Agility: The Key to a Successful Technology Implementation

Agile. In technology and learning spaces, we hear this term, and about how it’s needed to achieve desired results, all the time. But what does agile really mean? Are people actually practicing agility, or do they just think they are? And if they are, are they doing it correctly?

As a provider of change management and user adoption services for technology implementations, we know many organizations are continuing to implement technologies but don’t always do it correctly or with the optimum support to achieve the results that they so desperately want. Forbes states that there is anywhere from a 70-95% risk of failure in digital transformations. That is extremely high! When we investigate the numbers they provide and the reasons behind them, they all have to do with people. Your people and their adoption of the new technology will make or break the success of your digital transformation.

To get a pulse on how our clients and the general audience really felt about the term agile, we conducted a few informal surveys* and found some interesting answers.

Agile and Technology Implementation

Before we hop into the numbers, let’s quickly define what agile means in the context of technology implementations.

Being agile is the process of getting users back to productivity and beyond as quickly as possible, minimizing the usual dip in productivity seen in many technology implementations, and enabling the learning team to drive high-value content, adapt to change, and function effectively despite real-world constraints. Basically, being agile means going back to basics. You want to enable your team to do their jobs well by stripping out all the unnecessary bureaucracy and red tape.

As many learning professionals will tell you, to be agile, you need to ensure that there is a steady stream of the high-value content being fed to your learners throughout any transformation effort. This is a central part of the user adoption strategy that a lot of organizations miss. Rather than creating an event at the end of the implementation for users to learn the new technology, learning should be experienced as a journey, not a seen as a destination. For any project to be truly agile, it must have three components:

  1. Flexibility: The processes should be structured but lean enough for the team to adjust and react quickly to situations that arise.
  2. Transparency: All members of the team and those being affected by the implementation should have visibility into what is happening, whether that be the actual technical aspect of the implementation for the team or a steady stream of learning content for the users. Transparency helps drive accountability from everyone involved, from the developers to the end users.
  3. Clear guidance: Users should feel supported throughout the entire implementation. There should be minimal hesitancy for the learners in what they should be doing when the technology goes live.

In the end, an agile approach should ultimately provide constant learning for your users and facilitate a smooth landing of the new technology.

So, let’s get into the data.

When we polled our audience, 56% of them said that they had used an agile approach to user adoption.

Have you used an agile approach to user adoption in your organization?

When should the bulk of learning happen during an ERP transformation?

On top of that, 79% of people said that learning should happen throughout the entirety of the technology implementation. This was a bit of a surprise to us because while we know it to be true that learning should happen throughout an implementation, if 56% of people are using agile approaches to adoption and creating learning journeys throughout an implementation, why does Forbes say that so many transformations fail?

As practitioners of the agile approach to user adoption, we know that the most effective learning takes place when learners are engaged throughout the entire implementation process. But just providing content throughout the process doesn’t necessarily mean learners will be engaged. It has to be the right content, at the right time, in the right format. This allows learners to understand the change and the new system as it is being developed and deployed so that they can actively adapt as needed without impacting their daily routines so much that they just say “forget it.”

It’s great to see that organizations are ready and willing to use agile approaches, but it is refining those processes that will really make the difference.

Now that we’ve talked about using an agile approach to user adoption, let’s see how organizations are measuring the results of their transformations.

How do you measure the ROI of your digital transformation?

When we asked our audience how they measure the return on investment (ROI) of their technology implementation, 48% said productivity levels. There can be many right answers to this question depending on what your organization wants to achieve, but when you are practicing agility within your technology implementation, productivity after go-live will be your best indicator of success. Ideally, you want to at least achieve the same productivity levels as before the implementation but shooting for higher productivity to prove that the technology was worth the investment.

Lastly, we asked how long it took them to get back to productivity after their last technology implementation. 61% of organizations got back to their baseline productivity levels within two months of go-live. While two months is a good amount of time to achieve pre-implementation productivity, we have seen that using an agile approach can decrease that timeline even further, to weeks instead of months.

How quickly did you get back to productivity after your last technology implementation?

Overall, these numbers were not all that surprising to us and seem to be on par with what the industry is showing us. There is a bit of discrepancy when it comes to organizations claiming to use agile approaches to adoption in their technology implementations and the success rate stated by Forbes. Based on our knowledge and experience, this is a direct reflection of using an agile approach versus using an agile approach the right way.

Preparing and guiding your learners through the change and ensuring that they have the right information to adopt the technology will be pivotal in the success of your next technology implementation.


*These numbers were obtained via four LinkedIn surveys posted and monitored by GP Strategies in 2022.

About the Authors

Brittany Jordan
Brittany Jordan has over 10 years of experience in applied behavior analysis, leadership, and business solution planning. She holds a Bachelor of Business Administration in Management, a Master of Science in Marketing Research and Analytics, and most recently has become a Certified Scrum Master through Scaled Agile. Brittany is currently working towards a certification in User Experience Design.

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