By: Richard Wong
No matter the mission of your organization, success likely depends on the people performing critical operational communications. And because your agency doesn’t operate in a vacuum, it’s never a good idea to make decisions in one either. Simply put, whether you’re updating your communications equipment, integrating a new records management system, or test driving the latest asset tracking platform, you should always incorporate end user feedback in your evaluation and purchase plans.
Why? Because no one will better understand the strengths, weaknesses, impacts and must-have capabilities of these systems better than the people who will be using them on a daily basis. Besides understanding what works and what doesn’t during real life operations, end users can supply valuable insight into the process and help your organization remain flexible, effective and efficient.
What can your agency stand to gain from end user inclusion? Let’s have a look.
Of course, technology-driven monitoring and analytics programs can help you assess trends and anticipate obstacles. However, most systems depend solely on hard data. That said, to truly deliver informed actionable results, numbers and data typically need to be assessed and assimilated by people to empower actual intelligence. Just like knowledge translated without facts often equates to logic-based opinions, numbers without context provide you with little more than informative guesses.
In contrast, your frontline workforce can bridge the gap and share both the evidence and understanding needed to make sound operational decisions. When it comes to choosing a technology-based solution, there’s no better source of information than the people you depend on every day to keep your organization’s processes, programs, and outputs optimized and successful. End users often know your operational infrastructure inside and out, can identify which functions or features will improve productivity and why built-in contingencies and controls are necessary to stay organized and manage capacity. Best of all, they can help eliminate costly and confusing add-on options that contribute little to no real value. The bottom line, engaging with end users is a smart way to help ensure you’re maximizing your budget and fulfilling your organization’s unique mission critical needs.
Wide-ranging industry knowledge is vital to helping you select the right tools and technology for the job. However, while your project team may possess in-depth organizational knowledge, purchasing committees often encompass members in lateral positions or complementary roles. In turn, experience and exposure may be derived mostly from managerial perspectives, rather than the task-level viewpoints you can expect from hands-on system users. Consequently, this rift often creates conflict during the discovery and procurement phases.
Along these lines, gaining the vantage points of subject matter experts and technicians can help members define and prioritize the targets, timetables, and processes necessary for implementing a new solution. For example, let’s say your team is seeking a software program to satisfy a new industry regulation; however, the project team has limited knowledge of the intricacies and requirements surrounding this new directive. Without an in-depth understanding of the tactical challenges or operational issues this new regulation hopes to resolve, it may be difficult to research solutions, compare options, or delineate preferred outcomes. In this instance, seeking advice from an end user standpoint can help your team select the right technology while also preventing time delays, wasted efforts, or costly and unnecessary changes.
Creating enthusiasm and generating organizational engagement is never an easy task. And yet, there’s often a measurable buzz of excitement (and sometimes a bit of fear) surrounding the implementation of a new technology solution. That said, including end users in this process can help spark interest and quell anxiety from the very beginning of this endeavor. Besides ensuring all members of the organization feel appreciated and valued, soliciting user input can result in wider buy-in and fewer concerns and complaints regarding the change.
Better yet, involving end users in managerial decisions can improve long-term coordination and cohesion between team members and leaders. Lessons and ideas exchanged through two way conversations are often beneficial for both sides. Aside from facilitating more transparent communications, collaborating across traditional boundaries can create cross-functional training opportunities, reenergize organizational culture, shorten learning curves, and bolster member commitment well into the future.
The Bottom Line
No matter what technology solution your organization’s searching for, every project team dreams of streamlined success. And while the process may seem exciting at first glance, the associated anxiety and pressure can lead to tension and frustration right out of the gate.
Moreover, technology is an expensive investment. If you don’t engage end users from the start, you may find more costly updates or changes may need to be made in the future. While you may be able to customize or scale solutions and spread expenditures over time, a rash or ill-informed purchase can have a lasting negative effect on your entire operation. With that in mind, soliciting end users for their operational insights and industry knowledge can help your team ensure the decisions they make are strategically informed, mission-driven, and well supported throughout all facets of your organization.