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5 Keys for Successful End User Adoption


Last week, my cell phone screen went blank and wouldn't come back. I had knew that the time to replace it was coming, but this forced the issue. I got a new phone, and then had to deal with the transfer of contacts, calendar, and all of the useful data that makes the phone an effective tool for me. While I didn't choose to make this change, once things were put into motion, I was fully in control of the process. Yet it was still unsettling to be without a comfortable and essential tool for a while, and it's been an adjustment to learn how to use the new one.

That experience is similar to what many end users go through when their organization moves to a new business communications solution, except that the end users typically don't control the process. The change is forced on them and they just have to deal with it.

As a consultant, I am involved in a lot of projects that include technology change for the organization and its end users. Generally speaking, organizations that follow a purposeful end user adoption strategy have more successful projects.

So what are the critical parts of a successful end user adoption strategy? Here are 5 key components:

  1. Gain commitment of upper management to drive the change through an organization. If users sense that upper management doesn't support the change, they are less likely to make the effort to learn a new way of doing things.
  2. Identify key influencers and get them on your side. If it makes sense, involve them in the process. Ask them about their needs and pain points, and address those during the solution selection process. Have them attend demonstrations by the finalist vendors, and get their feedback on what they saw. Getting key influencers involved increases their understanding and makes them much less likely to be critical of the final solution. After all, they were part of the decision-making process.
  3. Communicate early and often. It takes a lot of communication to get the message across. Messages to employees should first address the what, when, and why of the change. Users are more likely to embrace a change if they understand the real necessity for it. But additional messages about the benefits of the change for the users (what's in it for them?) are also helpful. It's also important to point out what is NOT changing.
  4. Train. While the new solution should be user friendly and intuitive, training is still needed. The scope of UC solutions is broad, and users need to be trained on the phone itself (hard phone or soft phone), message applications, and conference and collaboration tools. A deliberate, well thought out training approach will go a long way toward heading off user complaints and issues, and will help users more fully utilize the tools for which the organization is paying.
  5. Establish 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 tools. Providing ongoing access to training materials, videos, and reference guides will help these users down the road.

I have worked on a few projects where the solution provider included a user adoption program as part of the process. But most don't. Those that did focused on training and ongoing communications, with some sample communications added in. But none that I have seen address the first two items above (upper management commitment and involvement of key influencers).

Things get crazy during the implementation process, and it's easy to let the technical issues absorb all of your attention. But carving out time to create an end user adoption strategy, and to execute it, will pay big dividends in the end.

"SCTC Perspectives" is written by members of the Society of Communications Technology Consultants, an international organization of independent information and communications technology professionals serving clients in all business sectors and government worldwide.

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