New technology, whether it’s a customer resource management (CRM) system, Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) or centralized, automation-driven procurement package, can be palpably exciting. Who doesn’t want to give their team cool new tools and skills to boost their efficiency and productivity while making the company more competitive and profitable? It’s a win-win scenario that rewards your investment with happy employees and a more successful business.
But for companies, as with people, change—even when it’s positive—can be tough. Convincing your crew to shed their familiar habits to embrace new ones requires more than a quick email and a new login; it takes persistent and creative change management, leveraging user adoption strategies. These tactics put your team at ease and makes them an essential partner in achieving shared goals—instead of forcing them into unfamiliar territory without a map, landmarks, or a clear destination.
User Adoption Strategies Help You Succeed as a Team
The folks on your staff who’ll be relying on the new and exciting software package you’re deploying are known to software developers as end users. The success of all the initiatives you’ve planned to achieve through adding new technology to your toolkit rests not just on the servers, but on the shoulders of human beings who might not be super thrilled to find out things are changing.
The key to gaining buy-in and complete end-user adoption of new software is to create and deploy user adoption strategies before the first megabyte of data is transferred or the first app is downloaded. Why waste time, money, and resources herding cats after implementation when you can make your team an essential part of the process from the start?
“Even the most powerful, full-featured software won’t generate a healthy return on your investment if the end-users can’t (or worse yet, won’t) learn to use it. A lot of talk surrounds the concept of “user experience,” but for your team, the “experience” amounts to their workday—and if it’s not easy, effective, and demonstrably better than what came before, you may struggle to gain buy-in.”
Five Essential User Adoption Strategies
Every business is unique, but no matter your company’s size or industry, introducing new software or other technology to your workflow will create disruption. Taming that disruption and turning it into enthusiastic support for positive change from both individual users and the company as a whole takes some careful strategizing.
Five of the most effective aspects of a successful user adoption plan include:
Cultivate Excitement through Anticipation
Having researched and tested and approved new software, you and the rest of your project team are already on board with its benefits and features. Take that energy and use it to drive an informational teaser campaign for your staff prior to implementation.
- Schedule a special event on company time to inform your employees of the coming changes. Consider providing a meal and bringing together key figures from company leadership to explain in detail how the new software will benefit individual users, specific departments, and the company as a whole.
- Schedule one or more demonstrations of the software before implementation to highlight its features, answer questions, and demonstrate its value for end users.
- Consider some “freebies” to promote excitement and encourage discussion and engagement, such as t-shirts and other promotional items in the weeks leading up to implementation.
Sell the Simplicity
Even the most powerful, full-featured software won’t generate a healthy return on your investment if the end-users can’t (or worse yet, won’t) learn to use it. A lot of talk surrounds the concept of “user experience,” but for your team, the “experience” amounts to their workday—and if it’s not easy, effective, and demonstrably better than what came before, you may struggle to gain buy-in.
Demonstrating the concrete benefits goes beyond quick demos. Provide lots of visual content explaining the new system (e.g., posters, video explainers, etc.) and how effectively it can simplify and enhance your staff’s workday. Create several lunchtime learning sessions that provide a stress-free atmosphere for discussing the transition and asking questions.
Make it easy for employees to reach out to you through weekly virtual and/or physical meetups, and email, phone, and text. If the new software has a centralized communication component that streamlines these efforts, all the better.
Incentivize and Energize
Software does what it’s told (most of the time) without the need for carrot OR stick, but humans respond best to positive reinforcement. Beyond directly addressing questions and addressing changes to existing business processes, the addition of new processes, and general angst over potential corporate culture shock, consider building commitment and participation through a little old-fashioned competition and rewards.
You could, for example:
- Create an incentive program that rewards users with “perks” for positive behaviors such as consistent use of key features of the software relevant to their position. Example perks include gift certificates, time off, use of company assets like theatre or sports seating, or even points that can be used to buy goods and services on a special promotional website.
- Encourage competition between departments and users to provide useful feedback and tips (voted on by users). Winners receive a departmental pizza party, perk points, etc.
- Create special rewards and recognition for users whose use of the software has created an especially significant cost reduction or process improvement (for example, automation of a formerly complex purchase order creation and approval process).
- Reward “outside the box” thinkers who really lean into the new software to identify hitherto unrecognized savings, innovation, or development opportunities.
Set, Track, and Celebrate Goals
Between the incentivizing and educational initiatives, you might occasionally forget that one of the most important reasons you’re working so hard to maximize user adoption is the role of staff in creating greater profits, productivity, and competitiveness through their use of the software.
Specific, detailed, and long-term benchmarks for cost reductions and process improvements are the roadmap your team is following to greater success. And when you openly and frequently communicate your goals, and the progress your company has made toward them, with staff, they not only understand the importance of their contribution, but value it more highly. As partners in the company’s accomplishments, they’ll be much more eager to embrace the tech that drives that success.
Some of the targets you might consider include:
- Decrease average purchase order approval times from two days to 12 hours
- Reduce overall Procure-to-Pay process times by 35%.
- Cut exceptions by 25% over last quarter
- Lower office supply costs by 20% compared to last year
Make Change a Marathon, Not a Sprint
You’ll be scheduling the most critical training in the weeks and days leading up to “go-live,” but remember that even small changes can be tough to master in a day. Focus your training on the core processes users will need to know on day one, and expand from there.
When your initial training plan is complete, be prepared to continue dedicating resources to refresher courses and system updates. Providing incremental, ongoing training support for your team will keep them up to speed with the newest features of the software, and keep productivity-killing frustration at bay. Don’t be afraid to introduce a little levity—bored trainees are tuned-out trainees—and make sure you stretch out the training so as to avoid overwhelming your already busy staff.
Create an online database any user can access for immediate help with frequently asked questions (FAQs). Engage your most proficient users by elevating them to “super users” who can provide real-time feedback and training for others who may not be as keen on the new system.
In addition, make sure you have robust and responsive help desk support to ensure questions and concerns are addressed thoroughly and promptly.
Empower Your Users for Profitability and Productivity
Change can be hard. But you can make it easier for your team to embrace next-level tools and tech by respecting their time, talent, and human capabilities. Create and deploy smart user adoption strategies for your next software integration, and make sure everyone’s working together on a path to shared success.
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