Imagine yourself in this situation: You spend months of research and thousands of dollars on your shiny, new project management software. Then, when it’s finally up and running, nobody uses it!
Poor tool adoption is a frustratingly common problem. New software adoption requires change management, people often approach new technology with optimism, skepticism, and cynicism (unsurprising, as change breeds mixed emotions on a psychological level).
As long as teams are made up of humans and not robots (which may not be too far off), project managers can anticipate this problem in the workplace.
Yet despite the gloomy outlook, there is hope.
Project management software adoption best practices
Here are five time-tested project management strategies to get your team to use your new project management software.
1. K.I.S.S. (Keep it simple, stupid)
It’s not rocket science: if you choose an overly complicated project management tool, you risk embarking on an uphill battle where you spend countless hours chasing team members who will never use it. It never ceases to amaze me how many project managers choose complicated software because they never clearly articulated their organization’s key objectives for using the software in the first place.
For example, if basic task management and time tracking are your two essentials, do you really need to pay extra for elaborate Gantt charts and force team members to use them? Or if integration with Xero or QuickBooks is your main priority, do you really need the software that has 101 additional API integrations that you’ll never use?
Don’t choose a software solution because it’s got lots of bells and whistles. Define your organization’s key needs and choose the most simple software you can, so you spend less time chasing team members to use the software and more time getting your projects done.
2. Make it like French class
Remember how in high school, Madame Fontaine refused to answer your question unless you spoke in French? The best way to get team members on board with your project management software is to only respond through your project management software’s collaboration tools.
For example, if Michael wants an extra resource on his team for an urgent client project that’s running behind deadline, tell him that you’ll happily review the request if he logs the task (and assigns it to you) in your software system. This request will encourage Michael’s speedy uptake of your system and, if you’re running a transparent task system, will encourage Michael to view all of the other tasks assigned to you at that time, so he can better appreciate your competing priorities.
Following on from that, if you want to get Michael’s whole team using your project management tool even faster, let Michael know that you’ll be considering his request only if the system shows that his team members are logging their hours and working to full capacity.
3. Reward employees with a pot of gold, beer, or free food
You know how children will eat their vegetables if they know they’re going to get ice cream for dessert?
Well, the same principle can be applied to your employees. It might sound a little parental to bribe team members to fill in their timesheets, but if it’s above board (such as offering a financial bonus for completing a timesheet, but not breaking the law by delaying an employee’s regular pay check) and it works, then why not offer a pot of gold, beer or free food at the end of the rainbow?
One successful example of this is Richmond-based advertising group The Martin Agency, which has 500 employees worldwide. They reward employees who’ve filled out their timesheets with decadent catered breakfasts, relaxing afternoon barbecues, sugar-laden candy bowls, and soothing hot chocolates.
Another example is Minnesota ad agency Colle + McVoy. This clever employer built a Tapserver—an innovative beer keg deployment system—to reward employees who fill out their timesheets. To earn their Happy Hour beer, an employee just scans their ID card and if their timesheets are up to date, their glass fills with beer and they’re ready to party!
4. Enlist Kim Kardashian, not Bill Gates
The secret to convincing as many team members as possible, as soon as possible, is to enlist the help of social influencers in your office (think Kim Kardashian) not technology geeks (like Bill Gates).
Tech-savvy early adopters will always come on board early. But for the rest of the team, the decision to use your chosen software is not tech-based, it’s emotion based—so that’s where your social influencers come in.
In the early stages of the launch, focus on getting “a network of champions” fully invested in the new technology, so they can “coach others on how to use the tools to their benefit,” says Didier Bonnet, who coauthored the 2013 Embracing Digital Technology study by MIT Sloan Management Review and Capgemini Consulting, which surveyed 1,559 executives.
5. Win hearts and minds with a Girl Scout Cookie ‘Why’
Everyone wants to know, “What’s in it for me?”
The sooner you communicate the software’s benefits to each individual, the more successful you’ll be in your efforts to get team members to log their project tasks and fill out their timesheets.
But remember, “This tool will help the company save money!” is not the “Why” that will motivate your crew. Take a lesson from the young girls who sell Girl Scout Cookies—yes, the cookies are delicious, but buying them also makes you feel good because you’re supporting a good cause.
Figure out how to communicate a “Why” that pulls on your team’s emotional heartstrings as well as triggers their business sense.
For example, Tim wishes he could leave early on Tuesdays to take his son to soccer practice and Brigitte wishes she could sometimes visit her father at the assisted living community before evening curfew. Their project manager, Janet, tries to get the team some comp time to leave early, but management doesn’t see the long hours worked that she does. So, Janet tells her team that if they log all of their time and tasks, they will be rewarded in tangible, desirable ways. By understanding what’s important to her team and using that as a motivator, Janet can convince her team to use their project management software.
If you’ve got your own smart or sneaky project management strategies to get teams on board with their project management software, please share them in the comments below. We’d love to hear them!