two signs in a road: one reads "road closed" the other reads "diversion" with an arrow
PHOTO: who?du!nelson

My colleague, Eric Eaton, recently described a scenario that will likely sound familiar to both people in IT and the people using the tools IT provides: "You got these long indecipherable forms to fill out. You really don't know what's the reason these questions are being asked, what it's for, what you're supposed to put in there. There's nobody to ask questions up until you get to the end. You get to the end and then they tell you that you did it wrong and you have to start over …."

Modern IT departments do not delay change. They accept digital adoption as one of their responsibilities. And they understand that successful change management depends on paying more attention to the human side of digital technology.

For your IT department to successfully modernize, it needs a different perspective — it needs to look at things from the end user point-of-view. This starts with making the employee experience a priority.

Turning the IT Perspective Around

IT teams tend to set up digital tools in a way that make things easier for them, not for the people using the tools.

In my early days as a SharePoint trainer, I made a discovery: people aren't interested in learning digital tools, they just want a simple way to complete tasks. From that point on, I put myself into end-users’ shoes and let their experiences inform my new approach. This new strategy started to quickly grow SharePoint usage.

Eaton had similar experiences when working for Visa and Philips Healthcare. He changed his perspective and found better ways of approaching IT. He explained, "When I worked at Philips, I got hired as a developer, which was different. I was outside of their IT department … just working on the business side was a far different experience for me. And, it really caused me to change my perspective quite a bit … Some of the limitations that they had were really difficult … Every step along the way was hard … I could understand the motivations behind all these decisions, all these policies, and boundaries, and limitations, things like that. They were done because it's just the way we've always done things rather than looking at, you know, we have this tool, how can we do things in a way that actually lets people use the tool? It was kind of a real eye-opener and a philosophical turning point for me."

Related Article: Don't Blame SharePoint, Blame IT

How IT Can Put Itself in Employees' Shoes

Get the experience

Experience teaches lessons. Take time to understand what people have to go through just to complete a task using SharePoint. Spend a week or two using the platform the same ways they do. Along the way, you will realize that many of the requirements and limitations imposed by your IT department are actually barriers to SharePoint adoption. The friction points that you experience will help you make user-centric IT management decisions.

Learn from the people who use the software

Speak to departments, teams and individuals. Understanding all of these different stakeholders is the first step in ensuring your organization attains intended business objectives using SharePoint.

Don't rely on emails or surveys — speak with them face-to-face. Ask them to explain and actually show you the tools they use and the processes they follow. Ask them to describe their pain points and see if they have suggestions for improvements. This is the second-best approach, second to actually doing what they do, hands-on.

Get expert help

When you have no time, outside help is available. Find people who have done similar work before. Today you can buy consulting services one hour at a time, without the need for restrictive contracts or massive overheads.

Related Article: SharePoint Adoption Success Starts With Understanding Your Users

Make Your IT Work Serve the End User

Sure, having configurations, policies and processes in place allows for more functional usage; but these policies have to support employees getting their work done.

As Eaton said: "That's really where I came to from a philosophical standpoint … that you always have to advocate for the end-user .... It doesn't mean that you have no rules but it means that you try to make rules that actually makes sense for them, that may make their life simpler."

Other than necessities like regulatory compliance and data security, guidelines are better than requirements, options are better than limitations, and, simplicity is better than complexity.

To build a solid foundation for your digital adoption efforts, look at your tools from employees' point of view. Set up SharePoint in a way that works best for them, and continuously work toward improving user experience.