Human Factors

by Ian Campbell November 14, 2023

We talk a lot about ROI, and that’s the focus of Nucleus Research as a technology research firm, but I’ll let you in on a secret, human factors are the driving force to a successful project that delivers a high ROI.  You can never overlook the fundamental fact: if the user won’t use it, the ROI is always negative.

We’ve written about it in the past, but it came up again recently when our ERP team was looking at unsuccessful deployments.  A rough estimate was that 75% of the failures were rooted in human issues, not the choice of technology.  We’re fielding a survey now to quantify the actual number, but it got me thinking about research we did a long time ago on the topic. At that time, we identified four human barriers to success.  They still hold true today.


Likely the single most important barrier, adoption by the end user makes the difference between success and failure.  Look at two components here: training and acceptance. When thinking of training, ease of use is far more important than formal training.  If you assume users won’t retain anything they’ve learned in a formal training class you’re probably close.

Adoption is often nothing more than considering how the user will accept the new technology.  Answer the question “what’s in it for me” and you’ll go a long way to smoothing deployment.  Reducing headcount or increasing worker productivity won’t be as attractive and eliminating repetitive tasks or streamlining reporting. We see it all the time with sales teams reluctant to fully utilize CRM solutions in fear of giving away too much information that might make them easily replaceable.  You may want to replace them all with Boston Dynamics robotic dogs ( ) but hold off announcing that intention.


Technology won’t tighten the links between the groups in your organization.  If marketing needs more information from sales or product development, creating a shared Slack channel isn’t the solution.  It may help, but issues within your organization, or with customers or suppliers, need to be addressed in conjunction with the technology.


Management can feel threatened, and that is the secret hand that will slow a project.  The rise of the cloud threatened the IT department and more than a few raised the issue of security, or the need to keep information close.  All of that was foolish of course, but more than a few companies slowed the adoption of the cloud in the early days as the IT department protected its turf. Technology challenges everyone to be better, threatening that we’ll maneuvered middle manager’s world.


When I first pointed out cultural as an issue, I meant broad cultural issues often between nationalities.  Today, however, within an organization the chance of a cultural flair up is a constant threat.  The free flow of information has high value but with that free flow comes the need to monitor and temper. Before deploying technology think about the possibility of misuse. Policies may need to be updated to ensure the organization can respond to challenges.

I’d rather deploy a moderate solution the users adopt than a good solution users ignore. As you’re reviewing the responses to your RFP, spend time considering the adoption.  That overly complex top of the quadrant solution may not deliver the best ROI for your organization if it turns out to be an unappealing prospect for the users.