Cultural forces are much more powerful than technology. Building the most comprehensive data warehouse and making it accessible from a simple tool doesn't guarantee that you will have any users. This stems from the fact it is neither the tool nor the data warehouse that motivates people. Users need to know why it is important for them to look at information. Users respond only to the benefit they get from the information.

Kaplan and Norton wrote the balanced scorecard book more than 15 years ago. The balanced scorecard is basically a methodology for using metrics to improve the performance of an organization. Whether you subscribe to the specific balanced scorecard methodology or not, one lesson from the book plays a critical role in the success of any information architecture: communicating your organization's goals and strategies to employees and showing them how they contribute.

Salary alone is not what really motivates people. Sure, it is nice to get paid for what you do, but it is also important to like what you do. People need to know how their roles play a part in the organization's success. How can they make a difference? In almost every case, companies can generate metrics that capture the value of employee contributions and express them in ways that demonstrate the overall benefit to the company.

For example, let's look at the role a customer support person plays in a company. Imagine that XYZ Company has a performance goal of increasing its profitability by five percent. Why should customer support people care about this target if they don't understand how their responsibilities contribute to it? How will they know if they have succeeded? Simply telling support staff about the company's goal of increasing profitability by five percent means nothing unless you can translate to them how their jobs have an effect on that number. Organizations must translate performance into metrics and communicate the results back to employees.

To demonstrate how customer support plays a role in corporate bottom line, consider a scenario in which profitability could only be achieved by improving sales levels in the customer base (translated measure: number of repeat sales) and not by incurring the expense of marketing to new customers. In order to increase sales to existing customers, the customer experience must be excellent (translated measure: customer satisfaction level). Because an important factor in customers' satisfaction levels relates to the support they receive, customers should deal only with support reps that are courteous, knowledgeable and prompt. Additionally, because we know that our customers do not like to wait on hold for a long time, hold times must be minimized (translated measure: average hold time). When customers speak to reps, their problems must be resolved quickly (translated measures: length of call, number of first-call resolutions). Taken together, these factors underlying customer satisfaction, when expressed in the form of a meaningful metric, will enable support staff to understand how their contributions affect the company. Optimizing these factors will ultimately lead to higher sales rates, lower cost per sale and increased overall profitability.

As we have seen in the example above, companies, divisions within companies and groups within divisions need to develop a viable information culture by communicating plans and goals to employees at all levels - from the CEO down to the lowest levels of the organization. It is critically important to translate the meaning of report data such that users see how their jobs, or the projects to which their jobs contribute, affect the performance of a company. While translations take time and energy, they can be accomplished for nearly every position, and their benefit is undeniable - as is the ensuing impact to the organization as a whole.

Now if you can make reports available on an easily accessible corporate portal, you will have an easier time finding users. Better yet, regularly deliver reports through email to each user. In the report, include a link back to the company portal. By doing this you will have gone a long way toward improving user adoption of your information systems. With improved adoption of information-based technologies comes an improvement to the information-centric nature of corporate culture. Insight gleaned from reports on corporate portals and popular bulletin boards becomes fodder for discussion at the water cooler, in hallways and at meetings. In the end, information becomes a part of the company's culture.

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