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User Resistance in IS/IT Projects

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If you've been involved in rolling out a project, any project, you will inevitably face resistance from one or more users. This is also an aching issue in IT as advancement in technology will lead to companies changing and upgrading systems to operate more efficiently. The senario is usually like so: Some can't wait for the new roll out, some don't really care about the change, and some strongly oppose, wanting to stay with the familiar system they've been operating for years, even decades.

What is user resitance?
User resistance in IT is the adverse reaction or opposition of users to perceived or anticipated changes to a new information system implementation. Resistance can be destructive if it creates conflict, obstruction, and causes overrun of resources. But resistance can also be constructive if it pinpoints the weaknesses of the new system to be implemented. 

User resistance can manifest in many ways: apathy by inaction and disinterest; passive resistance by refusal and protests; active resistance by forceful complaints and stirring up conflicts; and aggressive resistance by rebelling, posing ultimatums and even sabotage.

What drives user resistance?
We can understand user resistance as a reaction to perceived threats. People may feel like they are losing control, feel resentment of being undermined, fear losing their jobs because they are cannot operate the new system or think they will be replaced by its automation. In other instances, people may resist because they genuinely doubt the validity and benefits of the new system. Whatever the case, in order to effectively prevent resistance, you must first understand where your users' concerns are coming from and find suitable remedies.

Preventing user resistance
The first step to reducing user resistance if to enhance the users' favorable opinions towards the new IS implementation. This can be accomplished by publicizing its necessity, persuading key users (especially thought leaders and influential personnel) to adopt the change and encourage their colleagues to join them.

It is also important to increase the users' confidence that they can operate and integrate the changes into their routine. Provide your users with training, workshops and guidance to learn and use the new system. 

Furthermore, by considering potential losses and benefits of switching, managers can identify ogranizational and process changes to faciliate a smoother transition for new implementation. Benefits and values of the change should be clearly communicated, especially expressed from the user's point of view. Managers also demonstrate personal commitment to using the system if they want their employees to follow suit. Finally, if losses in productivity are a concern, consider loosening productivity and performance requirements during the transition period to adjust for the learning curve and to allow users to feel more comfortable diving into new changes.
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