Getting Your Users to Love Change
(or at Least Kind of Accept It)
by Jim Heiney, Web/Exchange Administrator at Lock Haven University
on June 11, 2014
Technology is all about change. Those who work with it (like me) know that fact and accept it as part of the job. Rarely do a few months pass when I don't have to pick up a new scripting language, throw myself into new software, or relearn something that a company decided to make massive changes to. But that's us... how well does the rest of your campus accept change? If it's anything like my campus, you have my commiseration.
You might just be starting out with OmniUpdate's OU Campus™ web content management system (CMS), or you might be making the move to version 10 of the CMS. Either way, it's a good thing to strategize and figure out how to ease your users into the change that's coming.
Be a Communicator
The most important thing about introducing something new—upgrade or new roll-out—is communicating the change. There's no way you can tell users too early or over-communicate either. Emails commonly don't get read, webinars are summarily ignored, and information sessions get spurned like lepers. Make sure it all happens anyway. If you communicate the upcoming changes twice as much as you think you need to, you're probably about halfway there.
Have a shared, generic mailbox so that people from your web team can answer questions as they roll in both before and after implementation. Figure out a schedule that works for you (ideally, at least twice a semester) and send out training tips and news from that mailbox. The tips will help your users and will let them know you're still there if they have any needs. If users on campus forget you're there to support them—and somehow they will—many of them resort to complaints over seeking assistance. Show your helpdesk people the basics of OU Campus prior to the changes. They'll most likely be fielding many of the incoming calls and it might just save a lot of transfers to your phone.
Make sure you're upbeat. Remember, it's not "change," it's a "host of new and beneficial features." Sure it's wordplay, but a little sugar coating helps out. Point out all of the good things that will come from the upcoming improvements (see what I did there?). For new implementations, stress the ease of use for editing pages, time savings with reusable content, and the convenience of editing from anywhere. And don't forget to mention versioning. One of the fears many people have about change is that they will mess something up during the learning process. For an upgrade to version 10, you might choose to focus on the improved interface, drag-and-drop uploads, and the binary manager. If you haven't already, sign up for the sandbox (email firstname.lastname@example.org to do so), send out an email to your campus once it's ready, and get willing users to test it out.
Also, don't forget to stress how the upcoming improvements will positively affect your college or university. No matter how adverse your users are to change, few are willing to work against the common goal of improving the institution.
Be a Trainer
One of the best ways to make people comfortable is to arm them with knowledge beforehand. Take a screen cast or make a video while you're editing a page in OU Campus. Plan out your steps and follow your script. Send out the links to the video. Some people might prefer step-by-step instructions. Just make sure to take screenshots along the way and lay out the steps. The benefits of custom made directions and videos are that you're showing your users a familiar environment.
If you don't find yourself saddled with spare time to make videos and documents, never fear... the delightful people at OmniUpdate have documentation for your end users on their Support Site. They also have Training Tuesday videos that you are allowed to use on campus. (I verified this fact beforehand—look at me getting all research-y.) OmniUpdate also has a Learning Management System (LMS) that you can use to build classes or use their courses. I'll admit that I haven't played with the LMS yet. It was one of those "get to that in my spare time" items.
Workshops are a great way to get users to learn the features of OU Campus. Reserve a computer lab and get some warm bodies in chairs. We use the week before the semester commences as a training week. If you have something similar, get those sessions on that schedule. You might not get everyone trained, but a little can go a long way.
Generally, we have to be our own biggest cheerleaders. However, there are usually those rare people on campus that you can get to spread the positives of the upcoming change for you. Seek them out and involve them in the project.
Don't overlook the blessed souls who braved your hands-on workshops. They know how to use OU Campus already and you can usually encourage them to help out their department members. If you're not sure you can get them to help, grease the deal with the universal currency of campus communities everywhere—donuts.
See if you can set up a user group or create an online resource (or both, you ambitious devil) where users can support each other. If you make the link to the resource (wiki, SharePoint site, or whatever) prominent in your training tips email, it will cut down on support calls.
I have to wear a lot of hats here, but I'm already allotting time in my schedule for assistance (or hand-holding, whatever it takes) once version 10 is implemented on campus. The shared mailbox might take care of a lot of issues, but many of your people—if they're like the users on my campus—prefer face-to-face assistance. Just make sure you set a time limit and have "a meeting to get to" if you don't want the sessions to run too long.
Be Tough, Too
Did you ever hear the story about the person that pleased everyone completely? Me neither. (Because it's never happened. Ever.) There will always be those people on campus that complain about everything. You could put a machine in that person's office that spits five dollar bills at random and they would gripe that they want it in blue. If you've done your part with trainings and proper communication, you should be able to sit back and let it roll off.
It turns out that you need to be a lot of things when implementations and upgrades are upcoming, but with enough preparation, you can make the journey much smoother for your campus. Good luck!
"Progress is a nice word. But change is its motivator. And change has its enemies."
About the Blogger
Jim Heiney is the web/exchange administrator for Lock Haven University (LHU). He’s been at LHU for more than 15 years and is still amazed at how much more there is to learn (and he willingly accepts that fact) for those who work with technology. His philosophy of “never stop learning” has led him from English teacher to IT guy with a few other odd stops along the way. When not at work, he can usually be found at home with his family. In his spare time, he can be found writing, drawing, or playing the occasional computer game.