Models and Theories in Human-Computer Interaction/Diffusion of Innovation - ERP Implementation

Diffusion is defined as the process by which innovation is communicated through certain channels over time among members of social systems. The Diffusion of Innovation model is extremely useful when you have to roll out a software change across a broad group of individuals. My personal experience with this relates to a recent ERP system I was responsible for implementing at a manufacturing company with 400 system users.

To be successful and stay on track to our deadline and budget we had to consider all the characteristics of the technology. The users had to believe in the relative advantage they would see from the new system. They had to understand the compatibility with their current processes and the complexity had to support users at various levels of education and experience. We had to have extensive trialability to train and prepare users and, finally, we had to have measureable observability to gage our progress and estimate our probability of success and our state of readiness for the final implementation.

A key characteristic of this implementation was related to the categories of adaptors and how we managed our training process across the categories. We found that we could not put individuals from diverse categories together for training, this created friction. But, if we grouped trainees that had similar styles together we could speed up the slower adaptors. For example; we could not put early adopters with laggards because the laggards would become frustrated and the early adopters would become impatient. But we could put laggards with the early majority so they could see that the ‘majority’ was making a transition and this gave them a feeling that they too would be able to change.

Another important component of our ERP implementation was the pre-diffusion phase. This was made more manageable by the creation of a team of experts from each department across the company so they could recognize potential roadblocks and research solutions before a broader deployment was started. In our final phase we actually tracked, logged and reported the individual training hours of each employee on the new ERP system. We then required employees to sign-off on a proficiency statement that was verified by their respective team member from the expert pre-diffusion team I mentioned above.

All in all the Diffusion of Innovation model was an excellent tool that significantly contributed to our success.