CIOs and IT teams face more demands than simply implementing new and improved turnkey technologies. Leadership teams are challenging them to identify and implement digital innovations that streamline work processes, drive efficiencies and support the growth of the business.
A large Fortune 500 client recently launched a series of global technology tools as part of a transformation and cost-savings initiative to improve business results.
The launches required careful planning, including an integrated communications system across countries, cultures, business units and functional areas. It was essential that we, as professional communicators, worked side by side with the client, technology partners and integration providers to align the communication plans with the technology project plans.
Tips for Successful IT Deployments
It all starts with the planning. Involving the right people early and establishing an organizing principal for both the launch plan and communications approach will increase the chances of a successful launch and minimize disruptions to your business.
To help ensure that your technology launch is well understood, accepted and — ideally — embraced, here are eight steps for success:
- Focus on the benefits, and understand the promise of the technology. What are the capabilities and limitations of the new technology? What’s the expected timeline for deployment? Will it be a single “big-bang” launch, or will the technology be rolled out in waves over weeks or months?
In developing your communications plans and timeline, it’s best to work backward, starting with what needs to be communicated on launch day and then determining what needs to happen in the days and weeks leading up the launch.
Define audiences by relevance. Who are the users: power users or occasional users? Where are they? Are they internally, externally, locally, regionally, globally or functionally based? Will customers or suppliers interact with the technology? Are there language, cultural or training barriers? Which leaders and other influencers can help drive the change and communications? Is the technology something that you want to talk about with the media, or would you prefer not to discuss it outside of the stakeholders involved? Either way, you need to be prepared to respond to a media inquiry.
Identify the technology but avoid “branding.” What is the simple and easy-to-identify name for the new technology that will resonate with users? The more you can include users’ input in the naming, the more likely they will engage.
If the technology is global, be sure to get input from other countries and regions. Think strategically on the timing for revealing your brand. If it’s closer to the launch, it will minimize user confusion. Be careful not to “brand” the effort so as not to create a campaign. Technology investment is a differentiator in business and must be seen as such.
- Develop a compelling narrative. There needs to be an overarching storyline built at the outset. This narrative serves as the foundation for different levels of messaging. What will change for each audience?
Power users will need more details and will probably be influencers for others. Give special attention to the messaging for each audience so they can fully understand the rationale for the change, how to use the new technology and even how to help others.
- Communicate with users through numerous channels, especially face-to-face meetings. Which communication channels will best reach your audiences with their preferred method of receiving information? Are there face-to-face meetings you can leverage to prepare users for the change? How will you engage leaders to help communicate the messages leading up to launch day? What mechanisms can reinforce the messaging after launch?
The key here is to ensure users are receiving consistent messages in multiple channels.
- Know your risk profile. What are the risks to your company? How do the communications plan and timeline address the risks? Think about what your contingency plans will be if the launch doesn’t take place for whatever reason and how you’ll communicate it.
Ensure that you have a consistent message to communicate confidence in the mitigation plans that address any issues.
- Address questions in a fluid manner. How will you field questions? How will they be answered? Make sure you have a document with frequently asked questions and answers that can be updated as issues emerge. How will issues be escalated?
You’ll need a means for sensing and quickly responding to users’ issues. If you don’t provide that avenue, users will find their own way, such as taking to social media. Monitor social media, and stay close with the project team beyond launch so you can make recommendations to appropriately address trends and hot issues.
- Constantly ensure you’re delivering on the promise. How will you measure the effectiveness of communications? How will you provide updates and communicate successes and areas for improvement? Be sure to think long term (beyond the launch) and create a sustainable communications strategy for operational communications.
Launch Technology Right the First Time
Following these steps allows for a more flawless launch effort as the new technology gains user acceptance.
To borrow a cliché, you want to get it right the first time. Relaunches are expensive, and they can adversely affect your organization’s credibility and sour your audiences on the brand. Plan and prepare accordingly.
Take the time to involve the right people early, immerse yourself in the technology itself, and spend time up front understanding the culture and how people learn. These inputs will be the basis of a comprehensive communications strategy designed to accelerate the process.
Beyond the launch, the only metric worth noting will be how quickly and seamlessly the business adopts the new technology.