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Unlocking the Door to Successful User Adoption: 4 Tips for Conducting Needs Analysis
Steve Judge Group Manager - Education | May 7, 2021
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Co-authored by Brian Thompson

Effective user adoption plays a vital role in driving value from software investments. However, even the most comprehensive user-adoption programs can fail if they don’t give users what they need to fully adopt the software. A needs analysis is the answer.

-By Steve Judge and Brian Thompson

Many organizations recognize the need to properly train end-users when implementing new or upgraded software. Users require the necessary skills to perform tasks efficiently, and training is vital to enabling those skills.

Investing in needs analysis is a sensible decision, but knowing the finer details, such as which users need training, what training they need, and the optimal time for training, are equally important.

Investing in needs analysis is a sensible decision, but knowing the finer details, such as which users need training, what training they need, and the optimal time for training, are equally important. Conducting a training needs analysis before you create your user-adoption program is an important step to developing effective training material.

We’ve worked with many organizations on countless software implementations and upgrades affecting end users. Overall, organizations that perform a thorough needs analysis realize improved user adoption and greater value from their software investments.

In this post, we’ll provide essential insights for conducting an effective needs analysis.

What is Needs Analysis?

Needs analysis takes a bird’s-eye view of an organization and its overall implementation project goals. It’s a prerequisite for identifying the organization’s needs for improving user adoption and productivity, as well as determining the best approach to filling the gap between actual and desired knowledge and skills.

  • A skills gap often exists between senior staff, who have a broad knowledge of systems and processes, and junior team members, who will use the software on a daily basis. That gap means that the skills these groups need to learn may differ greatly, as will the best way for them to learn the necessary skills.
  • When on-boarding new hires, you need to know if they’re capable of working with your software. This includes system and business processes and best practices as well as regulations and compliance-related issues.

The more empowered your users are, the more productive they are in their job and your organization. Evaluating their ability to adopt your software will help you realize the desired business value of those investments.

What Are the Best Needs Analysis Methods for Software Adoption?

There are several types of needs analysis, and not every method is appropriate for a new software implementation or upgrade. Over time, we’ve identified that the following methods best suit the goal of improving user adoption and productivity:

  • Questionnaires: A great place to start. Questionnaires are used to gather valuable information about the implementation project plan, business processes, system tasks, end-users, and the desired business outcome(s).
  • Interviews: Everyone from managers to team members has an opinion about the organization. While that kind of comprehensive interviewing may not be necessary, speaking directly with training coordinators, project managers and members of the business community will provide useful insights.
  • Assessments: This is where everything comes together. Do users have the appropriate knowledge and skills for their role or position? Are adoption and productivity levels high, or are there areas for improvement?

When is the Best Time to Conduct a Needs Analysis?

Needs analysis helps you figure out exactly where you’re starting and what your organization needs to achieve its goals.

Needs analysis helps you figure out exactly where you’re starting and what your organization needs to achieve its goals. For a new technology implementation or upgrade, the analysis should be performed around the time the business requirements effort is ending and the system configuration phase is beginning. This timing allows ample time to gather and analyze all implementation information and develop the user-adoption strategy.

What’s the Best Way to Conduct the Needs Analysis?

Our expert team conducts a complete needs analysis for every organization we work with before we develop their user-adoption program. Here’s an example of the best way to conduct the analysis, based on those we’ve created for countless organizations:

Step 1: Distribute Needs Analysis Questionnaire

Working closely with training coordinators, project managers and business community resources, we help them develop a profile of their organization that includes current levels of user competency. We also look at the types of roles in the organization and the current state of required knowledge and skills for each position. This can include levels of experience with current business processes and software.

The result: a high-level overview that’s used as a map moving forward.

Step 2: Conduct Interviews

It’s a good idea to involve key stakeholders when evaluating your user-adoption strategy. Talking with a broad range of stakeholders about the implementation project, business processes, system tasks, business goals, and users provides vital information for creating an effective user-adoption strategy.

  • Meet with the Training Coordinator. It’s important that your user-adoption program stays aligned with your implementation project goals. Talking with the training coordinator provides a clear understanding of the organization and other useful information about the project. Ask the training coordinator to arrange interviews with the project team and business community resources: A broad cross-section of interviewees gives you the best understanding of the organization and project.
  • Interview the Project Team. The project team provides a better understanding of the implementation’s scope of business processes and system tasks. Gathering several documents—project scope, system design requirements, current-state and future-state process flows, design and testing scripts, and job titles of end-users—helps you build the foundation for the training curriculum.

Once you determine the project scope by business functional area and you understand the users involved, document the business tasks and user job titles for each functional area. Use these docs during the business community interviews to validate and create a role-specific training curriculum.

  • Interview Business Community Resources. It’s important that your user-adoption program meets the desired outcomes of the business. Talking with business community resources helps validate how job titles map to business processes and tasks identified by the project team. It also helps to determine the complexity or frequency of tasks, which helps you define user training requirements (e.g., if a task is performed only on a monthly basis, you could use an alternative to formal classroom training). Think about what your users really need and want from your user-adoption program.

Step 3: Create User Profiles

After you capture the necessary information in interviews, use the data to create user profiles. These profiles also build the foundation for the training curriculum.

Step 4: Develop a Preliminary Training Curriculum

Finally, after evaluating your implementation project, business goals, and user-adoption needs, make recommendations for the training curriculum in key areas, including training delivery methods, user on-boarding, skills gaps, and tracking and assessments.

Review the recommendations with the project team to validate the curriculum’s content and structure. Make necessary updates, such as to the delivery method or system design requirements.

The Key Take-Away

When implementing new software, needs analysis helps you identify your organization’s needs to improve user performance and determine the best approach to filling the gap between actual and desired knowledge and skills. Only then will your organization significantly improve user adoption and productivity and drive real value from your software investments.

When implementing new software, needs analysis helps you identify your organization’s needs to improve user performance and determine the best approach to filling the gap between actual and desired knowledge and skills.

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