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How IT Leaders Can Help Drive User Adoption

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The successful deployment of communications technology relies on one critical factor: high user adoption. As IT leaders and CIOs are keenly aware, significant time, money and resources are devoted to the rollout of new technologies. And yet, even the most promising deployments can fizzle in the hands of employees.

Of course, there’s quite a bit at stake for CIOs who plan to introduce new unified communications and collaboration tools throughout the enterprise. If they fail to persuade users to embrace the new technologies, their investment is wasted. But more importantly, it could make their organization less competitive.

So what do IT leaders need to know to achieve high user adoption? While there are many strategies to increase adoption rates, the most effective approaches are those that engage the user early and often. Here’s how:

Let Employees Lead the Way

Traditionally, IT introduced new systems and tools to employees. But today’s elevated awareness about how technology can be used to deliver stronger results, it’s just as likely that line of business leaders and employees will suggest tools to IT.

For example, sales and marketing teams know that customer relationship management solutions can drive more revenue. Thus, they are easy converts to new communications technologies that integrate with their core applications. The lesson for CIOs? Understand the applications that are critical to various departments and ensure any new communications solutions can seamlessly integrate with them. Getting buy-in from future users up front and doing your research on what will offer them the easiest path forward will help increase adoption before anything has even been deployed.

Share Best Practices from Early Adopters

Despite the productivity benefits of new communications tools, an astonishing number of employees are still reluctant to use them. According to a recent survey by Technalysis Research, emails, text and phone calls make up 75% of communications in the workplace. In fact, more than a third of workers continue to collaborate with co-workers by emailing documents, but just 19% use real-time collaboration tools.

This means IT leaders have a daunting task to get the laggards on board. One way to resolve this problem is to engage early adopters. Eric Newsome, the CIO of gas supplier, Praxair, recently told CIO Magazine that immediately after a major deployment, his team observes early adopters as they work with the new tools.

"We are ethnographers; we go around and watch these users in action," Newsome says. This approach allows his team to identify best practices, which are then compiled and shared with users around the organization. By sharing relevant examples from colleagues and teeing up early adopters as internal evangelists, IT leaders and CIOs can create positive peer pressure that entices reluctant employees to begin using the tools.

Get Buy-In from the IT Staff

The challenges of getting end-users to try new technologies may be legendary, but the reluctance of IT staff who support legacy applications isn’t discussed quite as often. However, it’s important that IT executives also consider the resistance they might get from their own staff, writes analyst Joy Sim at CIOInsight.

There are two strategies that can be followed: retrain or replace. First, leaders should evaluate their teams and determine not only if an employee can be retrained on the new solution, but also if they are willing to embrace the change. Sim emphasizes that retraining is preferable, but sometimes it may be necessary to replace or reassign team members who are resistant to learning how to effectively support the new technology. After all, without 100% buy-in from the supporting IT staff, it will be much more difficult to reach user adoption goals.

At the end of the day, ensuring your software implementation is a success is just as much about building internal relationships as it is about technology itself. It’s not always easy, but IT leaders who actively cultivate opinions of cross-functional teams and engage end-users throughout the process are much more likely to see adoption rates – and resulting productivity - rise.

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