Mar 21, 2016 8:08:22 AM by John Weathington
One of the biggest problems facing your job as a business analyst is unhappy end users. Sometimes it feels like you're more of a therapist than a business analyst. What's ironic and confusing is that you're simply delivering the solution they asked for to begin with! Sometimes they're upset because you didn't meet one of their implied requirements. However many times, it's because your end users don't realize their own unintended consequences. There's a way to avoid this. I have a technique that fosters the greatest level of engagement for the highest level of buy in. I call it sympathetic dialog.
Sympathetic dialog is an engagement style that involves two parts: understanding the end user's actual experience with the solution and then having a dialog with the end user about how to make it work. The key with sympathetic dialog is selecting the right person: let me give you a hint--it's not you. The person who should have a sympathetic dialog with your end user is someone who can resolve any organizational challenges when your solution is deployed. This is typically their immediate manager or supervisor. That's right, I'm suggesting that you bring your end user's manager into the development process.
Here's why. Your end user's manager typically has the ability (and responsibility) to make sure your end user is successful in their job. Even though your end user knows what their requirements are, they might not be sensitive to the bigger picture. Your new solution will likely come with new work processes and there's often inadequate thought about what the new process will look like once your solution is deployed. The end result is a solution that works as designed, but fails because of organizational roadblocks that the end user did not consider.
To avoid this, schedule time in your user acceptance testing (UAT) for a sympathetic dialog between your end user and his or her manager. It starts with getting your end user's manager to sympathize with what your end user's experience will be. After your end user is happy with UAT, have his or her manager simulate your end user's experience with the new solution. Perhaps provide a sample scenario that he or she can work through to get a real sense for how your end user will interact with the new solution. Once you're sure the manager understands what it will be like to be your end user, it's time to have a dialog.
Schedule a meeting with the two of them to talk about how the work processes will change as a result of the new solution. This isn't a meeting to discuss requirements changes--it's too late for that. Assuming the solution is going live as tested, the goal is to uncover any post-deployment roadblocks (process or otherwise). The manager is in the best position to clear these roadblocks--that's why it's important for him or her to sympathize with your end user's impending reality and then clear the path for a successful deployment.
The best way to get good buy in from your end users is to get his or her manager involved in a sympathetic dialog. Get the manager to sympathize with your end user by walking a few steps in the new shoes they're about to wear. Then schedule an honest dialog between the two of them to discuss possible roadblocks that need to be cleared. If your goal is to keep end users happy--this is one of the best techniques I know.
Written by John Weathington
John Weathington is President and CEO of Excellent Management Systems, Inc., a management consultancy that helps guide organizations to achieve strategic goals, improve critical processes, and leverage the power of information. For over 20 years, John has helped clients of all sizes including an impressive list of Fortune 100 firms to include Visa, PayPal (eBay), Hewlett Packard, Sun Microsystems, Hitachi Data Systems, Cisco, and Silicon Graphics. His unique blend of leadership, management, and technical talent and skills are a rare find in the consulting arena.