Case: Using the curve

Situation

It's an older case, going back 10 years, but was an excellent education in how the early adopter curve can work in practice.  An insurance company was still using paper manuals for their underwriting instructions but one of their executives was keen to reap the benefits of technology.  He championed the case for going online and moving all manuals to a web-based database. 

Tersago's role

Program lead: responsible for database development and enhancements, integration of paper manuals and on-boarding of business units, content management, training and communications. 

Approach

Ten business units were approached to move from paper manual to web-based repository.  Initially, only the executive champion was willing to take the step, but once the database was built and first round of content posted, another business unit followed.

Once it was clear that the database was up to the job and was proving it's cost-effectiveness, the business units were approached again.  This time with more success and additional manuals were moved into the system.  At this stage, the database had been live for over 18 months and used by several thousand people, it was time to ask the users what they thought.  An online survey was duly sent out and returned.  The survey results were generally positive but some user-friendliness issues had been highlighted and suggestions made.

The feedback was incorporated in a later release and a clear write up of the survey results, along with feedback on which suggestions where implemented and which ones not (and why) was shared with the survey takers.  Not only did this improve the actual system, it generated positive publicity for the system and how it was being managed. 

Finally, the two remaining teams decided to migrate their paper manuals - being a holdout had lost its appeal now that the system had been widely accepted and was well-regarded.

Results

In this case the early adopters, inspired by technology needed little convincing to move online.  Thankfully, as they paid for the initial database and training.  This provided us with a system to show the others: it made the system a real option and demonstrated its accessibility.  Rational reasons like cost benefits and ease of updating content were increasingly mentioned and swayed several units' decisions to migrate to the new platform.  Finally, the two units lagging behind were starting to feel like the odd ones out, going on-line was increasingly seen as inevitable and eventually peer pressure won out. 

Take-away

It can take patience, but if you allow people to make decisions for their own reasons you can bring them on board with much less wasted energy and effort on your part.   The early adopter curve is typically associated with technology, like in this case, but it can work with other changes as well and it's a useful guide for where to direct your time and efforts for most impact.