I recently dropped my laptop, badly damaging the screen and rendering it all but useless. Instead of repairing it, my local computer store recommended that I buy a new laptop, as it was an old model and the cost of repairs outweighed the computer’s value. I knew they were right, so I bought myself a new laptop. Then, of course, I had to take care of the set-up and configuration that would make it a useful device. While I hadn’t chosen this change, at least I was in control of the process. Even so, it was a pain to be without my familiar laptop, and it’s been a learning curve to adjust to using the new machine.
My experience is comparable to what many users go through when their organization implements a new software solution, with one exception—they aren’t in control of the situation. The change is often forced upon them, and they just have to accept it.
I’ve worked with many organizational initiatives that included software changes affecting end users. In doing so, I’ve discovered that organizations that follow a focused user adoption strategy realize greater value from their software investments.
Here are three keys to unlocking the door to a successful user adoption strategy:
- Start Early
Organizations that start planning their user adoption strategy in the discovery phase of an implementation tend to achieve greater returns on their software investments than organizations that start in the implementation phase.
- Plan for Culture Change
- Get executive commitment to drive and promote the change throughout the organization. The best argument to present to executives is that users are more likely to embrace change when they see senior leadership supporting—and adopting—it. (Another way to sway the C suite is to point out that organizations get better value from investments if senior leaders demonstrate that they embrace the change.)
- Identify key stakeholders at every level of the organization and get them on board. Involve them in the process by asking them about their needs and concerns and addressing their needs. Involve them in vendor product demonstrations and get their feedback on each solution. Involving key stakeholders increases their understanding and makes them more likely to adopt and promote the change, since they contributed to the decision.
- Prepare and engage end-users, communicating early and often. A solid communication plan helps send the right message to the right people at the right time. Since users are more likely to embrace change when they understand the need for it, communications to users should first educate them about the what, when, and why of the change. Next, communicate the benefits users will reap, answering the question, “What’s in it for me?” It’s also important to highlight what’s not changing.
- Identify the required training content and how and when it will be deployed. Even when the new software is user-friendly and intuitive, a robust training plan is required. The scope of software solutions can be broad, and users need to be trained on how to use the software in the context of their role. A measured approach to training will minimize issues and help users fully adopt the solution.
- Identify your users’ preferred learning style. Some user needs will be met with self-paced e-learning and videos, but other user roles may require more in-depth classroom or one-on-one courses to address complex and critical topics. In addition, new hires and users who change roles will need training. Providing ongoing access to training will ease the way for users after go-live.
- Determine how course registration and completion will be tracked, such as in a Learning Management System (LMS).
- Develop Useful, Easy-to-Access Support Materials
Even with the best training program, users won’t retain everything. Develop support materials that users can access for ongoing enablement after go-live. Identify the different types of support users may require, such as in-application help, simulations and process guidance, easy access to documentation and job aids, etc. Providing users with self-service support increases user productivity and proficiency and reduces reliance on IT support.
A Few Final Thoughts
While some organizations integrate a user adoption program into software implementations, most don’t. Some focus on readiness training and communications only, with no executive or stakeholder alignment and little thought about where users can go for help after go-live. Others delay the training plan until the implementation phase, leaving little time to create and deliver effective training before go-live.
Things can get hectic during an implementation project, and it’s easy to allow technical concerns to consume your attention, but allocating time to create and execute an effective adoption strategy will help you unlock the door to successful user adoption and drive real value from software investments.
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