New release to manage? Top tips on communicating, educating and activating users.

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As IT Professionals, it is all too easy to lose sight of the impact our daily job can have on the poor, unsuspecting species known as the ‘user’. It could be said that having spent the last 20 plus years entirely working in or around the IT industry, I am both long in the tooth and set in my ways. One is probably true, I sincerely hope that the latter is not. Those of us not willing to change will indeed wither and fade.

Twenty years ago the needs and wants of the user were a secondary consideration, what equipment we used, what the applications and devices were capable of and looked like and indeed the user experience was not foremost in the minds of the designer or implementer. This may not be true across the board but I certainly have been subjected to some seriously poor implementations in both the public and private sectors.

Today the needs and wants of the user seem to be a primary consideration which can only be a good thing. Not only should applications be designed to make the human computer interaction as easy and intuitive as possible but the actual deployment and updating of the solution should also take users into consideration.

This is not a new idea. The IT Infrastructure Library (ITIL) has a section covering Release Management

 

6.3.4 Release and deployment management

The purpose of the release and deployment management process is to plan, schedule and control the building, testing and deployment of releases, and to deliver new functionality

required by the business while protecting the integrity of existing services.

 Definition: release

One or more changes to an IT service that are built, tested and deployed together. A single release may include changes to hardware, software, documentation, processes and other components.

 Effective release and deployment delivers significant business value by delivering changes at optimized speed, risk and cost, and offering a consistent, appropriate and auditable implementation of usable and useful services.

 Release and deployment management covers the whole build, test and implementation of new or changed services, from planning through to early life support.

 As a headline set of principles, this is laudable, however, the communication and training process is critical to the acceptance of a system by its users. No matter how good the product, if it does win the ‘hearts and minds’ it is unlikely to succeed.

For that reason the IT Pro has to not only be marketing savvy but actually should be a proficient marketer too.

It may not be possible to outline to all users the detailed roadmap and dates of new products or even of significant updates to current products for a number of reasons. These could range from political, financial and even business critical reasons.

It should though, be possible to provide a comprehensive outline of what to expect as a user. Once the roadmap is revealed, then the communication of any significant outages, product limitations and even of required training or activation processes becomes critical to the success of a release.

It is useless to have a sophisticated IT service if the users are not able to make the most of it due to lack of communication or training in addition to all the other ITIL processes shown below.

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To produce a fully rounded release requires all of the processes. To market it well and to deliver it successfully relies upon Communication and training.

So if you are an IT Pro considering deploying something new to users, have you thought about;

 

  • A SharePoint site developed purely for this release for all users to be able to access documentation, FAQ’s and even e-learning training courses.
  •  Working with the Developers to make sure that it is the users that matter not just the potential ‘throw it over the wall’ type deployment – from Dev to Ops to user. Visual Studio Online and Visual Studio work very well together to provide a rounded development solution.
  • Providing an email alias for users to submit questions and heaven forbid – bugs to.
  • Provide regular feedback to the users either through the SharePoint site or a web site (Microsoft Azure is good for hosting this, of course).

With the speed of releases increasing for all types of deployment from minor updates to completely new solutions, the user could easily get forgotten, this is not a good idea.

 

Remember the old adage ‘hell hath no fury like a user scorned’, or something like that.