Hint: It’s all about Usability!
You’ve invested in workflow automation. Looks great but sometimes getting people to actually use it can itself be a Sisyphean task. People resist change and will quickly fall back to bad habits like emailing PDFs and Excel spreadsheets around to manage key information.
So, how do you onboard your users?
1. Involve them from the beginning
This is a pretty obvious one. The earlier you get stakeholders into the process the more likely they are to adopt it. People are naturally more invested in a solution that they’ve had a chance to impact. Soliciting feedback and actually implementing suggestions are critical elements.
When we work with customers on a new project, we go to great lengths to set this up. We spend time upfront to make sure we’re building something users want and make sure there are at least a couple of UAT-Change Request Implementation cycles. That way, the people who have to actually use the new system can affect it.
2. Usability, Usability, Usability!
I can’t stress this enough. It does not matter how robust and awesome your system is. If it’s hard to use, it will not be adopted. If it looks good and is easy to use, people will forgive other shortcomings.
Usability (for end users) should probably be your #1 criterion in selecting a workflow automation system. Some tips:
- Great Looks: Employees are also consumers. They use slick apps everyday and get used to a fantastic UX. If work apps have old-fashioned, clunky UIs they’ll never catch on.
- Sensible Terminology: Make sure your buttons, labels, messages are familiar and helpful. For example, if the workflow will route to the CFO for secondary approval the button should say “Route to CFO” rather than the generic “Continue”.
- Help Text: Some fields require further explanation. The Label is not always enough. Take the time to add help and it can make a huge difference. Tooltips and placeholders are other options.
- Mobile friendly: It has to work naturally on all devices. Buttons might need to be slightly larger on mobile so they’re easier to click using your finger. Forms may need to be broken up into multiple pages to avoid overwhelming smaller screens.
- Speed: Don’t underestimate the value of performance. People love systems where they don’t have to wait around.
- Consistency: A big part of great UX is consistency. Buttons should be in the same place, labels should follow consistent conventions, the look & feel should not vary dramatically from one process to the next.
3. Training / Feedback
End user training should be part of every rollout. But, it’s just the first step. Once people have used the new system for a period of time, they’ll have feedback for you. It’s worth going back and actually talking to stakeholders – is this helping you? Are you doing less manual work? Do you genuinely have more time for things that matter? What can we improve?
4. Iterative improvement
Once people tell you what you can improve, it’s important to go back and actually address issues as quickly as possible. Nothing’s more frustrating than getting it 90% right only to see users abandon your system because you overlooked a couple of things.
5. Communicate success
Share meaningful success stories with everyone involved in the system. Recognizing people’s efforts (company meeting, spot awards) in bringing change to the organization will always be appreciated as long as you don’t overdo it and the recognition is for real measurable gains.
Ultimately, though, we’d advise you to focus hardest on Usability. If they find it hard to use the new workflows, the rest doesn’t matter.