admit that these things take time. Building relationships, becoming a trusted partner doesn’t happen unless you make it so. What should you do then, if you’re already too far down the rabbit hole and need help getting something off the ground now?
First, carve out time to get to know your audience. It’s never too late to start over. Showing them that you’re willing to stop and pay attention to their needs and wants may be just the thing they need before trusting you with change. Second, don’t expect them to do all the hard work. Make it easy for them to learn more about what you’re doing, about what it means to them, and how they can prepare for what’s coming. Be present, and give them options to reach out and engage. Trust me, they will. Third, take the time to work through a common vision of success, and when you’ve reached an agreement, make sure you deliver on what you promised. Nothing ever goes perfectly, but if you take the time to set the right expectations, and consistently communicate openly and honestly, you’ll be surprised by what you can accomplish. And lastly, don’t make this a one-time thing, make it a habit. It may take a little longer to get where you’re going, but the relationships and trust you built along the way will far outweigh the time spent getting there.