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User Adoption is Poor. Now What?

What an incredibly lousy feeling! You have sunk a significant investment into new technology, and people either are not utilizing it as intended or regressing back to the old inferior technology and process workarounds. Whether you are in the planning stages, or have already implemented an expensive new system, this just might be the worst-case scenario. This is especially true for organizational leaders who have invested their own political capital in pushing for the change.

Unfortunately, this scenario is far too common. Every day, we encounter executives who are frustrated having made investments in solution applications and have done all the hard work leading their organizations through a transformation, only to see the application not live up to expectations. The technology they have put their weight behind does not deliver the anticipated improvements in efficiencies and cost reductions. The nagging part is the application continues to show promise, but employees and end users just are not adopting it.

Why does this continue to happen? The intriguing thing is the bulk of vendors today are pretty good at delivering against well-defined technical requirements; in fact, the software itself is rarely the problem. Typically, the problem is that the people side of change is usually an afterthought and not managed with the same amount of rigor as the technical side of change.

Improve User Adoption Through Change Management

This people side of change is called Organizational Change Management (OCM). We define OCM as the set of processes, strategies and activities that support organizational and personal transitions from the current state to the desired future state to achieve and sustain the desired business vision and strategy. At MSSBTA, we understand that OCM is an integral component to any successful major transformation initiative, especially user adoption.

What are the risks when the people side of change is not managed well? The top risk is that end-users actively or even passively reject the new technology because they either do not understand it well enough, or feel it was forced upon them. They don’t feel ownership.

Change resistance can also come from a lack of coordinated communication (or even the rumor-mill) about why the system is being implemented, who it will impact, and how it will impact them. Post-implementation, one of the first indicators of low/no adoption is whether processes start to break down. This typically happens because people do not have sufficient knowledge or visibility of the bigger picture, their role, and downstream implications of not following the process.

A common misconception is that OCM is synonymous with training. Many leaders will even point to the lack of adequate training as the root cause of why user adoption is low and suggest the solution to this issue is more training.

While we agree that inadequate training may be a contributing factor to low user adoption, training is just one facet of managing the people side of change. More training alone will not automatically lead to higher user adoption and a subsequent increase in ROI.

To maximize ROI, a more comprehensive OCM approach should be deployed as part of any major technology initiative. OCM assessments should be done in the initial decision-making phases of a potential project. OCM plans should be an integral portion of the overall project plan and inform communications planning.

During implementation, OCM tools can be leveraged to engage stakeholders and mitigate adoption risk. For example, the knowledge and application of Prosci’s ADKAR Model will help leaders systematically overcome barriers to an individual’s acceptance of change and increase ROI.

If you notice people are creating workarounds rather than using the software or are lapsing back to the old way of doing things download our Application OCM checklist and use it as a reference guide to help manage the people side of change.

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