October 16, 2023

Unlocking Adoption Success

How Communication Shapes Information Management Outcomes

For Information Management professionals, success is often out of your hands. You can design the best processes, acquire great technology, and execute against your roadmap, but most of the time organizations don’t truly reap the rewards of these projects without a significant portion of end users doing their bit by consistently following protocols and utilizing the tools you’ve provided to them.

However, fewer than 10% of information workers typically participate in Information Management initiatives, and that number decreases by 1% every year. That skimpy adoption rate means the organization will see little benefit from those changes and potentially remain dangerously out of compliance.

This was the top challenge cited in a survey of more than 50 IT professionals, with 62% finding it difficult to engage users in Information Management programs. It turns out that one of the biggest hurdles in rolling out new technology and processes has nothing to do with databases or project plans… it’s communication.

Why Information Management initiatives don’t connect with end users

When organizations think about Information Management initiatives, it’s usually in terms of their impact on the organization itself. An email retention and disposition policy, for example, is likely designed to comply with a regulation or to satisfy a security requirement, which are organizational goals and objectives.

However, for an individual employee, regulatory compliance and information security are often pretty abstract concepts. Most workers are just trying to complete the tasks assigned to them with as little distraction or disruption as possible. They’re not worried about Information Management because that’s not their job.

So when a mandate comes from on high that you must now take this extra step or switch from this system to that system, it’s seldom welcome news. While it’s true these new protocols may be necessary and appreciated by some, that doesn’t mean much to the colleague who just feels forced to do something differently.

And since most end users don’t have much motivation to change their routines, many of them won’t, despite the barely skimmed memos and tuned-out mentions in staff meetings. From their viewpoint, there’s little incentive. “Metadata” and “email archiving”—what’s in it for them?

Turn on your inner marketer

For Information Management initiatives to truly get traction and create true, lasting changes at scale, they need to be positively positioned by selling, not telling. And the only way to effectively market to a prospective customer is to approach things from their perspective.

Forget for a minute that you spend lots of your workday thinking about Information Management and that your own professional future is tied up with a given effort’s success. Now you’re just a regular employee that works in accounting or logistics or manufacturing or sales. You don’t think about systems and software, you just use them to do your job.

Ideally, an increasing share of Information Management goals can be achieved via improved user experiences and via behind-the-scenes automation. But if the only way to reach those objectives requires imposing new requirements on end users, remember that will only happen if they’re properly educated and motivated to comply.

To win over reluctant end users, try some of these tactics:

  • Identify benefits for end users: While organizational-level objectives might hog the internal headlines for a given initiative, chances are there are at least some perks for the rank-and-file workforce. Dig into what pain points these changes might alleviate for end users. If it’s not obvious, work backward to connect how the Information Management-driven change will impact their everyday lives and find some positives.
  • Create compelling messaging for end users: You’re in sales mode at this point, so try to spin up some talking points that concisely convey end-user benefits to that audience, sprinkling in a bit regarding how this helps the organization as a whole.
  • Execute a multi-pronged communication strategy: Don’t rely on direct communications from IT alone. For your Information Management projects to succeed, you must hit your target audience from multiple angles. Ensure that managers and executives are all touting both the importance and the tangible benefits of adoption. You can further socialize these initiatives by holding lunch-and-learns, making guest appearances to give demos at staff meetings, and providing a dedicated support “hotline” for colleagues struggling with the change.
  • Bake it into performance goals: Whether at the team or individual level, find the most impactful KPI (Key Performance Indicator) that tracks uptake and adoption. With this target in mind, work with HR to ensure managers peg at least one of their team or individual goals to hit that benchmark. Money is the ultimate motivator, so knowing your bonus depends on adopting a new way of doing things can nudge the masses to do the right thing.
  • Revisit goals regularly: Once the new initiative gets rolled out, keep it top of mind by reporting on those KPIs or related metrics regularly. This keeps it on everyone’s radar and helps sustain interest after the initial buzz dies down. Highlight the successes and champion the efforts of adopters, but don’t shy away from sharing more disappointing results as well.

Maintain momentum by leveraging transparency and accountability

After the dust settles following the initial launch of any initiative, Information Management leaders must continually work to ensure adoption remains high and continues increasing over time. That demands an ongoing effort to keep it on everyone’s radar.

This may require some uncomfortable action, such as highlighting the fact that your initiative has fallen short of its adoption, compliance, or usage targets. While touting disappointing numbers may feel counter-intuitive, by elevating visibility into how things are progressing you’ll be able to continue enlisting stakeholders and supporters to do their part to continue touting the importance of the initiative and the potential positives and negatives that may come based on widespread adoption (or lack thereof).

Looking for more Information Management motivation and inspiration? Check out our recent webinar on how to achieve governance goals without impacting business performance.

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