Making Technology Work for Users

Mark Koschmeder
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There's always a discrepancy between technology and general business, but it's often most visible during a technology implementation. Following a few technology tips for good communication, testing, and training keeps tech employees from succumbing to the onslaught of user complaints and problems that can occur after a software or equipment change.

Planning is one of the most valuable technology tips any organization can put into action, but it has to be done right. If your planning session involves the IT group around a table or white board, that's a good place to start, but to prevent your technology implementation from falling flat, branch out to include other departments in the discussion. Planning sessions should be used to look at how changes will impact end users. That means you need input from the people who actually use the technology in question. You should also work with the business to define the best time for implementation—technology works better for users when changes aren't made at peak production times.

Test everything. Technology tips always stress testing code before going into production. While test systems ensure your code won't break anything huge, they don't usually provide end-to-end testing potential. Other technology tips encourage limited rollout and beta testing. The problem is that many companies use the most technically acclimated users to beta test changes. To get a better idea of how your new process, software, or code will interact with the general user population, select testers from a range of departments and skill levels. Avoid a gap in your end-user testing by using subject-matter experts to create comprehensive functionality checklists. If possible, you want to test every function a user might need, not just the functions that are most familiar to users.

Double-check all the system handshakes. In fact, triple-check those integrations. System integration is usually one of the weakest points in an implementation because so much communication is involved in lining things up appropriately. One small misunderstanding can create a bad virtual intersection. In addition to checking all internal integrations, make sure to validate vendor credentials and systems. The vendor may offer a sleek interface that looks perfect, but if their system isn't up to handling your company's daily workload, then it won't work for the end user.

Finally, provide adequate training for all users before and during the system rollout. Work with nontechnical employees to create actionable, business-centric training that informs workers about what's different, how to complete functions, and where to go for help. Consider creating a checklist of FAQs or technology tips that workers can hang at their desks to help them deal with the new system.

Taking the time to communicate, plan, test, validate, and train can draw out the implementation process. When technology works well for end users outside of the box, you'll be happy you made the effort to follow implementation and technology tips. Then, instead of dealing with user complaints, you can move on to the next project.

(Photo courtesy of jscreationzs / freedigitalphotos.net)

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