Digital Adoption: Strategies you can start using now

The process of developing a digital adoption strategy can feel overwhelming. With so many tools to manage, process changes to document, and training to distribute it can feel like an uphill battle. 

There are tools out there that can help you manage the process but even choosing one of them from the many options can feel overwhelming. 

Why is that? Well, knowledge management, user adoption, and change management tools are hotter than ever. This is because organizations are recognizing the need for them to manage the digital adoption process. In fact, according to a study done by Zion Market Research, the industry is estimated to grow to nearly $20 billion by 2022! 

But why does it matter? And what tips, tricks, and strategies can you start using today to get you going on your digital adoption journey? 

Why does it matter?

Why is it important that you develop a strategy in the first place and what does research tell us about potential impacts of low adoption?

Low adoption impacts data cleanliness. If people don’t use a tool or don’t know how to properly use a tool, the data either isn’t put in or, more often, input incorrectly. Bad data consequently leads to skewed forecasting models, poor financial decisions and the list goes on. 

According to the research director at Gartner, Mei Yang Selvage, it causes a number of adverse effects that are often overlooked. “Failing to measure this impact results in reactive responses to data quality issues, missed business growth opportunities, increased risks, and lower ROI,” said Selvage.  

Low adoption also directly impacts revenue. According to the Salesforce “State of Sales” annual report, on average Sales reps spend just 34% of their time selling. Why? A majority said they spend the rest of their time inputting data, managing emails/communications, and tracking down the right information.

A part of the time they could be selling is wasted to tracking down information in the very tools that are supposed to help make them more productive! 

How else is it impacting your bottom line? An IBM study found that “when teams are appropriately trained, companies save an average of $70,000 annually and receive a 10% increase in productivity.”

So what strategies can you start using right away to help curb the consequences of low adoption?

Strategies you can adopt (see what we did there?)

If you’re starting from scratch, consider starting with the following tips:

1) Start with an audit. It will be impossible to drive adoption without understanding how many tools you have and who has access to them. Map out which teams use which tools so you can segment it down a bit. It will also be a good idea to track down the costs of each one and make sure you check if they are billed monthly or annually. The reason this step is important is understanding if you can cancel a subscription/service/tool if need be. Software usage and waste reports found that on average the cost of unused software is approximately $259 per desktop. This adds up to 37% of waste in the overall cost of licensing the tools!  

2) Understand the essential elements. It’s important to understand what needs to go into an adoption strategy and what you’ll need to consider. The 5 essential elements you need to focus on are timing, communication, documentation, training, and reinforcement (more on this below). 

3) Consider crafting an enablement strategy. Find out how you can help your team do their jobs and use their tools better with a comprehensive enablement strategy. For more detailed information about crafting an enablement strategy, click HERE.

Next steps 

If you’ve already started your digital adoption journey, first give yourself a pat on the back. It can be a tricky process and you’ve already crossed the starting line! Extra kudos if you already have a plan for an enablement strategy!

Now that you’ve laid the foundation, take a look at the following tips to double down and accelerate your adoption journey:

1) Understand why perceived usefulness is important. A particular tool may be easy to use but it doesn’t matter if your entire team does not think so. Perception is reality when it comes to adoption. People will always be resistant to change so it is important to make sure there is an incentive to use new tools, existing underutilized tools, or adopt new changes being rolled out. If it is clear to your team they will benefit from using the tool, they’ll be more likely to do so. Also, be sure there is clear training and build excitement around it. If everyone starts to get excited, social dynamics and the status quo will help persuade those on the fence.

2) Make it user friendly. How is user-friendly different from perceived usefulness? Great question! Just showing the benefit and building excitement will not be enough. If it’s not intuitive or is too difficult to figure out, the tool will ultimately be abandoned. This means providing the proper training and making resources readily accessible and easy to find. This way when inevitable questions come up, the user can get the resources they need and not abandon their workflow.

3) Expand your plan for the “essential elements.” As mentioned above, there are 5 key components you will need to consider when embarking on your digital adoption journey:

a) Timing – Just like how you can’t boil the ocean, you cannot drive adoption overnight. It is important to level-set your expectations when it comes to timing and developing a realistic timeline. A few things to keep in mind:

  • Do NOT start a project at the end of the quarter/end of the fiscal year. You and your whole team are busy enough and a new initiative will likely not be successful when people are already up to their ears in workloads.
  • Also, as tempting as it will be, avoid choosing Monday mornings as a kick-off for change. People will be more receptive to it once they are ready for the week and have gotten back into work mode.

b) Communication – Change can often be uncomfortable or even scary for some. Talk to your team first. Discuss what their pain points are and address their concerns about what the change will mean for them. Lead with the benefits before discussing the changes and reassure them that this will be helpful. Next, be sure to send out written communication with important details and dates. If it is a big change, like rolling out an entirely new tool, make sure you send LOTS of notifications and notice.

c) Documentation – This is one that we all agree is of high importance but can often fall down the list of urgency. It is important to remember that documentation, just like we mentioned in timing, does not have to happen overnight. You will want to be sure that training documentation is available upfront and is easy to access. To ensure you and your team are successful, dedicate 10 minutes every day to documentation. Taking it in stride will eliminate documentation burnout. And! Be sure to make it all centralized. Scattered documentation will render efforts unsuccessful.

d) Training – If we haven’t made it clear already, training is a cornerstone of adoption. How can you expect people to adopt changes and use new tools if they are not told how to do so or given expectations? This does not mean one upfront training session! The most important thing to remember about training is that it is not a one time exercise. For training to be successful, it must happen on a continuous basis. Why? Science!

e) Reinforcement – To reiterate what we just said (and to prove the point), you have to make learning and training a continuous journey. Think about this, your working memory only retains 7-10 pieces of information. And to make a long term memory? You have to have R-E-I-N-F-O-R-C-E-M-E-N-T. Learning science has found that the best approach is “bite-sized” digestible chunks of knowledge. Make training an in-app journey that lives where your users work to reinforce it on a continuous basis.

Making the journey simple and spectacular 

Now that you have the strategies you need, let’s talk about tools.

Traditionally this has meant lengthy courses filled to the brim with difficult to remember details, walkthroughs that break with every new update, google docs, emails, difficult to locate power points, etc.

None of this has led to overall success. So what’s missing?

This is where in-app learning shines. What is in-app learning? 

Learning embedded within applications to deliver training anywhere users are working. 

This is a game-changer because users no longer have to stop their workflow or disrupt their processes to find answers. 

New adoption and enablement tools like Spekit consolidate knowledge across the organization in a centralized wiki, then surface that information contextually, wherever your team is working. 

All of this leads to ease of use, less volume on your support team/ IT department/ SF Admin, and ultimately drives adoption.

Driving home your efforts 

It won’t be an overnight journey, but you’re now well on your way to driving adoption in your organization.

Remember to revisit the essential elements if you are feeling lost or stuck at any point. And remember, you’re not alone. If adoption were easy we wouldn’t keep coming back to address new challenges. It’s a continuous journey because organizations and technology are in a constant state of flux. But, implementing the above strategies will put you on the road to adoption success. 

About the Author

Melanie Fellay

Mel is the CEO and Co-founder of Spekit, a Forbes 30 under 30 recipient, Entrepreneur’s Top 100 Women of Influence, and featured across Crunchbase, Fast Company, Business Insider, and more. She is leading the revolution to shatter the glass ceiling and unleash the full potential of every employee. Learn more ->