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Implementation of Technology in Online Communities

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Online community managers tasked with implementing new technology grapple with a host of unique challenges. Their multifaceted roles often span technical development and implementation. Within the dynamic realm of online communities, these managers must cater to diverse internal stakeholders, confront legitimate resistance to change, find the right balance of promotion, select optimal implementation sites, and designate an overarching authority figure. Achieving effective technology assimilation mandates a harmonious convergence of developer and user perspectives.

A Marketing-Oriented Approach to Implementation

A marketing-oriented perspective prompts implementation managers to seek early user involvement in identifying and refining the alignment between a technology product and user requirements. This approach involves preparing the user organization to embrace the innovation, facilitating a shift in innovation ownership to users, and enhancing product design through user collaboration.

The Crucial Role of User Involvement

Engaging users during the design phase of new technology significantly enhances user satisfaction. However, the extent, timing, and nature of user involvement must be thoughtfully tailored to each company's unique context. Effective implementation necessitates substantial early investments by developers, coupled with sustained allocation of resources to user organizations. An illustrative example portrays an implementation initiative in a large communications and computer company that faced derailment due to the inadequacy of the user organization's infrastructure.

Iterative Information Gathering Framework

Implementation managers must cultivate an iterative framework to guide information gathering across all groups impacted by the innovation. This process entails a continuous cycle of seeking information, digesting insights, and initiating another active information-seeking phase. Implementation managers orchestrate this iterative information-gathering process, recognizing its varying importance at different stages of implementation.

Tailoring the Approach to Different Stakeholder Groups

The organizational level at which managers delineate a problem or requirement correlates with the likelihood of successful implementation. Nevertheless, the closer the problem's definition and solution align with end-users, the higher the likelihood of success. Implementation managers must adeptly tailor their approach to suit the perspective of each stakeholder group.

Fostering User Ownership of Technology

Mobilizing top management support for new technology, without concurrent inclusion of user organizations in decision-making, proves inadequate. It is equally critical for users to cultivate a sense of "ownership" over the technology. Managers should institute mechanisms and timeframes for knowledge transfer from experienced workers to developers.

The Role of Opinion Leaders

Managers exert significant influence on the diffusion of new systems by identifying opinion leaders among potential users. These leaders, often distinguished by technical proficiency, can substantially shape the technology's adoption trajectory. However, they may not always be the most skilled practitioners and may fall outside the typical group norms.

Balancing Promotion and Realism

The dynamics of promotion versus hype play a pivotal role in innovation implementation. Excessive hype can lead to inflated expectations and subsequent disillusionment if the technology's performance falls short. This issue is particularly pronounced with novel and unconventional technologies.

The Significance of Pilot Operations

Piloting a technology before its widespread introduction in a large organization serves two essential purposes: as an experimental verification of technical feasibility for top management and as a credible model for other units. However, reconciling these two purposes can be challenging, as the success of the pilot may not necessarily translate to broader organizational benefits.

Strategic Site Selection

Choosing the optimal implementation site is a strategic decision with far-reaching implications. The physical and organizational characteristics of the initial site profoundly influence the subsequent user groups and their readiness for technology adoption. Distance should be evaluated relative to the existing routine rather than against an absolute benchmark.

Conclusion: Navigating the Complex Landscape of Innovation Implementation

Implementation managers must weigh the role of opinion leaders, the significance of pilot operations, and the strategic choice of the initial site in shaping the success of innovation. Placement of new technology within the user organization demands careful consideration to maximize user adoption. By involving opinion leaders in the planning process, managers can facilitate smoother implementation and demonstrate the technology's value to a wider audience. However, striking the right balance is essential, with new technology ideally situated near adaptable workers open to change but not drastically different from those whose resistance may deter adoption.

Ensuring Effective Implementation

To ensure effective implementation, an implementation team should encompass a sponsor, champion, project manager, and integrator. More than one person can fulfill each role, and an individual may take on multiple responsibilities. Among these individuals, one must possess sufficient organizational clout to mobilize necessary resources, including developer and user participation. Fostering user ownership of the technology can cultivate a power base that propels the innovation forward. However, enthusiasm alone is insufficient; it requires the establishment of a supportive infrastructure and allocation of limited resources for implementation site preparation.

Addressing Resistance to Innovation

Resistance to innovation must be anticipated, often stemming from implementation plan oversights or errors. Tacit resistance can escalate into sabotage or manifest later when resources are depleted. To overcome resistance, managers should nurture support for the new technology and anticipate potential user concerns. Common sources of opposition include apprehension regarding skill or power loss, the absence of apparent personal benefits, and fear of diminished political influence.

Maximizing Personal Benefits

The visibility of personal benefits arising from innovation should be emphasized for potential users, as these advantages may not be immediately discernible to the operators upon whom innovation success hinges. Managers should facilitate the visibility of these benefits through encouragement from supervisors and timely feedback on the technology's impact on worker productivity. Swift positive feedback enhances benefit visibility.

Converting Resistance into Advocacy

Converting resistance into advocacy poses a formidable challenge in technology implementation. As the competitive landscape shifts and technology's systematic implications become more pronounced, managers will encounter a distinctive array of implementation hurdles. This necessitates the creation of organizations adaptable to continuous adjustment, adaptation, and ongoing learning.

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