Climbing Your Adoption Everest

You’ve painstakingly selected and implemented technology that optimizes your business processes. Why aren’t your employees using it?

Enterprise adoption problems are frustrating – and common. Our Chief Delivery Officer Carrie Schuckle has been overseeing development projects from beginning to end for 20 years. She’s well-acquainted with the usual stumbling blocks. “The technology may present challenges to overcome, but the adoption phase is usually the toughest. It’s what makes or breaks a project,” Carrie warns.

Why is workplace tech adoption so difficult? There are lots of factors, but here are the three big troublemakers:

  1. Humans are change-averse.
  2. Structurally and operationally, organizations struggle with change.
  3. Project leaders fail to establish a clear, shared vision from the beginning.

Let’s take a closer look at each factor and discuss strategies for summiting Mount Adoption.

Humans & Change

Global design firm IDEO has been leading the human-centered design charge since 1978. One of their core beliefs is central to the adoption dilemma: “Technology moves fast; human needs change slowly.” This phenomenon has only become more pronounced over the last AI-buzz-filled decade. That’s why it’s so important to build a case, early and often, for how your new tech connects to users’ everyday needs. Help people see how the new way will change their work lives for the better, help them work smarter.

Even when you’ve built that case, muscle memory is a strong force. Daily users know better than anyone the limitations of their current system, but they can’t help but gravitate back to it out of familiarity. Here, empathy can be your most powerful tool for change.

In Tech Platform Architecture: A Human-Centric Approach, we profile a client’s re-platforming process. That’s about the biggest tech change a company can weather. By the time the great changeover took place, everyone knew it was for the best. Still, they held an all-company funeral for the old system. People got up to pay tribute to its many failings. The compulsion to say goodbye to a reviled, broken-down legacy system is a testimony to the human need for closure. Use empathy to trump habit.

Organizations & Change

In most cases, it’s outdated structures and mindsets that are killing innovation. AI researcher Yves Bergquist wryly observes, “19th century organizational models are trying to solve 21st century problems with 22nd century technology.” Pretty much sums up this problem in a nutshell.

Companies are still largely organized into departments, silos working independently. But to stay relevant in business today, there is a push to be constantly optimizing processes. That puts workers in a constant state of stress. As Chris Bucholtz says in his eye-opening examination of the speed of thinking vs. the speed of doing, “Humans working in teams are simply not that great at rewriting the rules on the fly; getting a set of processes in place is stressful, and executing those processes is no less so.”

There’s no easy answer to this one. Can a company learn to be nimble? How do you fundamentally change how an entrenched organization operates? A smartly integrated platform that provides centralized, accessible data is the best place to start. We’ve seen how business intelligence and dynamic reporting can get employees collaborating across units and thinking beyond departmental metrics. If fact, we just wrote a blog post about it.

Adoption Starts with a Shared Vision

All good leaders know buy-in is central to the success of any change initiative. But you can’t just depend on a marketing campaign to curry favor. The surefire way to get people on board is to include them in the planning process. Whether that’s being done or not is a matter of some debate. PwC reports that 90% of C-suite executives believe their company pays attention to people’s needs when introducing new technology, but only about half (53%) of staff agree. Are users being heard? Do they feel like they’re being heard?

A clear, shared vision is born out of inclusive discovery. Ask people how they work and how they want to work. From there, you can begin designing for usability. Leverage the consumerization of IT. If people like using a certain app at home, chances are they’ll like it at work too. Users are the drivers of your platform; make sure they feel empowered to drive it where you need it to go.

Craving Practical Pro Tips?

In this post, we’ve taken the long view. Empathy, a shared vision and collaborative architecture can all help you overcome systemic roadblocks to adoption. Tech Platform Architecture: A Human-Centric Approach walks you through how you can plan for adoption from the very beginning of your project. The white paper also contains hands-on best practices for encouraging user adoption. Each of our four tried-and-true methods were developed based on how people live, work and think.

Whether you need long-range strategy or short-range hacks, we’ve got you covered.