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‘Set It and Forget It’ is a Recipe for IT Disaster


This was originally published on the Tri Tuns blog.

In the days of yore, Ron Popeil, infomercial pioneer, made it look easy.

He invented a kitchen gadget to make our lives easier, and the only direction he gave was ‘set it and forget it’. One step to make a “delicious six pound chicken!” or “not one but two delicious rotisserie chickens!” How much simpler is that than the way our moms and grandmothers cooked chicken?

If only the rest of life were that easy.

Especially new software systems.

In an ideal world, your IT team would come in, install the new software, and it would be such an great experience everyone would just magically sit down and start using not only because it’s easy to use but because they want to use it. This scenario is as likely to fool the seasoned implementation manager about as well as Hair in a Can spray dispelled notions of impending baldness.

So what are you to do when – as typically happens – you introduce a new system, everyone’s excited at launch time and then several weeks (years) later you look at the usage statistics and you’re disappointed. What happened? Looks like you set it and forget it.

But people were trained, you say. We worked for months to convince them this change was a good thing, you insist. They were even kind of excited, you protest. On top of that, they’d had no choice but to use this new system and things still aren’t working out as you’d hoped. Now what?


Fundamentally, IT systems and user adoption are not set it and forget it kind of things.

Typically IT implementations follow a simple formula: go-live and go home. But the users don’t go home and they are what makes — or breaks — any IT investment.

In today’s world everyone needs to maximize the ROI of any IT investment, and the only way to realize that ROI is by holistically taking care of the people who use it.

It’s not traditional thinking but after go-live, users need constant care and feeding, no matter the system, no matter the type of implementation, no matter the organization.

So what do you do? You need to do something, you know this. But what?

  1. Assess the situation for your user

  2. Develop a plan accordingly

  3. Assign someone responsibility for executing that plan

  4. Create the infrastructure so that person, and the plan – and your users – will succeed

The fact of the matter is, an IT implementation doesn’t end at go-live, but rather it begins there. The world –inside your organization and with your competitors’– is constantly changing. People will always need new and different information, there will always be turnover, and you will need specific people focused on getting the value you need from this investment. Only when people use the technology will you get the value you want.


‘Set it and forget it’ is how implementations used to be delivered. But the world has changed. These days you need to build a flexible, scalable and sustainable user adoption strategy before you implement your system. You need to map out the necessary efforts and actions your organization will take so it can extract the maximum business value from your investment. Comparatively, the technology side is easy; it’s all 1s and 0s and it does what you tell it to do. It’s the human element that complicates matters and requires you to focus more on the people and the organization than on the technology and the tools.


  • How do you do implementations? Do you typically take a holistic approach, or do you set it and forget it? What have you experienced?

  • Whose job is it to make sure this happens? Do they have the skills?

  • Do you have the organizational capacity and willingness to carry out a sustainable user-focused program?

  • Does your internal team have the skills and experience to address these issues?

  • Do you have the infrastructure to achieve this in a fast, flexible and affordable way?

And if you’re not sure how your project may be affected take the challenge. After all, saying they have no choice but to use it is ultimately counter-productive when you have the choice to be proactively motivating people to use it.


  • Schedule a demo of Tri Tuns’ “My User Adoption Plan” portal to see how it can provide a comprehensive infrastructure for ensuring effective stakeholder engagement & communications over the life of your system.


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Deb Green

I am laughing out loud because this was on my list of items to write about – including even the same title. Turning on the switch and walking away is a recipe for failure, IMHO.

Elizabeth Purvis

That’s too funny! You know what they say about great minds… And yes, I agree: ‘go live and go home’ is a recipe for failure.

Henry Brown

Totally agree that you have described a total disaster…

Tis a very resource intensive process! When the resources have been available have had some success by involving the users(and am not talking about managers) in the implementation process VERY early in the process, and by dedicating IT resources for well after “go live” not only for training but resolving issues

Deb Green

As much as it is, it doesn’t cease to amaze me how little the human aspect is taken into account when an project involving IT launches. And I’m not just talking about usability matters either. What did you want this product to help you accomplish? Unfortunately “tool” is confused with “panacea.” A hammer won’t build a mansion for you without the resource who knows how to use it effectively.

Victoria Eggleston

I have to laugh at the “Set it and forget it” slogan. Because just like IT can’t set it and forget it – when you read the instructions for the rotisserie, it states, “DO NOT LEAVE UNATTENDED! Grease can cause fire.”