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SCHOOL OF INFORMATION MANAGEMENT
Strategies for dealing with end-user resistance
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:
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:
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:
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.
Frequency of use of strategies
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:
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.
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