Oscar Berg did some digging and found an article discussing the challenges of adopting email in the early days of email. He asks, "Do these adoption challenges sound familiar?"
As a number of passionate employees are trying to introduce a new communication system that allows employees to communicate with each other in new and potentially more efficient ways, they are confronted with a number of challenges...
And oh, boy do they sound familiar. He tees up the article such that you could drop in just about any technology, particularly the social software that we are so excited about today.
I also like the find that he quotes in the article that email was being developed and promoted by people excited with the technology, not to fill a specific business demand. There are many changes out there being driven more by the enthusiasm of the promoters, and their vision of the ideas being valuable. There is nothing wrong with this per se - we need to have people exploring and trying new things.
One of the challenges, though, is that once the "new thing" becomes established, the "old thing" still has a draw for many people. And usually the "old thing" has been built into the flow of work, and it is not a simple matter of plug-and-play, as the interface to the rest of work is different. That means that along with the change to a new tool, the other aspects of work need to be changed too. This is the part that enthusiasts (me included!) either miss or downplay in our excitement.
We need to do a better job of helping our colleagues - and helping ourselves - see the whole picture. Listen to the struggles people have in making (or thinking about) a switch. Consider how the current tools support this. Consider what people are trying to do. Does the new way help people do that task? Is it that much better, or simply different?
Note: I am switching back and forth between talking about software specifically and talking about change in general. The thinking applies either way.
[Photo: "Renault 12 Familiar" by .Robert.]