The past couple of months have been exciting for the team connected with the Defense Security Cooperation Agency’s GlobalNET project. We have launched a number of different centers on the new platform, and so far response to the new system has been positive. This has been a large milestone that has taken us a year of hard work to accomplish. Our biggest challenge in going live was helping existing users make the transition from the old system to GlobalNET.
Change management is a problem that plagues every application roll out, especially when the new application is vastly different from the old one. On top of traditional issues with change management, we faced additional challenges in helping users make the transition. First, our users did not necessarily need to use the system. GlobalNET competes with Facebook, Flickr, and other collaboration platforms on the Internet. This means we needed to create a compelling web site that would draw users back. Another challenge is that we had a user base of over 17,000 users from across the world. There was simply no way to train each of the users, not to mention the language barriers that existed. One last issue was that the stakeholders were anxious about losing some control when the system moved to a multi-tent platform focused on user-generated content. To address these challenges, the GlobalNET team created a plan to successfully move users over to the new system.
One of the first things we did was to create a video that introduced the users to the new system, both on the existing sites and on YouTube (http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=z04JZdFQsJ8). The video took users through new features, concepts, and user interface of the new site. To ensure that administrators at each of the centers could properly respond to user questions, we had multiple training sessions to walk through the new system and allowed the admins to use the staging server to familiarize themselves with GlobalNET. Within the staging area, admins could freely test ideas and make mistakes without affecting the production environment. Now that GlobalNET has gone live, the administrators are fully equipped to respond to users because they have been using the system for months. The team also created comprehensive help documentation to guide users through the system. The guide is fully searchable so users can easily find the information they need. Finally, GlobalNET provides a feedback section where users and stakeholders can ask questions and provide comments about the system. The development team collects this data and continually makes usability changes to the system to ensure users can get to the information they need quickly. Now, approximately three months after going live, based on the positive responses of the users, we feel that the steps that we took helped to provide for a smooth transition to the new web site.
Of course, even if the change management plan is executed perfectly there will always be stakeholders who don’t want to change how they do business. We continue to see pockets of resistance in the changes that have occurred in the system, but we do our best to work with the stakeholders to help them assimilate to the new website. Overall, due to proper training and support, the majority of users are making the leap from the old system to the new system with little problems.