Doing old things in an old way on a new platform (and fail)

The biggest mistake you can make when introducing something new, is to keep the process exactly the same. About ten years ago my bank decided to put all the forms that customers needed online. At first it seemed really great until I discovered you could fill out the form online and than you had to print it and send it by mail (the old fashioned non digital edition) to the nearest office.

Standard behavior, standard mistakes

This is a typical example of a company moving an existing process to another platform. It is also a very typical mistake: doing the process that always worked in exact the same way on a new platform (just with minor changes so the new platform would fit in). What this bank forgot, was that putting the forms online wasn’t helpful at all, even worse: I have had to do more work than I used to to send this simple form to my bank since they introduced the extra step of printing.

This might be just an example of a bank with a few forms, however I often see the same thing happening when collaboration software is introduced. For example a Wiki is implemented to speed up to collaboration on documents and to reduce the e-mail overload. However instead of less e-mail, people get more e-mail (since they subscribed to updates of each page) and instead of speeding up the collaboration it is slowed down due to the fact they treat the Wiki as a word document and create a new Wiki page for each new version of a document.

New things, new processes

It might be obvious, however if you introduce something new such as collaboration software, you have to adjust your processes. First of all, everything that is in the standard process will be adopted and secondly software is supportive for processes, software alone doesn’t make a real improvement. When you introduce something like a Wiki because you think it will increase productivity, take your team and rethink the process in which the Wiki will be used.

And more important: make sure the new thing is easier and better than the old thing: people have a hard time in adapting themselves, however when there is an advantage for adapting, it happens a lot quicker.