What puts the “dead” in “deadline”?

“Companies certainly shouldn’t expect overnight success…. on average, it takes one to two years past initial deployment for companies to reach their target adoption rates for social technologies.”

The above quote, from from Ann All’s post on Underwhelming Adoption of Social Technologies in the Enterprise, caught my eye as we inch closer to the rollout of SharePoint 2010. I certainly consider SharePoint a “social technology” so this insight definitely stood out to me. I am ever more concerned with post-deployment outcomes and making sure we are ready for the other side of that deadline date.

All’s post led me to this post by Laurie Buczek. Buczek refers, somewhat dejectedly, to an unsuccessful project which she walked away from after 2 years: “We deployed just another tool amongst a minefield of other collaborative tools – without integration. To make it even harder, we underinvested in transition change management.”

Clearly, flipping the switch is not enough. What happens next is the true indicator of the life or death of the project. Are you ready for the aftermath? Do you have a long-term training strategy? Do you have a dedicated support structure? Will users know what to do when they need help? Do they understand how the new product mixes with the old ones?  If you cannot answer YES to all of these questions, you may find yourself wanting to take the same walk Buczek did.

Of course no one expects instant adoption. But what DO they expect? Is there an adoption strategy? How will you know if you’re on track? Will you be able to point to metrics that indicate whether adoption is even occurring? What are the key performance indicators?

Planning and preparation are not a waste of time. As pointed out above, they are investments. They pay off later, which is why they are so often pushed aside in favor of “right now” deliverables demanding faster turnaround. But they matter. Their absence is a colossal risk.