Change is often an unpleasant necessity; a journey outside of familiarity and comfort into the new and unknown. This discomfort is especially evident when changes are made to software.
Whether you’re updating a system used by your employees or a platform accessed by your customers, complaints, queries, and confusion are inevitable. It doesn’t matter how many improvements you make, or how much more intuitive the new design is, making the move from the well-known to the unfamiliar will be too much for some.
With that in mind, and an acceptance that avoiding these pains is impossible, it’s important for you to make every effort to mitigate them.
It’s Time for Change Management
‘Change management’ is an umbrella term used to describe measures taken by a company or organisation implementing a significant change. The theory behind change management is well-researched, and the techniques involved can be applied to various situations, including significant changes to software.
If you are successful in your change management, you will help prepare users for the change, reduce the impact of immediate problems when the changes go live, and support users to adapt. As a result, you’ll minimise the initial impact of the changes, increase user adoption, and keep everyone onside throughout the process.
So, here’s what you can do.
Analyse User Behaviour
Taking the time to understand how your users currently operate the system is an investment that will pay dividends when the changes are implemented.
This initial research will give you an invaluable insight into the day-to-day usage of the system; which features are used heavily, and which are rarely utilised; where users spend most of their time; what problems and frustrations users encounter regularly.
With this understanding, you can zone in on the areas that are underused and the features that cause difficulties, and make effective alterations that will improve user experience.
Ask for Opinions
Very few people will know your system as well as the people who use it most. In addition to observing user behaviour from afar, it’s also important to ask for their opinions. Find out what they would change, what they like and what they don’t like, and how they think the system could be improved.
The changes you make in developing the new system should be made to empower your users, not in spite of them. When the thoughts of a wide range of users are kept in mind, the new software will be embraced and adopted much faster than one created without their input.
Arrange for User Testing
Following the waterfall project methodology can be the downfall of any project, especially when one of your key challenges is the potential reaction of users to the change. Instead, following the agile methodology will help you deliver an end product that minimises your users’ pains. If you aren’t familiar with these two approaches to project management, here’s a quick rundown:
- Waterfall Methodology — A rigid plan is laid out at the conception of the project. Each step is carried out in linear fashion, without interruption, until the project is completed and the software is released.
- Agile Methodology — A plan is set for the project, but it remains adjustable. Regular testing and analysis takes place throughout the process to ensure the project is heading in the right direction. Should an issue arise, the plan is adapted to address it.
In the context of software delivery, the difference is delivering a program that has never been tried or tested by users and implementing one that has been refined and developed following the input of users.
To avoid incurring the wrath of users upon the launch of your new system, you should always incorporate a period of user testing into your project. Give users the opportunity to operate an early iteration of the software, and you can use their feedback to work through any kinks of potential problems not highlighted during development.
The end result is the release of software that has already been test-driven by its users.
Communicate the Changes
Launch date is here, and your software is about to go live. You wait with bated breath, but are your users doing the same? They might be, but only if you told them about the new system.
There’s only one thing worse than change, and that’s unexpected change. If you haven’t prepared your users for the launch of your new system, you’ll be faced with panic; unbridled panic.
Avoiding this panic is easy:
- Tell your users that a new system is launching.
- Give them a preview of what’s to come with screenshots, videos, and even early access to the new version.
- Notify them of the launch date.
- Provide an overview of the major changings and highlight the improvements and benefits.
No matter who the users are, if you fail to prepare them properly, your launch date will not be the moment of joy and relief you expect it to be.
The Key to Success
When the Isotoma team reworked The Key, an indispensable national information service for school leaders, we knew that maintaining the program’s old character was crucial.
After deciding to move to a better content management system, we transferred more than 30,000 pages across two websites, complete with full page history, to make sure we preserved all of their content and metadata and minimised the impact on The Key’s users.
As part of the job, we also carried out some cosmetic changes, which had the potential to upset users. To minimise their impact, we studied user behaviour and spoke to them about their usage of the service. We used this insight to make changes that, instead of disrupting their normal usage, actually improved users’ experience, creating a website that seemed to read their minds.
We had to keep The Key’s old character, while making it more satisfying to use. This involved transferring more than 30,000 pages across two websites, complete with full page history, making sure we preserved all of their content and metadata.
We’re Here to Help
Launching a new piece of software or implementing changes always has the potential to be risky. But, with consideration for your users, and an adaptable development process, you can release software that has a positive impact on its users and makes their lives, and your life, easier.
If you want to work with a team of developers who will make sure the end result is right for you and your users, we’d love to help, so get in touch with us today.