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Do You Have a Strategy for End User Adoption?

According to Prosci, “projects with excellent change management were six times more likely to meet objectives than those with poor change management.”

Over the course of my 30+ years as a consultant, I have done many needs assessment interviews in which I speak with end users about the challenges they face using communication technology tools. During recent interviews, users have requested something new. They are actually asking for an end user adoption program, including communication, training, and follow-up.

Of course, they aren’t using those terms. They make requests, like “I would like to get training” and “I hope we will be informed about the new solution and when it will be rolled out.” And they ask about what resources will be available, how they will train new hires or be able to review information when needed.

These questions have not come up during interviews before the last 12 months. Perhaps users before then just assumed they would have training and resources, so they did not ask about such things. Or maybe users are reaching a tipping point after too many bad experiences with technology rollouts that only focused on the technology, and not the users.

On a recent UCaaS project with a mid-size manufacturing and retail company, I asked the front line IT staff assigned to the project about the communication plan for the project. They indicated that such a plan was not needed; they wanted to just move the users to the new solution and tell them about the change at that time. Fortunately, when an IT director and VP became involved, they insisted that there be a communication and training plan for the change.

The next hurdle was finding an internal resource to handle the communications with the users. This company doesn’t have anyone who is in charge of communication with employees. There was no expertise in this area, no templates, and no best practices in place.

Unfortunately, I think this is not uncommon. And perhaps that is why users are now requesting training and communication about technology changes. From their perspective, it’s important and may have been overlooked in the past.

According to McKinsey & Company, the “success or failure (of a project) depends as much on how the change is made as on the project itself.” (Emphasis is mine).

New technology can be expensive, and when organizations deploy it, they expect to reap benefits from the effort and expense. Often these benefits involve increasing productivity, simplification, or improving customer experience. However, if users do not adopt the new tools, the intended benefits are not realized. How to encourage adoption should be part of every strategic plan.

Here are five things you can do to increase the adoption of new technology.

  1. Gain the commitment of upper management to drive the change throughout the organization. By setting the example of using the new tools, managers can drive their adoption. Users are more likely to make the effort to learn a new way of doing things if their boss is using the tool.
  2. Identify key influencers and get them on your side. Where it makes sense, involve them in the process of picking a new solution or planning the change. Ask them about their specific needs and pain points, then address those during the solution selection process. Have influencers attend demonstrations by the finalist vendors, and get their feedback on what they saw. Involving key influencers 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. Have a formal communication plan. It’s important to get messages out early and often. It takes repeated communication to get the message across to everyone. 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. 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. Provide training. While the new solution should be user friendly and intuitive, training is still necessary. The scope of UC solutions is broad, and users need to be trained on the phone itself (hard phone or soft phone). Even more important, they need training on newer 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. (Learn how to ramp up training.)
  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.

Things get crazy during the implementation process, and it’s easy to let the technical issues absorb all of your attention. Carving out time to create an end user adoption strategy, and to execute it, will pay big dividends in the end. I'll be talking about this during my Enterprise Connect 2023 session, "Why It's Crucial to Have a Strategy for User Adoption."

Enterprise Connect 2023 will be held from March 27-30 at the Gaylord Palms in Orlando, FL. You can check out the attendance options here and dive into our line-up of sessions and keynotes here.