Use it or Lose it!

IT professionals are as good at marketing technology as marketing professionals are at running IT. But for some reason, far too many organizations for far too many years have expected IT staffs to effectively get the word out to employees -- and in some cases, even customers -- when new services are available.

The problem with that approach is that service after service goes underutilized, employees are not as efficient as they could be or, worse yet, they do not know the latest security protocols, collaboration capabilities, or easiest way to remotely access the network. What's more, customers may be completely unaware the capabilities exist, resulting in poor alignment with business initiatives.

After all, these are IT people, not marketers. So how successful and strategic can IT ultimately be if only a fraction of employees or customers enthusiastically adopt the technologies available to them?

Increasingly, IT leaders are focusing on what Nemertes calls User Awareness and Adoption (UAA) programs, which use creative marketing tactics to boost the visibility and usage of IT services.

UAA programs are cyclical and typically contain the following components:

Of 368 IT leaders we interviewed or surveyed in research completed this summer, more than half (55.5%) have an initiative underway to boost user adoption of technologies, and 55% say UAA will become a bigger part of their jobs in the next two years. Research participants work at companies across all industries and sizes.

Prior to starting the program, organizations should first develop use cases for any new technology. For example, they may justify the need for pervasive whiteboards to help remote teams collaborate on the design of new products. What they typically forget, though, is to evaluate demand generation and to then market the technology to the appropriate people -- and with accurate expectations. In this case, for example, the technology may only be applicable to 25% of the employees who work for three departments, only two of which are tech savvy. Having that knowledge up front would jump start the UAA initiative.

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Why have so many companies started paying attention to UAA? One of the big reasons relates to the rise of personal and team productivity tools. In fact, 57% of companies say they want to focus on UAA programs because they know employees will be more productive if they used the technologies available. Similarly, 43% want to use technologies to improve customer experience.

Other reasons, perhaps understated based on our interviews with IT leaders, relate to changes in IT spending and staffing. In the past, when an IT staff implemented a new technology, it typically requested and received a budget to do an on-premises implementation of a technology. Once IT completed the implementation, it sent out an email telling employees about the service's availability (as appropriate), perhaps provided a few training sessions, and then set off to its next project. Meanwhile, no one ever went back to validate the budget or cost savings or utilization.

But now, with more services running in the cloud, the CFO or procurement officer scrutinizes the budget annually. Now it matters if only 10% of the intended audience uses the service. The IT manager in charge of the service risks losing his job and IT overall risks losing budget. Justifying IT spending has become more important, in large part because cloud services increase visibility of specific components of IT spending.

Unfortunately, most organizations do not have the right structure in place for a successful UAA program. Only 27% of organizations have a marketing staff (or person) within IT running the program, which is the most successful structure. Others have marketing staffs outside of IT, the technical staff within IT, or no one conducting the program -- all of which have lower success ratings.

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Awareness and adoption are important for many, but not all technology implementations. For example, employees won't care if the data center now has virtual servers; they will care if they can now access virtual apps vs. those on their desktops. So, the programs rightly focus on new IT services that affect how employees or customers use technology, collaborate with their peers, sign on to apps, gain network access, and so on.

Which technologies drive UAA programs? Collaboration -- whether personal, team, or room -- account for 49% of the drivers. Mobile services are the next most common at 27%, followed by security (22%) and enterprise apps (22%).

Once IT establishes UAA programs, the bigger issue becomes how to effectively market the technology. IT leaders ranked the most-effective to least-effective marketing tools; the top three were email, intranet, and e-newsletter -- pretty easy to enact, yet not necessarily efficient at increasing awareness and adoption because of the number of emails that go unread, and the lack of time employees spend reading e-newsletters or visiting the corporate intranet.

However, when we evaluated which actually correlated with the highest marketing success rates, the tools used were quite different. Those that result in success include tweets, professionally made videos, blogs, grassroots initiatives, and digital billboards. Email, intranet, and e-newsletters actually are among the tools that correlate lowest with success.

With nearly 70% of organizations actively engaged in some sort of digital transformation initiative, the race to implement new technologies is fiercer than ever. But rolling out the technology is only half the battle. If employees and customers are not aware of it, or if they don't use it, success is out of reach.