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User Adoption Best Practices: What You Need to Know

No matter how good a technology may be, unless people are using it and getting value from it, it’s useless. User adoption is vital. This is especially true for business communications technologies like unified communications and collaboration (UCC) that require interaction with others inside or outside of the organization in order to be useful. As I like to say, collaborating alone is like one hand clapping.
Organizations have spent billions of dollars on UCC technologies aimed at improving internal and external communications and enhancing worker productivity, and most have attained important business benefits. UCC solutions provide tremendous value to businesses and organizations in every vertical, enabling workers to call, message, meet, and collaborate on any device from any location. However, the value received from these technologies is directly correlated to the actual usage and adoption of these tools. Too often, organizations invest in UCC technologies without giving thought to how end users will use and adopt them. Without well-thought-out user adoption strategies, organizations may be throwing good money down the drain.
Ensuring proper usage and adoption of new UCC solutions requires a multi-layer approach and strategy that goes beyond simply purchasing and deploying UCC technologies and services. It involves understanding the needs of users, as well as potential challenges and resistance to new solutions; adequate training, support, and resources; and change management strategies.
Change can be hard. Getting users to switch from the tools they’re currently using to IT-mandated UCC solutions isn’t always easy, as it’s often challenging to get workers to switch from tools that they’re familiar with and have been using for years, even if they’re outdated. There needs to be a compelling reason to move to a new UCC solution, and it’s incumbent on organizations to educate end users as to why they should use the new tools, the value the tools provide, and how best to utilize them. This requires both end-user training, as well as ensuring that the new solution takes the end users’ needs and requirements into account. Helping users understand why it’s important to use the new tools, and how it will help them be more productive and effective at doing their jobs is essential.
Why User Adoption May Be Low
To ensure the desired user adoption of UCC solutions, it’s important to look at why UCC adoption is often lower than expected. There are a few reasons:
  • The solution isn’t solving a problem or having a business impact.
  • No one knows about the new solution, its capabilities, and why it’s being deployed.
  • Users aren’t trained on how to use it.
  • The solution does not have the needed functionality for various groups of end users.
When users are given communication tools, they don't need or understand; many times, they’ll deploy their own tools. This disconnect can lead to shadow IT and security and compliance issues – especially if employees are deploying consumer-grade tools that are easy to use and provide the capabilities needed.
Most companies don’t take their end users’ needs into account when choosing a business communication solution, even though workers who are consulted first feel more productive when they use the new solution. A SoftChoice survey found that 77% of employees say their organization doesn’t consult with them before selecting a new office communications tool, although 72% of employees who are consulted feel their communications tools make them more productive, compared to 54% of those who aren’t.
Developing an Adoption Strategy – a Multi-Layered Approach
Developing a user adoption strategy involves several steps:
  1. Design the solution with users in mind – Engage with end users early to make sure that you’re providing the right functionality based on different types of users’ needs.
  2. Evangelizing and executive sponsorship – Form a sponsorship team, including a project leader to champion the UCaaS project, help evangelize it, and get all the buy-in and approvals.
  3. Communications and change management – Users must understand why their company is moving to this new solution, and how it will benefit them personally. I always encourage organizations to focus on the “why” when it comes to user adoption – not just how to use the new tools and technologies, but why the company is migrating to these tools, and how it’s going to help the individual workers and the organization be more effective. Users have to understand the “what’s in it for me,” or they’ll just stick with what they’ve been doing.
  4. Training – Training and updating users on the different features of the system that the user will need will help end users use the system properly and get the full benefits of it. It will also help lower frustration with the system while making it easier for your support staff.
  5. Creating a collaborative culture – Help users recognize how UCC will help them better collaborate with colleagues, team members, customers, partners, and so on, making everyone more effective and productive.
  6. Monitoring and refinement – Measure and quantify usage and adoption based on a few key metrics, find out what’s working and what isn’t, and keep refining your approach to ensure you’re getting the anticipated results.
Hear from Your Peers at Enterprise Connect
As anyone who’s read my blogs and articles over the years knows, I’m very passionate about UCC end-user adoption, and I’m thrilled to once again be presenting this topic at Enterprise Connect. I’ll be moderating an end-user panel on "How to Win at User Adoption" on Tuesday, March 31, where attendees will hear from enterprise IT leaders who have experience with successful end-user adoption programs and will share their insights. The panelists will discuss the biggest challenges to end-user adoption, as well as the best strategies, providing insights as to how IT organizations should develop a plan for user adoption. Attendees will gain practical guidance and best practices on end-user adoption and will walk away with a better understanding of what works and what doesn’t work, and how to ensure user adoption when deploying UCC in their organizations. I’m looking forward to an engaging panel discussion.
If you’ve deployed a UCC end-user adoption strategy in your organization, I’d love to hear from you, and possibly even include you in the panel. You can contact me at [email protected].

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Blair is writing on behalf of the BCStrategies, an industry resource for enterprises, vendors, system integrators, and anyone interested in the growing business communications arena. A supplier of objective information on business communications, BCStrategies is supported by an alliance of leading communication industry advisors, analysts, and consultants who have worked in the various segments of the dynamic business communications market.