NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California
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Change management is an issue for most organizations — particularly when it comes to technical deployment. Departments can design amazing tools just to have a hard time getting staff to use them and when you talk about digital workplace tools, user adoption typically tops the list of important metrics.

So how can you ensure users will want to use and be delighted by the tools and services provided to them? One organization believes you need to bring those users in at the ground floor.

Moments of Engagement

NASA's Tom Soderstrom believes he has cracked the code. IT Chief Technology and Innovation Officer for the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Soderstrom promotes a culture where instead of having to deal with new tech, users help develop it, connected through what he calls "moments of engagement."

A moment of engagement, he explains, "is when some end user has a really good idea and is really excited about it." For example, his department recently built a chatbot Deep Space Network (DSN) scientists can use to find the network's next available track or antenna.

According to Soderstrom, a developer passionate about the DSN brought the idea forward, "we look[ed] at it, and we [said], 'You know what? That is a good idea. We should do it.'"

And they did: The developer began work immediately, a demo was ready for testing that night, and user feedback was available by morning.

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Making it Repeatable

This project's not an outlier, Soderstrom explains, rather the norm. When a developer starts something, "they just go off and do it as quickly as they can," he says. "Once they can demonstrate it, then we get other people involved — usually from that department to just kind of wring it out a little bit, make it better. And once we've done that, then they spend some time demonstrating it to their end users."

This involvement, he continues, helps "the end user community be the heroes or get the credit." Staff offer ideas to make the tool better, which the tech department implements post-haste. Soderstrom says the DSN chatbot, for example, is currently being updated "almost hourly with the very passionate engagement from the end user community."

With staff suggestions included, employees are more likely to use the bot. They're also more likely to convince friends from other departments that involvement is worth it.

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Moments of Engagement Can Be Fleeting

Acting on user input alone isn't enough, though. As Soderstrom urges, inclusion must be appreciated quickly: "A moment of engagement lasts only a moment. It's a good idea among other good ideas and if nothing happens with it, if IT doesn't respond quickly enough, it's gone."

The Downside

Once external departments are involved, said Soderstrom, they can get pretty enthusiastic, which has left his team with more requests for new chatbots than they have time to build. "Everybody wants one," he said.