User adoption is the single biggest challenge when implementing new technology – it is now and it has been for 15 years. According to a study done by the Sand Hill Group and Neochange, the most critical factor for software success and ROI is effective user adoption (70% listed it as #1). Organizational change came in at 16%, followed by process alignment at 13%, and software functionality at 1%.
It’s clear that getting a solid and rapid ROI on software projects has more to do with people and change than it does with technology. Whether you’re implementing SAP, one of the many Oracle products, or the latest Business Intelligence tool, user resistance, misaligned business processes and lack of user skill and understanding are most commonly at the root of most failed technology initiatives.
The problem often comes back to a fundamental error in how a company introduces users to the new technology. The IT group selects a product, does whatever work is required to set it up, and then makes it available for everyone to use. IT hopes users will immediately know what to do with the technology, but this is rarely a realistic expectation.
Michael Sampson of Information Week offers a four-stage model to help companies think through the user adoption challenge in his book, User Adoption Strategies: Shifting Second Wave People to New Collaboration Technology.
- Capture the attention of the target population of users within the enterprise. For most users, this can’t be accomplished by simply referencing new features. Start a communication campaign that your employees will respond to.
- Describe the basic concepts of the new tool.
- Work with people and groups on how they can use the new technology to do their work more efficiently. This should come in the form of blended learning: using ILT, eLearning, performance support and user-generated content to teach the end users how to properly wield their powerful new tool.
- Make the “new” stuff the “now” stuff in the workflows of the groups and teams in the organization.
You can have the best software in the world, with the most sophisticated features, analytics and integration, but if people don’t use it, it isn’t going to add value. Features are rarely the driving force behind successful user adoption. Many companies don’t take user adoption into account when designing their applications. User adoption is typically something that comes into focus at the end of an implementation project. It’s clear that the most critical factor for software success and ROI is effective user adoption, so make it one of the most important elements of the entire implementation process. Don’t wait till after go-live and the pain points begin to mount. Get it right the first time and plan your user adoption strategy early!