The #1 Rule of Tech Adoption You Can't Violate

Lately, I've been comparing my experience driving user adoption with what's been written about the subject. There are books and posts and templates, and they all talk about executive sponsorship, training, internal communications, gamification, pilots, case studies—all the things—but there’s one thing that's regularly missing: ongoing iteration of the product. This is critical because over the long run, people will do whatever's easiest, no matter how clever your communication campaign.

It's the one inviolable rule of tech adoption that water always (and only) runs downhill. Translation: pushing sub-par technology with an amazing rollout strategy will ultimately blow up in someone's face.

What this means/how to fix it:

  1. Don't treat tech adoption as purely a communications exercise. Use it to get product feedback, too! Typically, the plans I've seen have been all about pushing a message out. Plateaus in user adoption are generally addressed through changes to the communication strategy only. But plateaus can yield important clues about where planning assumptions were off and where the product is falling short—so the more communications and product can work together, the better.
  2. That said, do nail the communications. All the thing you typically think about when thinking about driving user adoption, do them, because (1) framing expectations is critical to helping people understand why change is good for them, and (2) the more perfect your communications program, the more confident you can be that those adoption plateaus truly do represent product gaps.
  3. Start the adoption campaign immediately when thinking about implementing a new technology. The way technology is bought, adoption usually isn't even thought about until after all the requirements gathering, business process audits, pilot programs, and final customizations are complete. This often represents a long gap between when the idea is hatched and when employees are asked to adopt the new technology... but during this gap, employees are still being engaged in focus groups, surveys, pilots, etc. And, because they live in the real world, they're reading about and talking about and fantasizing about other companies where better solutions are already in place, and gossiping about why it's taking their own company so long to figure things out. One thing I learned with Brand Amper is that designing successful user adoption programs hinges on getting in front all this cross-talk... and the best way to do that is to start early and make it part of the process.
  4. Believe that investing in user adoption the right way matters. McKinsey measured change management programs and found that purposeful, intentional change management yields something like 4x the return—143% ROI to 35% ROI—over more ad hoc programs.

The inviolable rule of tech adoption is that people do what's easiest. The irony is, your adoption strategy was probably created based on what would be easiest for the roll out team rather than for employees at large. The above ideas should help recalibrate around end user employees to maximize your overall adoption rates.