SUNTIVA LLC / JANUARY 29, 2021 / BLOG
When undertaking a major digital transformation project, it is critical to have a solution that is seen as valuable to its intended community. However, getting the technology right is often the easy part. Suntiva’s Defense team recently supported our government clients with an enterprise-wide telework effort that was deployed in unprecedented time. Detailed below are five key, often underestimated, components to any successful large-scale technology deployment that were critical in the recent effort.
- Apply Agile Methodology. The Agile methodology is an iterative product management process, resulting in expedited product delivery to the end users and, therefore, expedited feedback from the end users to the developers. Instead of using a waterfall methodology, which requires a completed product before go-live, this iterative process allows for increased interactions between the developers and users, resulting in rapid development and deployment. Users receive products quicker and developers can make improvements iteratively, pivoting to rapid execution of improved results based on user feedback. Agile methodology works best when a product is first deployed at the defined Minimum Viable Product (MVP), or the agreed–upon basic acceptable level of functionality. With an MVP, users have access to a live, functioning product faster, while developers continue to build upon the MVP to gradually add desired capabilities. Agile methodology also results in more collaboration between developers and users, with users providing feedback to drive product evolution. For our Government client, Suntiva helped apply the agile methodology in the development and implementation of a cloud-based collaboration tool at the enterprise level. Users gained access to the collaboration tool’s MVP, a basic chat function, while developers continued to progress the product, adding functionality such as video chat, presence, file storage, live streaming, and more.
- Enable Effective Communications. There is perhaps nothing more important than successful communications to ensure user buy-in of a new technology. End users must know why a change is occurring, how the change will directly impact them, what the anticipated benefits are, and their role in the transformation. Key components to successful communications are knowing your target audiences, having a capability to reach all groups within the target audience, and tailoring messages by audience. It is helpful to keep in mind that all users process and retain information differently, so project teams should communicate with end users in different formats across multiple channels. Email is still the traditional platform, but communications and public affairs teams now have a diverse set of options for reaching the modern end user. Town halls, chat platforms, newsletters or blogs, external website postings, and internal intranet banners are some of the many ways end users can be reached. By relaying a message in multiple channels, there is a better chance it will be received. Remember, some end users prefer to read information, while others want to absorb it auditorily or more visually. Providing a mix of videos and written communication will ensure more end users receive and retain critical information. For agile product management to work, communications must be concise, transparent, and proactive. To set expectations, end users should know ahead of time that they are receiving an MVP, what capabilities are included with the MVP, and what additional capabilities they can anticipate in the future. Providing proactive communications can reduce resistance because it makes end users feel more included and better informed. Communications should be iterative, complementing the product capability pushes to reduce unnecessary surprises and align with evolving deployments.
- Leverage Automation. Automated processes are critical when there are limited resources and urgent demands. Applying automated processes can result in many benefits, including improved user experience; self-reliant users problem–solving in expedited timelines; freed resources to allocate towards more critical or time–sensitive aspects of deployment; and reduced human-associated errors. Automation can be applied for several basic functions, including resetting passwords or collecting and providing responses to frequently asked questions. Sometimes automation takes time to learn, especially in cases where machine learning is leveraged. It is a best practice to understand the impact of the automation being applied and ensure the automation enhances the deployment process verses hindering or creating more work for the project team.
- Train Service Desk Personnel. Service desk personnel represent the product team; ensure they are on brand and representing the team appropriately. Do not underestimate the power of a trained, well-staffed service desk when deploying a new product. The results of an ill–staffed and untrained service desk can be catastrophic to a successful deployment and destroy a team’s customer service reputation. Provide sufficient training to your staff to set them up for success and be clear on customer service expectations. Additionally, when possible, it is a best practice to leverage local service desks to assist in large-scale deployments. Local service desks will provide a personal touch and take some of the workloads off the product development team. A tip for creating a high–functioning service desk during an enterprise-wide technology deployment is to collect questions and feedback through a web-based form. While this may seem impersonal, it will reduce workload and help with tracking and sorting questions. A standardized and automated process for collecting questions will allow service desk personnel to better allocate resources and focus their limited time on providing exceptional customer service. Employees should not be expected to know how to provide good customer service; it is a skill, not a personality trait. To further enhance the functionality of a service desk, implement a single ticket system that integrates the web form into active tickets. Depending on the automation applied, the ticket system can automatically assign tickets to certain team members, send deadline reminders, and provide many other functions to help a team stay organized and efficient. Lastly, don’t forget to collect service desk metrics to gauge success and objectively identify areas for improvement based on the data provided.
- Recruit Early Adopters to Champion the Change. One way to define change management is the practice of preparing and supporting people (individuals, teams, organizations) in making organizational change (processes, technology changes). Behind every product deployment are people who will be impacted by the change. People will make or break a deployment and must not be forgotten. Without buy-in from end users, enduring change will be impossible. To help guarantee successful large-scale IT deployments, organizations should leverage change champions to help with change management and stay focused on the end users. Champions can take on many roles and responsibilities. For product deployments, they are often tech savvy, enthusiastic volunteer staff who are passionate and smart about the product being deployed and want to be part of the solution. Champions can advocate for the change, provide strategic communications, help users implement the change, and assist with maintaining change. Elevate strong people to improve the deployment process and build trust from the community going through a deployment. One opportunity to identify champions is to look at your service desk support. The individuals who receive the best feedback, are the most enthusiastic, and appear to want to do more, might make some great champions.
Federal agencies often procure large-scale IT modernization with a keen focus on technology. However, the most successful federal IT leaders know that people, process, and technology are the three pillars to successful solution adoption, and all legs of the stool must be level and strong for the solution to be adopted. More so, the impacts need to be visible and sustainable for the new IT deployment to be viewed as a success. External partners like Suntiva help support government leaders when implementing large-scale deployments because they can identify blind spots, anticipate resistance and mitigate common change challenges based on objective, unbiased experiences. Suntiva’s Adoption Accelerator™ solution addresses people challenges such as those described above, increases technology adoption, and reduces project risk associated with technology implementations.
For examples of how we’ve helped other government agencies with technology deployment strategies and assisted with large-scale IT deployments, contact Suntiva today.
Written by Ashley Tracas