User resistance is a common occurrence when new information systems are implemented and can contribute to a failure of the systems implementations.




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SCHOOL OF INFORMATION MANAGEMENT


Strategies for dealing with end-user resistance

1Overview


User resistance is a common occurrence when new information systems are implemented and can contribute to a failure of the systems implementations. This research reviewed the literature on the reasons for end-user resistance and identified a number of strategies that could be used for dealing with end-user resistance, such as:

  • end-user support,

  • participation,

  • communication,

  • training and

  • consultant involvement on a project.


Furthermore, this research investigated effectiveness of these strategies for dealing with end-user resistance based on the opinions of IT project managers; and studied how frequently these strategies are used on IT projects. The results of this research showed that:

  • IT project managers use all identified strategies on their IT projects;

  • Various forms of communication, end-user participation and support have been rated as the most frequently used strategies;

  • IT project managers rated end-user participation and communication strategies as the most effective for dealing with end-user resistance.



2Strategies for dealing with end-user resistance


End-user’s resistance to information technology (IT) is a common occurrence when new information systems are implemented and can greatly contribute to failure of newly implemented systems (Adams, Berner & Wyatt, 2004). IT systems have become larger and more complex. They involve large sets of challenges that impact organisations and people on many levels. Overcoming these challenges is not only essential but it is a must for a successful IT project. Human factors contribute to some of the most important issues that play a part in a project’s success or failure. One of the indicators of a successful IT project is determined by how much it is used by its users.
An end-user is any individual who interacts with a system. Resistance is often identified as a response to change that can result in reluctance to use a new system or technology. End-user resistance is a complex phenomenon. It can have various forms such as sabotage of computer equipment, employees being absent or late to work, "badmouthing" of systems, not using the systems or continuing to use the old system (Adams et. al., 2004). It can introduce unexpected delays, costs and instabilities into a project. Thus, resistance can become an ongoing problem at both individual and organisational levels (Lorenzi & Riley, 2000).
End-user resistance could be a result of various factors such as innate resistance to change, lack of involvement in the development and implementation processes, lack of management support, poor technical quality which makes the system appear “unfriendly”, inadequate or improper training, unclear benefits of the new system, lack of user support and poor interaction between the designers and users (Henry, 2004; Coe, 1996; Adams et. al., 2004)
The goal of this research was to identify strategies that could be used to deal with end-user resistance on IT projects; investigate the effectiveness of these strategies and whether or not they are used IT project managers within New Zealand. The academic literature was reviewed to identify the strategies. Among identified strategies were:

  • End-user participation. Some examples of user participation include leadership of project team, participating in cost and benefit evaluation, defining requirements, evaluating system prototypes and performing user acceptance testing.

  • End-user training. Some examples of training include conceptual training (presenting end-users with an overview of how the system is organized and how it works), procedural training (involves explaining to end-users how to use specific set of the system functionality), self-taught (involves end-users learning a new system by themselves by means of trial and discovery), just-in-time (training occurs just prior to implementation of the new information system) and staged training (involves breaking up training into smaller training sessions).

  • End-user support. Some examples of end-user support involve helping users with internally developed or purchased applications, helping them with hardware use or problems and providing support for work performed on a computer (Yager et. al., 2002).

  • Communication. Communication can take place in several forms such as oral, written and non-verbal. Some examples of communication are newsletters, e-mails, noticeboards, making information available on the intranet and direct face-to-face meetings.

  • Consultant involvement. IT consultants serve as a catalyst for change by influencing a client's IT decisions. They can help to implement applications successfully and ensure that users adapt to new changes (Hibbard 1998; Markus and Benjamin 1997).



3Results


A total of 50 valid responses have been collected. The majority of responses came from Wellington region. Other responses came from Auckland, Canterbury and Waikato regions. The responses came from participants working for large, medium-sized and small IT companies.
The results of this study showed that IT project managers use all of the identified strategies on their IT projects. Among identified strategies various forms of communication, end-user participation and support have been rated as most frequently used strategies. A summary of frequency of use of various forms of strategies has been presented in Table 1 below.
Table 1

Frequency of use of strategies

Strategy

Frequency of Use

Often

Sometimes/On Some Projects

Occasionally

Communication strategy


Communication by means of e-mail, face-to-face and phone;

Meeting up with end-user to discuss any issues or concerns.


Communicating with end-users by means of teleconferencing and making information available via a website;


Communication by means of newsletters.

End-user participation


End-user participation during any of the stages of IT project;

End-users performing user acceptance testing;

Involving end-users in system testing.


Building prototypes and involving end-users in prototype assessment and evaluation;

Encouraging end-users to appoint a formal user-liaison to the project team;





End-user training





Providing training before, during and after system implementation;

Providing one-off training to end-users;

Providing stage-wise training to end-users.

Repetitive training sessions

End-user support

Providing end-user support after system implementation;


Giving end-users that were involved in the project support during system implementation;




Consultant involvement




Consultant involvement in the project;






The results also showed that participation and communication strategies were rated by IT project managers as the most effective strategies for dealing with end-user resistance. End-user support and training were also rated as effective but user participation and communication were rated significantly higher than user support and training. Consultant involvement on the projects was rated as somehow effective but was rated significantly lower than other strategies.
End user’s participation and communication strategies empower users and increases their sense of control, intention, positive attitude, perceived usefulness and self-efficacy. The present research provided further evidence for effectiveness of user participation and communication strategies to deal with end-user resistance. The findings highlighted that end-user’s involvement in development processes and effective communication structures greatly impact end-user’s acceptance and are critical to an IT project’s success. They are perceived as significantly more effective by IT project managers compared to other possible strategies such as user training and support.
End-user training and support strategies were also rated to be effective for dealing with end-user resistance. Effective training and support can reduce end-user’s fear of interaction with a new system and change their perception of a new system, therefore reducing computer anxiety (Doronia, 1995). Training and support also increase user’s perceptions of how easy a system is to use. If users are sufficiently familiar with a system and understand the benefits of that system (the role of user training) and there is a support structure that helps them achieve their goals (the role of user support), the system is perceived as an easy to use system (Davis et. al., 1989; Brown et. al., 2002).
The results of the present study have shown that a large number of project managers (78%) train users by means of both presenting users with an overview of the system and teaching specific parts of the system. According to Coe (1996) this is the best way of teaching end-users as the users are provided with a complete mental picture of the new system, thus getting more value out of training.
Further results revealed that project managers who use self-teaching training technique experience less user-resistance. This might suggest that end-user resistance can be avoided by extending the self-teaching culture by means of manual, online structured course, help file, CD, etc within the organization. Users require their own time to learn the new material and this can potentially lead to end-user resistance (Malhotra and Galleta, 2004). However, this study is consistent with previous research where self-teaching technique was found to be effective for dealing with end-user resistance (Doronina, 1995).
Furthermore, the results showed positive correlation between end-user resistance and end-user support after system implementation. This can initially be interpreted that post-implementation user support might increase end-user resistance. However, this could be an indication that projects with high end-user resistance required more end-user support after the system has been implemented. This could be an example of the overhead costs involved with a system that poorly prevented end-user resistance.
The findings also suggested that organizations that make use of external IT support structures experience more end-user resistance. This could be an indication that supporting users through an external IT department is not an effective way to deal end-user resistance. Further analysis revealed that IT project managers whose companies provide users with support through IT helpdesk services, experience less negative impact on a project’s success caused by user-resistance. This finding supports previous research and suggests that end-user support through IT helpdesk services is an effective way of dealing with end-user resistance (Marcella & Middleton, 1996).
Further, participants were asked to give a brief description of strategies that they used for dealing with end-user resistance. Some of these strategies are listed below:

  • Make use of champions.

  • User centered design.

  • ADKAR (Aware, Desire, Knowledge, Ability).

  • Promotion of benefits of the system to the users.

  • Deal with most resistant users first and do a pilot deployment initially with the group of most resistant users to resolve issues and get user buy in.

  • Top management support and user incentives.

  • Iterative approach.


To conclude, this research helped to identify a number of strategies that could be used to deal with end-user resistance. These strategies were end-user support, participation, communication, training, learning culture and consultant involvement in a project. These strategies either empower end-users to participate in the project or give support and encourage end-users to learn about new the application. The results of this research showed that IT project managers use all identified strategies on their IT projects. The results also showed that participation and communication strategies were rated by IT project managers as the most effective strategies for dealing with end-user resistance.

4 References


Adams B., Berner E and Wyatt J. R. (2004) Applying Strategies to Overcome User Resistance in a Group of Clinical Managers to a Business Software Application: A Case Study. Journal of Organizational and End User Computing;16 (4);  pg. 55, 10 pgs.
Brown S.A., Massey A.P., Montoya-Weiss M. M. and Burkman J.R. (2002). Do I really have to? User Acceptance of mandated technology. European Journal of Information Systems. 11 (4), pp. 283–295.
Coe L. R.(1996).Five small secrets to systems success. Information Resources Management Journal; 9 (4). pg. 29.
Davis F. D., Bagozzi R. P. and Warshaw P. R (1989). User Acceptance Of Computer Technology: A Comparison Of Two. Management Science; 35(8); pg. 982.
Doronina, O V. (1995).Fear of computers: Its nature, prevention, and cure. Russian Social Science Review.  36(4);  pg. 79.
Henry J. W. (1994). Resistance to Computer-based Technology in the Workplace: Causes and Solutions. Executive Development; 7 (1).
Hibbard, J. (1998). Cultural breakthrough. Information Week, 21 (701), 44-55.
Lorenzi, N.M., & Riley, R.T. (2000). Managing change. Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association, 7 (2), 116-124. Retrieved May 1, 2006 from: http://www.helina.org/helina/files/Lorenzi%20Change.pdf
Malhotra Y. and Galletta D. F. (2004). Building systems that users want to use. Communications of the ACM; 47(12); pgs 88-94.
Marcella R. & Middleton I. (1996). The role of the help desk in the strategic management of information systems. OCLC Systems and Services; 12 (4); 4pgs.
Markus, M L.; Benjamin, R. I (1997). The Magic Bullet Theory in IT-Enabled Transformation. Sloan Management Review; 38 (2); pg 55.
Russell D. M, Hoag A. M. (2004). People and information technology in the supply chain: Social and organizational influences on adoption. International Journal of Physical Distribution & Logistics Management. 34 (1/2); p. 102.
Yager S. E,  Schrage J. Fand & Berry R. L. (2002) Preparing end user support specialists. Journal of Education for Business; 78 (2);  pg. 92.




Lidia Litchkovakha

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