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Beth Chmielowski

My last post described five steps you can take during the strategy and planning phase of a cloud implementation to inform and simplify user adoption. Today’s post is all about the user and the top five ways to prepare and enable them for success.

  • Show Them: People who purchase and/or configure the tool are usually a very small subset of those that will use it. These people invest so much time getting the system ready for go live, that they sometimes forget that the majority of the company doesn’t know what is coming. They may not even know anything is coming, or if they do, they may be very nervous about it. Don’t wait for go live. Give people a sneak preview. Think about this as an internal marketing campaign, communicating both the vision as well as the reality today. There are many communications best practices – but if you do nothing else, at least schedule a demo.
  • Teach Them: Put together a training plan by audience. There will be multiple stakeholder groups which will have some shared and some unique needs based on how they will be using the new system. Make sure you teach them how to use the new tool within the context of the current or evolving processes they support. A demo helps set expectations, but training is crucial for actual usage. Ideally, training should be a blend of formal training that is hands-on, scenario-base and process-focused (vs. feature/function focused), augmented with agile and social learning options. The laundry list of everything a tool is capable of doing is largely irrelevant to any given user.  Instead, teach them what the tool enables them to do in their role, and how they will be expected to use it.
  • Help Them: Help and support have an increasing number of meanings in the technology world. 
    • Help them help themselves (Agile Learning):  Provide access to content when people need it in an easy to consume way so it doesn’t disrupt them from the flow of work. Ideally, make that information available from within the context of where they will need it and build it around specific processes. Online help is great for describing buttons and tabs; agile learning content should describe tasks, and those tasks should be specific to the person, the company and the happy path that has been configured for them, not just generic, out of the box flows.
    • Help them connect with peers and experts so they can help each other (Social Learning): There will be people that will, whether by nature or by design, become evangelists for the system or experts with the processes that the system supports. Help people find each other and work together via collaboration and social learning tools. They are increasingly being built into or integrated with enterprise systems, so think though how you want to take advantage of those tools.
    • Help them when they’re stuck (IT Support): Make sure people know who to contact for help when they’re stuck, and how. Make sure people are available to provide that help, especially around go live. Also, have periodic checkpoints to review the most common issues and see if there’s anything that can be done within the technology itself to eliminate the problem.

  • Convince Them: If you’re expecting people to use the new system as part of their job, use it as part of your job. Management should set the example with their own behavior and drive people to the system whenever possible. For example, if you are using a new CRM system, run your sales calls from the tool. If sales reps are calling numbers that are different from what they’re tracking in the system, hold them accountable. If managers and leadership continually place value on the system and the data, users will be compelled to do so as well.
  • Empower Them: Finally, give users a mechanism for suggesting improvements. One of the many benefits we hear from line of business owners is that cloud-based technology gives them greater control over their own systems, rather than being dependant on IT for updates and releases. Not to imply that IT people are a barrier, however it’s not unusual for them to be an overworked team with a large backlog doing their best to balance multiple priorities. Cloud-based systems let them divest of some of the more tactical and ostensibly lower-value tasks such as tweaking fields or workflows by giving the maintenance back to the line of business. This is a win-win, since those minor tweaks may actually result in major wins in terms of adoption. And, given the ease of maintenance the Cloud offers, the line of business is able to prioritize and execute on those changes rather quickly.  Take advantage of that. Think about the ongoing management and maintenance model you want to offer. Provide a way for users to submit requests, and provide input and suggestions. Define the governance model you will need to process and approve requests, and plan for an internal and/or external maintenance team that can execute on those changes.

You don’t need to do all of the items on this list, or the five steps mentioned in my previous post, to be successful.  However the more you do, the greater your likelihood for success. At the end of the day any enterprise system implementation, whether cloud-based or not, represents a significant investment. You don’t want to get 6 or 12 months in and end up with a system that no one is using. Put some thought up front into what you will do to drive adoption, and weave those efforts throughout the life-cycle of your deployment.

Beth Chmielowski helps lead the user adoption and cloud training practice at Appirio. She has more than 14 years experience in the high tech industry defining and building programs that increase customer success. bethc@appirio.com, @bethchm

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