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User Adoption: If you build it, will they come?

20 Sep 2018


Field of Dreams, 1989: “If you build it, they will come”. This old movie adage is important to remember when rolling out new IT solutions and supporting business processes, argue User Adoption Expert, Rona Lester and Enterprise Architect, Tony Muraki-Hart. Many organisations think if they ‘deploy’ the new CRM, the new finance or the new collaboration system and tell users to use it, they will be successful. However, if you build it, then tell them, often they will NOT come! This is a user adoption, change management and communication challenge, not an IT challenge.

Rona LesterWhy user adoption fails?

User Adoption is a hot topic these days in the technology arena. Getting employees to adopt a new technology should be a no-brainer.

After all, your organisation has invested a significant amount of money into something you believe is going to increase efficiency, improve collaboration, improve productivity and make happier, connected employees.

With so much to gain, you would think people would be eager to embrace new technologies. But as a rule, we don’t like changing our habits. Any new technology-driven transformation is often met with user resistance. Reducing efficiency and making the technology investment seem wasteful.

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So, why do many IT projects go wrong when it comes to getting users ‘on board’?

Firstly, it’s important to understand user adoption is a journey. It needs an end user adoption plan, supported and funded behavioural change programme to get users to ‘nudge’ across the adoption chasm!

A ‘nudge’ is a series of small planned targeted activities aimed at giving people time to move to new ways of working.

Potential ‘failure’ areas

At OCSL (A CANCOM Company), we believe there are 3 principal areas where things can go wrong. These relate to behaviour, the business case and planning:

1. Behaviour:

  • User predisposition not considered
  • No focus on behavioural change
  • Persisting with outdated processes
  • Lack of leadership buy-in / participation
  • No consideration for embedding change

2. Business Case:

  • No clear ‘What’s in it for Me’ for key stakeholder groups
  • Budget for enabling new ways of working not included in business case
  • No connection between IT change Business value
  • No clear vision or message of ‘Why’

3. Planning:

  • Technology plans, but no user change plans
  • Continuous improvement is not baked-in from start
  • Lack of vision for new ways of working
  • People impacts are not considered up front
  • Technology led, not Business led

5 steps to a successful user adoption

  1. Create a compelling Vision
  2. Recruit and develop key stakeholders
  3. Find the ‘What’s in it For Me’ (WIIFM) Use cases
  4. Plan the Behavioural Change ‘nudges’
  5. Measure and publicise your successes

#1. Create a vision

  • An overarching vision, which is connected to your organisations values and strategy, is key.
  • This helps when explaining the WHY and WHERE for users.  It should be embedded in every employee touch point and communicated consistently, use leaders, influencers, change agents to act as role models, and to reinforce and recognise new behaviours.

#2. Recruit key stakeholders

As in any good project, finding the right stakeholders is important. You need three types of Stakeholders to help steer your company on the journey:

  • Senior Stakeholders - It’s essential to obtain senior leadership's buy-in and support prior to introducing a new technology
  • Executive sponsors should help the project team craft the overarching vision, be active, be visible participants and communicate the message directly with employees.
  • This means ‘walking the walk’ and showing your employees how THEY are changing their OWN ways of working.
  • Success owner and team– This group – usually a combination of people from around the business, are the user adoption ‘engine’.
  • They are responsible for planning and delivering the behavioural change programme.
  • Change champions- these are KEY individuals, spread throughout the business, who will help deliver your message’, provide support, ‘pull their colleagues over the change chasm’.

#3. Find amazing use cases

  • Nothing drives people to change faster than making a task easier, or the ability to work smarter or giving them better ways to work together.
  • Finding these use cases will be the driver for most people to start using a new technology. It combines the ‘WIIFM’ with an identifiable and measurable business benefit.  Finding these are your GOLD DUST.
  • How do you find these use cases? Speak to your employees, understand their way of working, understand their method of working, identify successes, but more importantly, identify the challenges, pain points and manual touch points.

#4. Plan change ‘nudges

  • To help people ‘nudge across’ to new ways of working and see what’s in it for them, provide multiple targeted activities. Focus on capabilities, not technology.
  • Plan short capability coaching sessions around a topic, not technology – e.g. ‘Making meetings better’, ‘Collaborating easier with your team’ or ‘working with suppliers better’.
  • Communicate your KEY messages in many imaginative ways: posters, lunch-and-learns, webinars – the sky (and your imagination) is the limit!

#5. Measure and publicise your successes

  • Make sure you have identified clear measurable success metrics/factors and then publicise your successes, large and small.
  • This will motivate more people to come and join the ‘in’ crowd and dip their toe in the water.


End User Adoption Plan: The Change Journey

It’s important to understand user adoption is not something that can been forced. Adoption occurs when users decide FOR THEMSELVES that the solution provides them with a net benefit. When this happens, you have the best chance of getting it right!

Nudging people to adopt versus enforcing them to adoptismore challenging.

It needs multiple events, a series of plans, actions, measures and re-planning to influence a user to change. This forms your user adoption change journey.

Like to know more about how to set up a successful end user adoption plan?


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