Can a “Code of Conduct” Increase IT Adoption in Your Organization?


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Many universities have Honor Codes or Codes of Conduct that guide students and teachers on how they should act when faced with uncomfortable situations or ethical challenges. For example, if students see others cheat on an exam or plagiarize work the Code of Conduct makes it clear that they have an obligation to report it or else they are as guilty as the person who did the cheating.

While some students complain about the Codes of Conduct, many have found them very helpful. The Codes make it easy for people to do the right thing, while also giving them social protection for taking appropriate, though potentially unpopular, action.

Users face lots of ambiguous situations

Give me ambiguity or give me something else -- like a clear code of conduct.Like college students, users of enterprise IT systems face challenging and ambiguous situations when they encounter others not using the systems as required.

For example, when helping an organization improve user adoption of the CRM system, we found situations where users in the sales organization did not enter the information that was required by the service department to respond to customers.

Similarly, we found instances where the customer service representatives did not enter information that the finance users needed to invoice the customer. In another situation, users in the marketing department were flooding the system with dirty data, making it impossible for sales users to know what was a quality lead and what was a waste of time.

People need guidance how to act in different situations

In each situation, I asked the user who encountered the problem what they did when they found they could not use the system because of the way other people had used (or not) the system.

What I found was astounding. Some people just stopped using the system. Others would talk to the offending person and ask them to fix it. Others went and complained to their manager.

What was clear was that there was no single “right” way to handle these problem situations. No one had ever instructed the users what they should do when others had not done their job.

Codes of Conduct help people take desired action

Give people guidance on how you want them to act.

Whenever I ask clients what actions they want people to take when they are unable to use the system because someone else has processed a transaction incorrectly in the system or not entered the required information. Consistently the response I get is some variation of, “no one has ever asked me that before”.

Defining a Code of Conduct that gives guidelines and directions for appropriate actions to take when others are not using the system can increase user adoption by doing the right thing and giving them social protection for taking appropriate, though potentially unpopular, actions.

Possible options the user could take include:

• resolving the issue directly with the individual who did not enter the required information

• reporting it to their immediate supervisor to resolve the issue

• informing the supervisor of the offending individual so their supervisor takes action

• reporting the issue to the help desk so the help desk people can resolve it or

• taking some other action

The point here is this: There are several courses of action any given individual could take in this all too common situation. Without a Code of Conduct, users don’t know which one they should take.

Since you can’t define business processes for every possible situation, a general Code of Conduct that helps users know how to act in the face of uncertainty is another tool that can deliver great results.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Jason Whitehead
Jason Whitehead is CEO of Tri Tuns, LLC, an organizational effectiveness consultancy specializing in driving and sustaining effective user adoption of IT systems. He works at the intersection of technology, process, culture and people to help clients actually achieved measurable business benefits from their technology investments.


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