Time and again IT services providers find themselves participating in an IT project that starts with great fanfare and enthusiasm only to see the fruits of their labor die on the proverbial vine. A new survey of CIOs conducted by POP, a provider of crowdsourcing software, suggests the reason for this is that the employees affected by that IT project never really bought into the project in the first place.
The survey finds that just over half of respondents (52 percent) say technology initiatives typically fail due to “slow” or “reluctant” adoption from end users. Only 23 percent cited budgetary issues, and another 17 percent pointed to lack of buy-in from senior management. Less than 8 percent said an IT initiative fails due to inadequate technology.
A breakdown in communication
A big part of the issue appears to be misjudging how long it will take employees to adjust to any new system. The survey finds that 78 percent of respondents said it takes employees some time to “come up the learning curve” on embracing new technologies and ideas. Only 18 percent said employees understand new initiatives completely and are “in lockstep” with senior management.
Even more telling is the fact that 58 percent of the CIOs said that although they have an open line of communication among disparate departments, they have no solid process in place to regularly share ideas. Just under a quarter (22 percent) admitted they are “not effective” communicating with other departments. Only 21 percent say they have a solid process in place to develop new ideas from employees in different locations.
Naturally, most IT services providers are under the impression that it’s their job to implement the IT strategy that they crafted in collaboration with the senior leaders of the business. The assumption is that those leaders actually know and understand how processes work inside their organization. All too often, however, that turns out to be a fallacy. Many of those senior business leaders are so far removed from the day-to-day operations that they don’t understand the true impact a new IT project is likely to have on the business.
Worse yet, while 46 percent of the CIOs said it was a “top priority” to take the pulse of employees on ways to improve productivity, half of them admitted they only listen to employee concerns when they arise and then face challenges addressing these concerns.
How to avoid becoming a scapegoat
For IT service providers, a lack of input from employees on how an IT project should be implemented and rolled out should be a red flag. Not only is implementing the IT project going to be more difficult than they imagined, the support required after the project is implemented is going to be extensive.
For that reason, IT service providers should take it upon themselves to gather employee input. After all, when the IT project fails most organizations start looking for a scapegoat. More often than not, it’s simply more convenient to heap the blame on the IT service provider. The end result is the IT service provider loses money on the engagement—and usually ends up blackballed from future IT projects.
That's why it’s in the best interest of the IT services provider to gather feedback from employees independently. Feedback gathered by senior managers is likely to be skewed. In fact, many employees are likely to be more candid with an external IT service provider than they are with their boss.
It only takes a small percentage of the employee base to derail or delay an IT project, so IT service providers need to put more time and effort into developing their soft skills. It may take some time to gather input from employees, but it's necessary if IT services providers want to be invited back to bid on the next project. After all, much like politics, the success of any initiative always comes down to how happy the local constituency is.