Communication and collaboration are not only critical to raising situational awareness, but can also help with the immediate and long-term effects of events. While many agencies are using software solutions to help in these efforts, research has shown many of them are struggling with user adoption. With any new implementation, company and organization leadership can receive pushback and challenges from those expected to use the solution. The purpose of this post is to define where administrators face problems with user adoption and outline strategies to address those challenges.
Most agencies and individuals go through the same process when deciding to implement an emergency management technology, the stages of which are identified in the chart below from Everett M. Rogers Diffusion of Innovations. Understanding these stages can help administrators prioritize tasks and focus on efforts that lead to end users actually using technology for emergency response.
As you may expect, administrators contribute heavily to the first two stages of the decision process by raising awareness of the solution and persuading people to use it. Raising awareness can be accomplished with a product demonstration, formal announcements, end-user training and so forth. However, persuading end users to adopt the technology can be much more difficult. Consequently, the remainder of this post highlights important topics and strategies that administrators can use to convince others to adopt emergency management technology.
Every organization is made up of individuals with varying levels of affinity with or opposition to technology. Each segment of the end-user community is motivated by different factors, as identified in the list below (from Diffusion of Innovations, by Everett M. Rogers).
These are the technology enthusiasts who require the shortest adoption period and can become gatekeepers for the next group of adopters.
Early Adopters – Visionaries
People in this bracket are attracted by high-risk/high-reward projects and are seen as adoption leaders and role models by their peers.
Early Majority – Pragmatists
Unlike innovators and early adopters, these people avoid risk and are reluctant to accept the unknown. Budget is extremely important to them and being able to rely on easy-to-use applications is a must.
Late Majority – Conservatives
Similar to early majority individuals, this group is skeptical and cost conscious, though they do respond to peer pressure if solutions are shown to be proven trends within the industry.
Laggards – Skeptics
This group believes that technology is a hindrance to operations and only invests in it if alternatives clearly produce worse results.
Seat belts, bicycle helmets, and self-contained breathing apparatus used by firefighters are just a few examples of innovations that offered a very clear benefit and yet took years to be adopted by the majority of the population. Likewise, emergency management technology processes may offer a great deal of potential value, but still take years to be fully adopted.
The good news is there are effective strategies to speed up the adoption rate. The items below describe the characteristics of innovations, such as software solutions, that have been proven to have a direct, positive impact on the adoption rate.
Relative Advantage: The degree to which an innovation is perceived as being better than an existing/prior solution.
Compatibility: The degree to which an innovation is perceived to be consistent/compatible with the values and norms of a social system.
Complexity: The degree to which an innovation is perceived as difficult to understand/use.
Trial Ability: The degree to which an innovation can be experimented with on a limited basis.
Observability: The degree to which the results of an innovation are visible to others.
The challenge of increasing user adoption is shared by emergency managers across the world. To address this situation, start with understanding the decision process and where administrators can make a positive contribution. Additionally, you can gain momentum through understanding your audience, acknowledging the characteristics of software solutions that impact the rate of adoption and recognizing the need to address all determinant factors leading to the intent to use the software. These are key strategies you can employ. Now that you have a solid understanding of the challenges you face with the adoption of emergency management technology, you have a greater chance of cultivating buy-in across your audiences.