The question of how to involve your user community in solution development is an important one; because the ultimate success or failure of any new system is wholly dependent upon whether or not it’s actually embraced by the user community… or rejected.
There’s a lot of shelfware out there, and getting your users involved in solution development can go a long way to making sure that does not happen to you. Here are a few helpful tips:
Identify the stakeholders. What groups are areas will be impacted?
Identify individuals that can represent those stakeholders. Try to keep the group to between 4 to 8 people, and it is best if individuals can represent more than one area (i.e., they have cross functional or cross business unit experience).
Do NOT make the mistake of making it all about the “power users.” If you’ve got 50 users of a new system, don’t just focus on the 3 heaviest users. They will skew the results for the other 47 users.
Work with your team to document (not just discuss) what’s working well today and what isn’t.
If possible, survey the greater user community. Tools like www.SurveyMonkey.com can make that a lot easier than you think.
Before developing a list of requirements, define your goals and objectives with a new system. As a colleague of mine likes to say, “What does happiness look like?”
Define a set of requirements that your team believes will best meet your goals and objectives.
Now and only now, is it time to research vendors and bring in those you think will meet your needs!
The rest of the story (i.e., going through demos, making reference calls, negotiating pricing, etc.) will come naturally enough if you’ve got the right team together and you’re working with a good short list of vendors. But the most important element -direct end user participation in the selection process – you’ve already addressed.
If you have any direct experience with this type of approach, we’d love you to comment!