User adoption – navigating (un) chartered waters

User adoption is at the heart of successful launch of any new idea, product, and solution that will enhance the way of thinking, of interacting and the style of living of the user and of those they interact with. It is the enhanced quality and quantity of interaction with their environment that makes user adoption important to value creation and the measurement of the Return on Investment.

User adoption is extensively used in the context of new technology implementation but applies the same way beyond it. What we observe is that user adoption and user experience are increasingly becoming the panacea of assuring successful business renewal.

So, what is in the architecture of such success?

We know that there is no positive transformation without user adoption. And it is the positive user experience that leads to user adoption.

Both require:

  1. Design of the solution with the end user in mind (customer centric solution design),
  2. Expert implementation and migration to the new environment whenever the technology is involved,
  3. Organization Change management (OCM) work,
  4. Measurement of the outcomes, and
  5. Ongoing support.

User adoption does not happen in isolation – it takes an effective Organisational Change Management (OCM) work to lead to user adoption. The OCM work assures a process is in place to oversee and coordinate the implementation of the following steps:

  • Creating a solid user adoption strategy,
  • Dedicating resources for its execution,
  • Acquire competency for executing it, and
  • Executing it.

In this article I talk about the user adoption strategy.

A solid user adoption strategy takes care of balancing the execution of the following critical components:

  1. Gaining commitment of senior management to drive the change through an organization. When users sense that upper management visibly and actively supports the change, they are likelier to make the effort to learn a new way of doing things. This commitment is often gained when senior management aspirations are in synch with the expected value to be created by the intended change
  2. Stakeholder management – Identifying key influencers and user representatives and getting them create a positive attitude towards the transformation is the most daunting yet critical mission in creating user adoption. Getting key influencers (including user representatives) involved increases their understanding, makes them part of the decision-making process, and makes them much more appreciative of the final solution. Research indicates that 70% of the change efforts fail as the management commitment and the involvement of the key influencers is rarely addressed.
  3. Communicating early, often, and in a tailored way. It takes well-crafted communication to get the message across. Messages to employees should first address the what, when, and why of the change and definitely “what’s in it for them”. Users are more likely to embrace a change if they understand the real necessity for it, and when they understand what is changing and what is not changing. In the upcoming article I’ll elaborate more on the 10 rules of well-crafted communication.
  4. Customized learning of new skills. While the new solution(s) may be user friendly and intuitive, facilitating the learning of new skills drives adoption. A customized learning program shall allow the user to select a learning method that fits best to their learning style. Also, a good learning program shall balance acquisition of new skills in coping well with the larger, system change and the specific practical skills for coping on the day to day. For a learning program to instill adoption, content need to appeal the ambition and the new identity of the user. This is totally neglected by most of the learning programs I’ve evaluated.
  5. Establishing ongoing resources and support. Even with a great training program, users will not be able to absorb all of the information they are given. And there are always going to be new employees or users who change roles and need training on the systems. Effective support for user adoption shall provide ongoing access to training materials, videos, and reference guides to help users continuous learning of new the skills.

A solid user adoption strategy creates a sense of confidence and curiosity; it keeps change leaders alert and sharpens their “navigational listening”.

A solid user adoption strategy entails following a solid and shared organizational change management process and identifying measurable expected outcomes.

The key words here are “solid”, “shared” and “measurable”.

  • “Solid” understands an OCM process that provides flexibility to adjust to the context which providing clarity on the options to navigate towards the target.
  • “Shared” means that all the organizational levels concerned by the change are aware of the journey – this will reduce fear and criticisms and allow people to focus on pathways of progress towards the sought benefits.
  • “Measurable” outcomes remind us on the importance of defining the “settings” of our navigator. Being quite clear on what the goal is makes a big difference on the how we address OCM work. If we implement new technology without being clarity on the business value it will deliver, user adoption becomes a struggle and results are jeopardized.

In leading OCM work I’ve experienced that few are the organizations to ask the solution provider to include a user adoption program as part of the process. and very few are those that have a user adoption strategy defined.

To change the trend, organizations investing on a new idea, product, or solution need to plan for reinforcing the change management competency of their change leaders, for time to create a user adoption strategy, as well as for time and competency to execute it.

In the next article I’ll talk about dedicating resources for creating and executing the user adoption strategy.

As any change work is unique, inducing user adoption will always feel like navigating into unchartered waters. However, drafting the user adoption strategy at the outset of a transformation program will help leaders and the change team navigate with confidence in the unknown.