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Mastering Adoption, Change Management: Understanding Discovery and Planning


Someone tapping a user icon
Image: Cristian Dina - Alamy Stock Photo
This is the second article in a three-part series. In part one (to read, click here), I explained the importance of a formal adoption and change management (ACM) process and the impact that it can have on the success of a technology project. If you’ll remember, the most compelling reason was that this formal process can increase end user adoption of new technology and ensure that your organization receives maximum return on investment.
I also provided an overview of the four parts of the adoption and change management process — discovery, planning, execution, and reinforcement.
This second article in the series covers the discovery and planning steps in the process and explains how each step builds upon information from the previous step.
This information is based on a session from Enterprise Connect 2022 in March that I presented along with Vallorie Weires with Enabling Technologies. Her expertise on the ACM process is extensive and invaluable.
Discovery: Find Out Who’s Using Tech, How They’re Using It, What You Can Do to Make It Better
Ideally, this phase for end user adoption begins in tandem with the discovery of the new technology solution. In the discovery stage, your focus is on documenting who uses what, how they use each tool, why they use it, and how can we make the tech better (with existing or new solutions). This allows us to identify differences and commonalities, risks and barriers, and deep needs among the user population.
With the information gathered in discovery, you will be able to:
  • Define user personas and how they use the tools
  • Anticipate and document the expected impact of the change
  • Use this information to influence the choice of technology that will best meet the needs of your users
  • Determine the strategic roadmap to best support your staff later during the transition
Defining Personas — The Foundation for User Adoption
A persona is a representation of a group of users with common characteristics. For example, every organization has executives who often work differently from other staff members. They may travel more, or have assistants who screen their calls.
On a recent project that moved 10,000 users to a new UCaaS technology, eight personas were used to represent the users:
  • Executives attend a lot of meetings and travel often, have staff who manage communications on their behalf, and require reliable tools that are easy to use. They also utilize multiple devices (desk, mobile, tablet) and need uniformity across devices and contact management.
  • Admin assistants answer and screen calls for executives, attend a lot of meetings, utilize desk and mobile devices, and need uniformity across devices. They need contact management and collaboration tools and need to know the status of other users.
  • Answering positions function as the first point of contact for callers, and duties are often shared with others. They need to coordinate call routing with availability, see the status of other users, have an easy way to transfer calls, and also have contact management capabilities.
  • Standard is an on-site user without a corporate cell phone. They attend two-to-three meetings daily and don’t answer calls on behalf of others. Additionally, they need contact management capabilities and the ability to see the status of co-workers.
  • Remote employees work outside of the corporate location and attend one to two meetings a day. They utilize video to attend meetings, need clear audio, and need to see the status of co-workers.
  • Field worker is an out-of-office job primarily investigating issues and resolving problems. They use mobile devices to stay in touch with co-workers and coordinate activities.
  • Help desk heavily use phones and shares incoming call load with other staff. They use mobile devices when leaving their desk to assist staff and need contact management and the ability to see the status of co-workers.
  • The Conference persona features the devices that resides in a huddle or conference room, which must support audio and video conference and be easy to use.
Each type of persona used communication and collaboration tools in different ways, so it was clear the proposed new tool would impact some groups more than others. Developing the personas allowed the project team to make informed decisions about what device types to offer, what type of training would be the most beneficial, and how best to communicate with each group.
The creation of the personas required the team to:
  • Understand the daily workflow for each group and how technology tools are used today
  • Assess the potential gaps and impacts of the new solution
  • Articulate benefits of the new solution, based on specific needs and workflow
  • Document future user experience and transition journey (identifying the WIIFM)
  • Obtain the basis for “What’s In It For Me” (WIIFM) communications and training, including preferred training methods
  • Define user success criteria and metrics
For an example of a persona framework, click here and search under “Examples Personas and Workstyles" for a document created by Microsoft. 
The format of the persona information should be adjusted so that it is useful and applicable in your environment.
Once you have grouped your users into persona profiles and documented the needs of each group, you have the foundation needed to move to the next step.
The Planning Phase: Putting Your Discoveries to Work
This phase builds on the discovery output and user personas. You will develop a blueprint for driving user awareness of the upcoming change and empowering users with the knowledge and skills needed to adopt the new tool. This includes the creation of a communication plan and a training plan.
Creating An Effective Training Plan
The existence of training availability is a big factor in creating a positive perception of the new tools, whether users attend or not. The fact that help is available feels like a safety net to many users.
There is no one-size-fits-all training plan. The amount and depth of training that you offer should be determined based on the impact of the change for each persona group. Personas whose daily routine will be significantly impacted by the change will have the highest need for training. Here are some factors to consider when creating a training plan:
Will training be voluntary or required? And if required, how will the requirement be enforced? There can be several factors that determine the answer to these questions, including:
  • Company culture
  • Workforce considerations (union requirements, etc.)
  • Impact of training time on daily work and business operations
In what format(s) should training be offered? During the persona development, preferences for particular learning style should be documented. Typical options include:
  • Videos: Great for visual learners and those who don’t like to read
  • Quick guides: For users who want quick answers without wading through a lot of detail
  • In-depth guides: For those who love the detail
  • In-person classes: These ensure that staff makes time to attend training and is great for asking questions and clearing up confusion.
  • Remote classes: Meet the needs for users for whom attending an in-person class is difficult.
  • Instructor led: Having a live instructor allows attendees to ask questions and clarify their understanding
  • Self-service: For those who want to be able to look up answers when questions arise.
  • Resource creation: Do you develop, outsource, or scavenge? Once you establish the format(s) of the training, it’s time to determine what resources are needed and how to obtain and/or develop them. Some considerations include:
  • Type of resources needed: How many users do you plan to train? How many of the above formats do you plan to provide? Who will create guides, videos, class curriculum? Who will teach classes? Should training rooms be reserved? Where will these resources reside?
  • Budget: How much do you have to spend?
  • Specific governance requirements: Are there any union considerations? What are the corporate policies regarding training? Are there considerations for ensuring that certain areas are staffed during training?
  • Regulatory requirements: Are there privacy or safety requirements that must be managed?
  • Use case needs: It’s typically best to schedule users with similar requirements to attend classes together. This allows their special needs to be addressed without boring other attendees.
  • Impact of change: The greater the anticipated impact of the new tool, the greater the need for training.
Your final training plan should outline:
  1. Who to train?
  2. When training must occur
  3. Which modality to use (this may differ by persona)
  4. What is included in each training session?
  5. What content needs to be developed/cultivated?
  6. Resources assigned to execute
Creating An Effective Communications Plan
Similar to the training plan, there is no one-size-fits-all communication plan. An effective plan is tailored to the unique organization and its staff. In most cases, the daily use cases and the way each persona consumes information may be different (sometimes greatly different).
Have you been on the receiving end of a communication that tried to cover multiple experiences? At what point did you quit reading because nothing in it applied to you? Audience awareness is a guiding factor when determining how many communication streams are needed. You might need a few special communication streams, based on how users are expected to be impacted by the change.
Note that having multiple communication streams doesn’t mean that every communication is completely customized. Typically, it starts with one main template and information is tweaked as needed for impact.
A one-size-fits-all plan can cause users to ignore the communications and eventually generate additional burden on the help desk and project team.
Answering the questions below will help you create a custom plan optimized for your needs.
  • What is your corporate communication culture?
  • Should a project sponsor to drive communication?
  • What is the best way to communicate the project vision and objectives?
  • What method of communication resonates with users? Does this change by persona?
  • How many personas require separate communication streams?
  • Which personas can be combined for communications purposes?
  • How to best include WIIFM within communications?
  • What is appropriate timing for communications?
  • How many communications should be sent?
  • Who will send communications?
  • Should communications be tailored based on the user’s device (hard phone, soft phone, etc.)?
Your final communication plan should outline:
  1. The series of communications that should be sent
  2. Who to communicate with
  3. Who should send the communications
  4. Timing of each communication
  5. Which modality to use
  6. What is included in each communication (including the WIIFM for each persona)
  7. Resources assigned to execute
In part three of this series, I will cover the last two steps in the process: execution and reinforcement.

Melissa is writing on behalf of the SCTC, a premier professional organization for independent consultants. SCTC consultant members are leaders in the industry, able to provide best of breed professional services in a wide array of technologies. Every consultant member commits annually to a strict Code of Ethics, ensuring they work for the client benefit only and do not receive financial compensation from vendors and service providers.