You have poured your soul into the intranet project. You can see your blood, sweat and tear stains on every page of the beautiful new site. You and the rest of the team have battled at every corner over the new functionality, improved design and better content – and now, it’s time to let it live!
After a straight 48hr weekend shift and a few last minute disasters the site is up and running – you just have to sit back and wait for the applause…
“Is that it?”
“I don’t like the colour’
“Where’s the weather widget gone?!”
“Why do you always go and change everything just as I had figured out how to use it!”
Big Bang theory
Big bang implementations are almost always big disappointments for ‘real people’ – the people who have to use the intranet in anger to get their job done.
Why? For a lot of reasons;
- Because change is difficult. Learning anything is hard work – but being forced to learn something you had just got your head around is worse. It’s like someone moved the brake pedal in your car – “I don’t care if it’s in a much more accessible place – put it back where it used to be. I like it there”
- Because the intranet isn’t that big a deal (for anyone outside of the intranet team). The only people who will really get excited about big changes are the intranet team.
- Because people can only deal with so much at once. There’s even a limit to how excited you can get about something. People who win £100M on the lottery are (pretty much) just as excited about their win and those that win £50M or £200M.
Big bang reality
A long period without any improvement means the perception of the intranet is poor and getting worse. Every week that passes people become more disillusioned.
BANG! A huge communications campaign launches “We’ve listened! You hated the old intranet! We have thrown it all away and created something new!”
When something new does come along, if there’s a compelling reason to try it (e.g. it’s your intranet and you need it to get something done) most people will try it out. But there will be a finite amount of time people will spend ‘learning’. The more they have to learn, the more tiresome and annoying it will become and the longer it will take for them to ‘get used to it’. Which ultimately will effect adoption and overall perception.
It’s likely that, if this isn’t the first ‘redesign’ or big change that’s happened, many will already be suffering change fatigue or have a negative perception of change.
In an ideal world, everything they try, they like. They find the changes an improvement. But – even with the most amazing improvements, just like with lottery winners, there is a limit to how excited they’ll get and there’s a limit to how much they will have time to try.
Over time the changes will become the new normal. Frustrations will return. The world of Facebook or Instagram or ‘something’ will change and that will make your intranet look dated again.
The initial excitement will fade away and opinions of the intranet will return to where they were before the change.
Is there a better way?
It seems that a big part of the problem with big bang is that the size of the change is too high, and the frequency too low. The obvious alternative is small frequent change. But how can you make it work?
- “We can’t do frequent change because our development cycle is so long” – you don’t have to deploy everything as soon as it’s finished. There is nothing wrong with holding back some changes until the time is right.
- There’s only so much people can take in at one time – and there’s a limit to how much you can impress them. So, understand which elements of the change will excite people, which are just expected and which will have little or no impact. Try and batch the changes together into releases that only include one ‘exciting change’. Create a repeatable roll-out plan that includes communications and training. Be sure to focus on the ‘one exciting change’ and specifically how it benefits the individual’s ability to work better.
- The positive effects of change wear off over time and there is a finite amount of effort people will invest in learning something new – so, just as the last change becomes ‘old news’ and the training is complete, implement the next release of changes.
Which features will excite?
A key part of the approach is to understand which features are ‘wows’ and which features are not likely to inspire. How to do this is worthy of a separate post, but if you’re interested one way I like to understand this is to use the Kano Model.
The approach described above is known as ‘the long wow’ and is popular with many highly successful and admired brands. Nike+, Google and Apple are all renowned for their regular,incremental upgrades or feature releases. New capabilities that keep coming make their produces feel dynamic, evolving and current – and it pays off with loyalty and advocacy – their customers constantly upgrading to make use of the latest versions or becoming ambassadors for their brand.
Is long wow / constant change better than big bang?
Making an ongoing frequent release process effective means a change in approach for everyone.
For IT, it means stretching out the implementation phase of a project over a much longer period and gearing up development so that, by the time implementation of ‘project one’ is over, ‘project two’ has completed testing and is ready to go.
At the same time, it should make things easier for IT too – small releases are less pressure, less late nights and early mornings and less of a disaster if things go wrong.
For internal communications it means taking a much subtler approach. The fanfares and jazz hands associated with ‘big bang’ implementations quickly become tired, so communication needs to focus on what people can do ‘this week’ or ‘this month’ that they couldn’t do before. Rather than getting people excited and engaged around the communication, the excitement and engagement needs to come from the ongoing improvement of the intranet.
The approach of everyone involved needs to focus on making things as effortless and gradual as they can. Ensuring the process is predictable and repeatable.
Change will become the new constant and that will mean the intranet team needs to fit ‘bau stuff’ in and around the ongoing updates.
It’s a different approach, but one that’s proven successful for many big companies. If you can get it right it promises an easier, less stressful, life for the teams behind the intranet, and a site that’s better used, understood and perceived.
Let us know: Is this something you have tried? If not, what’s stopping you?