By Nick Bathke

You’ve successfully created your Circle of Trust and you’ve navigated the dangerous waters of Executive Sponsorship, so what’s next? Let’s talk User Groups.

You can go into a project with the best communications plan, a great training series, and an effective marketing campaign and still find that some users are hesitant to embrace change or may be openly hostile about the change. What gives?

One thing you may not have considered is User Groups–including how to properly define them, and then tailor the communications, training, and marketing to them. Let’s walk through it together!

Forest, meet trees

Wise people will often say “don’t lose sight of the forest for the trees,” but in this case, we will encourage you to ignore that completely. Instead, we want you to lose sight of the forest and focus in on the trees. What does that mean?

Don’t assume you can lump all users into one group and communicate, train, and market to them as one. Each user group is a tree that we want to identify and define. If you’ve read this far, you’ve likely already started to think about user groups within your organization. If you haven’t, check out the list below to get you started:

  • Executives
  • Executive assistants/admins
  • Sales
  • Customer Service
  • Marketing
  • Manufacturing
  • HR

Easy enough, right? At this point, you can layer on more variables to further narrow down user groups. Does your organization have multiple locations? Do those locations sit in separate time zones? Are there multiple languages within your locations? You can see that quickly these questions can add up, but their importance cannot be understated!

What did we miss?

Why does it matter if you’ve defined these groups? Let’s run through a simple example to illustrate the importance of user groups.

You are in charge of change management for a new email system at a company with 400 users. Your plan includes a robust communications plan for end users, such as emails and digital signage. You’ve scheduled enough trainings over a large period of time to cover all users, and you worked with marketing to blanket the campus with posters and desk-drops.

But, the Customer Service team uses a special plug-in for their email that no other users need, and it’s imperative to their day-to-day jobs. No communications mention if it will be available in the new email system, and your trainers aren’t aware of how to use or install it. And, even though there are posters throughout the Customer Service area, none of them mention this vital plug-in.

You can probably guess the ramifications of this, right? The Customer Service team is confused (at best) or hostile (at worst) in the lead up to the email change. Even if you react to this quickly, the Customer Service team will still be wary of the change because a core piece of their workflow was ignored.

What’s the lesson? Taking the time up front to identify the user groups will save you headaches and heartaches once the change is underway!

There are many pitfalls in a change project, and you’ve probably encountered a few in your past projects. But we often find that many pitfalls link back to not properly identifying a user group up front. Once you have defined your user groups you can figure out if they have unique needs and avoid the project-stopping plug-in situation from above.

Have you gone through this exercise before? Any big successes or pitfalls you learned from? Let us know in the comments below how you work to define your user groups, we’d love to hear from you!