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Software Architect

The User Acceptance Problem

Book: 97 Things Every Software Architect Should Know
Publisher: O’Reilly Media
Author: Richard Monson-Haefel
97 Things Every Software Architect Should Know – 94/97

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People aren‘t always happy about new systems or major upgrades. This can pose a threat to the successful completion of a project.

It‘s not uncommon for people to disagree with the decision to implement a new system – especially at the beginning. This should be expected and the reasons noted. However, initial reactions to a new system is less of a concern than a sustained negative reaction.

Your goal as an Architect is to be aware of and measure the threat of acceptance problems and work towards mitigating those threats. To do this you have to be cognizant of them and consider the reasons for them. Some of the more common reasons are:

  1. People may have concerns about the need for a new system (and subsequent retirement of an old system). This can also include fear of loosing functionality or loosing influence or power when roles change.
  2. People fear new (unproven) technology.
  3. People have cost/budget concerns
  4. People simply do not like change.

Each of these reasons requires different possible solutions. Some of which you can address and others you can’t. You have to recognize the difference and deal quickly with those that you can. Start early, having discussions with your end users about the new system and its real and perceived benefits and disadvantages. The most effective long term solution is to use the design of the system itself to address the concerns. Other effective solutions include training, scheduled system demonstrations (early in the project lifecycle) and sharing knowledge of what users will get with a new system.

A “Project Champion” can help avoid user acceptance problems. Ideally this should be a person that represents the user group or stakeholders. They sometimes have to be convinced themselves. If there is none then push for one from the very beginning. Once you’ve recruited a Project Champion, give them your assistance in every way you can.

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By Swatantra Kumar

Swatantra is an Open Source evangelist, a technologist and researcher. Professionally, he does software development, software architecture, server administration and project management. When he's not writing software, he enjoys building web entities and servers, reading about and working with new technologies, and trying to get his friends to make the move to open source software. He's written, co-written and published many articles in international journals, on various domains/topics including Open Source, Networks, Computer Organization, Mobile Technologies, and Business Intelligence. He made a proposal for an information management system at University level during graduation days.

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