The High Cost of a One Size Fits All Technology Approach

dont_want_thisSeveral years ago, I witnessed a Microsoft unified communications (UC) deployment at a large engineering firm in the Midwest. The plan was to rollout the new UC solution to the entire company headquarters consisting of several buildings and over 3,000 people and slowly phase out usage of the desk phones in the coming months. As part of the deployment, each employee was given a corded USB stereo headset and a short video tutorial that featured the CIO explaining the reasoning behind the upcoming communication changes followed by a product introduction and brief set up instructions.

The IT team had been building up to the deployment day with e-mail reminders, announcements, and posters spread throughout the campus. They put together a raffle drawing with technology prizes including iPods, webcams, wireless mice and some wireless headsets. It seemed as if IT was doing everything right to get people ready for the change, but on the first day of deployment I observed mixed reactions. Feelings ranged from optimism, curiosity, ambivalence, stoic resignation, and outright hostility. One woman walked up to the table to pick up her headset and said with a great deal of sadness, “I don’t want this.” Another stumped the IT Director by asking “If my PC crashes, how do I call IT?” Not surprisingly, the range of feelings could also be drawn along generational lines, with younger employees tending to be more on the positive to neutral side and older employees being on the neutral to negative side. And even among those who were in the positive to neutral camp, very few actually saw how these changes were going to benefit them specifically. This is where the idea of moving from a deployment mindset to an adoption mindset can really ensure success and quicker ROI for some of these big infrastructure changes, and it involves getting a little personal.

The argument for taking a personalized approach to IT is simple: people using technology have different needs across the organization, depending on their role, tasks, and preferences. And, what good is it to provide technology to employees if they won’t or can’t use it? According to a recent Oxford Economics1 study, employees say they are expected to stay connected to the office all the time, yet only 40% say the devices they use at home integrate seamlessly with their work tools. Wouldn’t it be great if technology not only saved money and modernized your company infrastructure, but also worked well and was accepted by each individual?

Promoting a better understanding of work styles & behaviors in the enterprise became a passion of mine after seeing the impact of both positive and negative employee experiences during major technology shifts. But there are not very many resources out there to educate IT about the finer points of today’s workforce. With this in mind, Plantronics conducted an in-depth, global study2 of 4,500+ participants, in an effort to understand evolving needs and pain points as they apply to communication and communication device technologies. The findings form this research underscore how understanding an individual’s preferred work style and having IT support accordingly, can help companies and individuals realize true adoption of technology leading to efficiency and productivity gains in the enterprise.

We analyzed the data and came up with 7 distinct user personas that combined cover 91% of the work styles found in a typical enterprise. I am often asked how a user persona is distinct from a job function, as many segmentations models out there focus on titles or roles. My response is that it is entirely possible to have two people with the same title who have completely different work styles. A persona is an archetype, a collection of demographics and psychographics that are distinct from other groups. While we have developed 7 personas with names and descriptions, each persona is actually a consolidation of hundreds of real people. There are three main areas of work style that our research uncovered: Office based work styles, Flexible/remote work styles and Connected executive work styles. Each set of work styles has different patterns of communication intensity and pain points, device usage needs, etc.

It is important to understand the behaviors, needs and feelings of these different work styles as they are distinct enough that treating them the same will likely alienate large groups of important stakeholders. And this is where the high cost really comes to light…can you afford to lose the confidence of the people your team exists to support? When it comes to adoption, there is a persona in your enterprise who is only 21% likely to adopt new technologies like unified communications and one that is 81% likely to adopt. Wouldn’t it be great to be able to identify your potential champions and while working to satisfy your likely adoption laggards?

Here are a few tips for taking a more personalized approach:

  1. Conduct internal surveys to better understand the work locations, communication behaviors and device usage of your workforce, you may quickly discover the peril of taking a one size fits all approach.
  2. Identify your technophiles and early adopters, these are the users who are most likely to evangelize new solutions with their teams on your behalf!
  3. Don’t forget to consider the needs of a remote or mobile workforce, they often require more IT support than their office-based colleagues, are more likely to connect via mobile devices and technical issues can often bring their productivity to a complete stop.
  4. Tailor communications and training to your audience, Baby boomers tend to prefer in person training and support, Gen X will self-support if you provide resources, Millennials will often just “figure it out”

Companies are embracing new ways of working (and technology to enable this shift) and are seeing business benefits as a result. Now, more than ever, IT leaders are beginning to recognize that if they hope to attain strong adoption of communications technology in the enterprise, they need to understand and consider user behavior, device preference and work style. This shift in thinking will only grow more important as technology opens an increasing variety of options for when, how, and where people engage with work.

I will be speaking on this topic at the upcoming 2017 ITEXPO Feb 8-10 in Fort Lauderdale, FL as part of the Business Communications Essentials track. My session is called Enterprise Communications: It’s Personal

Additional Plantronics speakers at 2017 ITEXPO:

  • Tom Wesselman (@twesselman) will discuss Context, Wearables, and WebRTC as part of the Real Time Web track and participate in a panel discussion on Emerging Technologies Likely to Influence Your Business moderated by Jon Arnold.
  • Richard Kenny (@richardk_PLT) will participate in a panel discussion on Customer Service, Evolved, also moderated by Jon Arnold.
1 Oxford Economics, The Always-On Economy, 2015
2 FactWorks, Plantronics Enterprise Segmentation Study, 2016

About Jennifer Adams

Jennifer serves as head of Global Collaboration Markets for Plantronics. In this role she directs strategic marketing for enterprise business products and solutions globally, including traditional office headset solutions, and unified communications and collaboration solutions. She also manages the Alliance Marketing team which works with the company’s major strategic alliance partners. Additionally, Jennifer leads research efforts pertaining to user segmentation and understanding how shifts in enterprise communications impacts end users as it applies to technology adoption and consumption across work styles.