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“All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” Thus begins Tolstoy’s classic novel, Anna Karenina. Who would think such a profound sentiment would also be applicable to enterprise IT?

Writing in the Harvard Business Review, Andrew McAfee, an MIT management scientist, explains, “all the successful EIT (enterprise IT) adoptions I’ve studied have used the same process for avoiding failure, and all the unsuccessful EIT adoptions I’ve studied have not used it.”

Just as with Tolstoy’s happy families, successful IT adoptions tend to follow the same tried and tested methods to achieve success. However, those who fail do so because of a wide range of errors and mistakes. Put another way, there’s a lot of reasons a SharePoint environment can fail, but there’s only a few reasons it can succeed.

So, what goes wrong with poor SharePoint environments, and what can you do to make your SharePoint a greater success?

4 key reasons enterprise IT can go wrong for your users

Implementing new IT at your organization can throw up a whole range of challenges. Let’s explore the main reasons why implementations go wrong among your colleagues. Do any of these sound familiar?

  • Tools before people

What’s the purpose of enterprise IT? Is it to look impressive and flashy? No, of course not—it’s about helping your employees and colleagues do their jobs more effectively and efficiently. Nonetheless, IT is often chosen because someone in the business – be that the head of IT, the CEO, CIO or another leader - has heard about a tool and becomes convinced it will make everything better. Sure, a new CRM could be just what you need. However, simply implementing a new tool for the sake of it isn’t a wise idea. New tools should be selected because there is a recognized need for them - helping employees become more productive.

  • Resistance to change

It’s no secret that people are resistant to change at work. Let’s face it – most employees are content remaining in their “comfort zone.” The smallest change can trigger fear that they’re losing control of their job; not to mention a fear that they’re being undermined. So, when tools are deployed at the wrong time, without a proper explanation, can lead to confusion and intimidation on the part of the employee, and, in turn, they are likely to spurn them.

  • New IT is imposed from above or the outside

How would you feel if a consultant came into your business, told you everything you were doing was wrong, then made you work in a totally different way? Not great, right? The same goes for new IT. If employees have been using one system for a long time, the sudden shift to a new technology can make employees feel disrespected. It is, therefore, key to get colleagues involved in creating change, rather than simply imposing it.

  • Your IT platform is just hard to use

Whether it’s down to an inherently bad design or poor management of a decent system, enterprise IT platforms can sometimes be hard to use. It may be a confusing and non-user-friendly interface, poorly managed content or simply a lack of training, but if your colleagues find your platform hard to use, don’t be surprised if they don’t flock to it.

Given the several reasons why enterprise users reject an IT platform, from poor software design, to bad planning, or insufficient training, what can we learn from the deployments that seem to go right?

What successful deployments have in common

Returning to Andrew McAfee’s HBR article:

“successful businesses have decided at the outset how key issues about configuration and other aspects of the adoption will be raised and how they will be settled. The most important participants in this task are not IT specialists or consultants but business leaders from the areas affected by the new technology. The more areas there are, and the more their work is being changed, the more the adoption effort needs a seasoned leader”.

What Mr. McAfee’s research shows is that there are a few of fundamental aspects that characterize all successful IT implementations.

  • There is a user-centered approach

Successful businesses think in advance about user adoption and plan to make the system as user-friendly as possible. They don’t buy new tech for the sake of having new tech; they plan strategically with a big focus on user adoption.

  • They get key players on board

Rather than simply imposing IT, they recognize that it is the support of ‘leaders’ in different departments who will encourage colleagues to use the platform that really counts.

  • Lead by example

Analysis from LNS Research, an IT research agency, recommends ensuring executive sponsorship and buy in from IT projects. Simply put, employees are far more likely to begin using a tool if they see their bosses using it – otherwise they will presume it isn’t really necessary.  

With research indicating that as much as 71% of all IT projects end in either total or partial failure, it can be disconcerting to begin a new implementation. Nevertheless, by following the approach of those projects that do succeed, beginning a new project need not feel quite so daunting.

A key part of successful IT deployments is a user-centered approach – both in terms of choosing a tool which actually helps users do their jobs, but also in terms of being easy to use. harmon.ie can help here - our suite of user experience products puts users back in control of the way they use SharePoint, Outlook and other Microsoft platforms. By providing them with a human-centered design, you empower them to engage with your IT environment on their own terms, meaning they feel in control of IT, and not the other way around.


Danielle Arad
Digital Marketing Manager