By Edan Puritt
The original saying is that form follows function, but it shouldn’t be. When function follows form, the outcome is much more effective. Is it beautiful? Does it feel good? Comfortable? Does it fit? A single NO to any of these questions and the user never makes it to an examination of the function with an open mind. Not to put too fine a point on it, but the effective introduction of good Information Management is all about seduction. IM can, and should, be sexy.☺ The people in your client organization have been doing their jobs and they have been using the tools that were available to them for various lengths of time. An introduction of centralized tools is going to be seen with suspicion. Let’s face it, a vacuum cleaner is not a romantic present. They understand the advantages to the organization about centralized controlled tools and repositories, and yet, they just aren’t at all sure about the benefits to them as individuals.
Take the time to plan
Queue the seduction. A string quartet, a single red rose, a chocolate truffle and a smile that promises tomorrow will be better than today. And don’t kid yourself, anything short of the fulfillment of those fantasies is just going to fall short. Consider the letdown after a false illusion, say a cardboard cut-out of seduction, is revealed. Such a seduction, one that talks rather than listens, or offers the flutter of a false eyelash that is only partially attached, moves from romance to farce in a heartbeat.
Promise a better life where support and enabling are routine
There is a status quo for our colleagues. A way of doing things that works for them. You know the routine: the beginning of any IM engagement begins by sitting down with the people who use the current system. We may dress up what they share with fancy charts and reports, but at the end of the day, these are the people who know exactly what is wrong with the way things are, and they are happy to share. In fact, with a little trust and respect, they will often share how they have already figured out how to improve tools and processes.
Messing with routines is often not welcome
Still, no matter how frustrated they are with their present situation, it is familiar, comfortable, and uncomplicated. We are there to disrupt that. Queue the next seductive music track for the background. (Wouldn’t life be so much simpler if it came with a sound track?) What are we offering that they don’t already have? Are we merely offering a distraction from the frustrations of their current world, or a new life? Does their heart beat a little faster when they are with us? Are we genuinely suggesting a new life where we will support and enable them?
Romance for Dummies aka don’t mess up on the seduction
Since we are using this metaphor, why not belabour it a bit more. These people talk and read and share and know. A reputation for over-promising and under-delivering sticks. We might want to sugar coat the truth, but it better be the truth. So, how do we seduce our client? There are movies, and songs, and books out there to use as references. I’d recommend Romance for Dummies because those of us who forget the romance, really are dummies.
The bottom line is that the seduction has to be about them, not us
Don’t tell them how fast we are, about our capacity, number of concurrent users, or even our ranking in some magic quadrant. The romance must be based solely on them. We can take care of them. We can safeguard those things that are important to them. We can take the chores of their life and easily address them so they can focus on the parts of the day that are important to them. In short, if they leave their previous life, and run away with us, they can be more of what makes them special, and be less about what makes them ordinary. Cooperation and change management need to be handled with care. And then, we have to deliver. Again, or still, it’s about them. They aren’t looking for some parent figure to come make this happen, they are looking for a partner who will share, listen, and do it together with them. The real criteria for success will be cooperation. If that’s achieved, the rest will follow. If that is not achieved, nothing will follow but redefinitions of success.
Cooperation needs to be an explicit requirement for all involved
So, if cooperation is the criteria for success, work towards the goal and objective. BE cooperative, if we expect to get cooperation. The initial project plan needs to be EXPLICITLY about developing cooperation. It won’t happen unless we make it happen. The Change Management plan has to be about directly addressing the obstacles to cooperation. And remember, WE are the obstacles to cooperation. They want to BE with us, and usually we want to DO something to them. We need Change Management to help us understand that the client is our partner and not our child. Processes should be focused on giving our partner a loud enough voice so that WE can hear THEM. Too often we get this backwards.
Implementation is not the end of the road
Implementation is about the wedding and the marriage. The wedding is important. It’s a recognition, among the partners and the guests that something important has happened and will happen. Do not suddenly ignore those tender seductive tones. Keep the music playing. For our client, it’s critical that their organization recognize that during the project build, the representatives that have been cooperating with us have been doing two jobs, and almost always for a single pay. They have done their day jobs faster and more efficiently than ever, and they have shared that knowledge with us. Additionally, they have been ambassadors to their organization, vouching for our integrity and intentions.
Kick-off starts/affirms the hard work ahead
The kick-off is important. And then the marriage is underway. Much more effort and money is spent maintaining an enterprise system than building one. So the real opportunity for savings comes from reducing maintenance costs early, rather than late. During project build, we did our best to anticipate each business process, each requirement, but that really is impossible to get completely perfect. Once all the users enter the system, real QA happens. So, put in a process to actively and openly capture these new changes and feedback acknowledgement of the support. Rapid response mitigates anything that was overlooked.
Don’t drop off the face of the Earth
The original seduction is complete. There is a new reality for them, for us. And as much as they are changed, so are we. And for those of you who took the time to read even the introduction of Romance for Dummies, there was only one part in BOLD letters. Once the seduction is complete, and all of the promises have been delivered, take the time to walk by the client’s desk. As you approach, you will hear the strands of music, and then you will see the flowers, and the open box of chocolates. Ask yourself, Did I send those, or did someone else? THERE WILL BE FLOWERS, YOURS, OR SOMEONE ELSE’S.