One of the most important things application builders and upper management often overlook when considering a new business software solution is user adoption. “Will my team adopt the new solution after we roll it out?” is a question that gets lost in the excitement of purchasing the new technology. Focus is instead placed on product features, extended capabilities, pricing, and how well it manages a workflow process. You might say the purchasing process is often equivalent to management ordering company t-shirts for a group of 50 team members. Rather than ordering specific sizes for each team member, only ordering one size and then being surprised when only a few team members actually wear their t-shirts.
Change management is always going to be a factor when rolling out a new solution. Users will adopt at varying rates depending on two things: their individual openness to change, and their ability to see a painless transition to the new solution so they can continue to do their jobs effectively.
In order to achieve a high rate of user adoption, consider the following best practices:
1. Define and understand natural groups of users.
Who is going to use your solution and what are their needs? Group your team members into like work functions, for example “Sales Reps.” It is likely that all Sales Reps will need to have similar access to a solution, but their access might be very different from a group of users called “Project Managers.” Keep in mind when planning and implementing your solution that not all users are created equal. Knowing your audience can also help to create targeting messaging and training that will lead to increased user adoption.
2. In order to solve user problems, you must know what their problems are.
Interview your end-users to gain insights and feedback about the existing system and understand completely what works and what doesn’t work. Users are creatures of habit. If the new solution has all the good and none of the bad, it will feel comfortable and the likelihood of user adoption will be improved.
3. Involve a subset of users in the entire process, from evaluation to implementation.
Including various users from different functional groups, skill sets, and abilities will provide valuable insight during the evaluation stages of finding a new solution, as well as during implementation. These ‘super-users’ will help you create excitement about the new solution early on, and help with training and change management within their teams as advocates for change during the implementation phase.
4. Design with your user in mind. Speak in their language.
Every solution has business objectives that it is solving for such as increased productivity, decreased costs, etc. However, the new solution should work in a way your users will understand and be able to use every day while still being able to provide upper management the functionality it needs on the back end. For example, use terms that make sense to the end user. Although upper management might need reporting for “Allocated Resource Hours,” your users might use the term “Hours to Complete” to refer to the same thing. Naming a field in your solution “Hours to Complete” will help user adoption.
5. Invest time in usability testing and continually improve through user feedback.
Going live with a half-baked solution is the first step in a guaranteed rollout failure and an uphill battle for user adoption in the future. It isn’t necessarily required to get it right on the first try, but it should be as close as possible to instill confidence and excitement within the user teams. This is where users from different functional groups, skill sets, and abilities are crucial so that any issues or inefficiencies can be easily detected early on before the larger team has access. Utilize user feedback to iterate and improve on the solution until it is ready for prime time.
6. Implement user knowledge and feedback resources to the new solution.
The best place for a user to find information, documentation, or job-aids on how to use the new solution is within the new solution whenever possible. Creating a knowledgebase, wiki, or help topic section can help users feel self sufficient within the application. Implement a feedback depository so that users can submit feedback instantly about the new solution within the solution, while also being able to track the status of their feedback. Empowering users to report bugs, fixes, and other improvements can only mean a better solution for the team, and will lead to long term success for the new solution.
7. Preview the new solution to the larger team before going live. Sell the advantages!
Creating awareness that change is coming is an often overlooked step when attempting a successful new solution rollout and implementation. Present the users with high level information and visuals about what is staying the same and what improvements are being made. Discuss any forecasted improvements to workflow directly affecting them that will happen once the switch has been made to the new solution. Utilize your ‘super-users’ to promote change within their teams.
Following the best practices above will lead to a happier, well balanced user group that has adopted your new solution and was part of a successful rollout and implementation. The important thing to remember about our users is that they are typically average everyday people. They don’t really care how cool our new solution is, nor do they think about how it works. They just expect it to work for them and for it to be EASY. They don’t want to learn something new every six months, they don’t want to ask for help, they simply want to have the tools they need to do their job well. It is our responsibility as managers and application administrators to not just consider, but to seriously focus on our users and include them in the process when we design, build, and/or implement web based software. No matter how great the software is, no matter how good the sales person was that sold it to us was, if our users don’t adopt, it might as well be that company t-shirt that doesn’t fit!