6 key steps to increase employee adoption of new software applications

Enterprise Information Management (EIM) is one of the most important suites of enterprise applications for business today. EIM solutions are proven to enable organizations and…

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Melanie Fong

October 4, 20187 minute read

Enterprise Information Management (EIM) is one of the most important suites of enterprise applications for business today. EIM solutions are proven to enable organizations and people to work smarter, faster and more effectively. They are core elements of digital transformation for many companies, and when implementing EIM solutions, the quicker you bring your people up to speed on the new systems, the quicker you reap the benefits. So, how do you help your employees get the most from your EIM applications?

I’m going to start by stating the obvious: it is very challenging to successfully implement large IT programs. Most fail and one estimate puts the cost to the global economy at a staggering $6.2 trillion each year. Recent research suggests that 9 out of 10 digital transformation programs fail to meet expectations. One reason for failure is poor change management that leads to low user adoption rates. However, with proper planning and execution, you can overcome the resistance that stops people embracing new software systems.

Employee resistance hampers change management

There can be a common – and flawed – expectation when an organization implements major new software like EIM. You identify the need, work out the solution, identify and specify system requirements, develop a fantastic application and roll it out. Now, the expectation is that people will rush to take advantage of all the advanced functionality at their disposal. Only they don’t. The system is under-utilized – or some users avoid using it altogether – which wastes a huge amount of money for your organization.

A Forbes study considered why and how employees may create bottlenecks as a result of resistance. There can be many reasons for this resistance, which are mainly based around fear. People fear the unknown, and they assume it will effect their jobs in a negative way as a result of being unable to master, or even use the new software to perform their daily tasks. However, in my experience, there’s often a much simpler explanation for the resistance: people don’t know what the software is or what it can do for them.

Too often I see employees that are not fully prepared to – or comfortable with – adopting the new technology. It creates a barrier and the longer this exists, the less happy people are to try to work with the software. When I’m running user adoption programs, I’ll often tell people that I’m the translator between them and the software. I’m there to break down the barrier between them so they can understand the software and what it can do for them.

Six steps to increasing user adoption

Here’s a fact that some people who’ve been through change management programs in the past may find hard to accept: most of your people want to use the new software. If it makes their lives easier and better, they want to use your software. If they understand why it’s important to their role and the business, they want to use the software. The skill in a user adoption program is to tie the user’s wants and needs to the new EIM application’s capabilities – that’s also true when upgrading to the next version.

But how do you increase user adoption? Here are six steps you should consider taking:

  1. Start early. Beginning to inform and train your people at the point of implementation is not the best way to ensure quick adoption. Key users should be included from the beginning so that business processes are understood and reflected accordingly in the new software. It is very important that the new software not only reflects the tasks of a user, but makes them easier, quicker, more reliable. And it takes care of the pain points the users have with the current software. Plan your communication and training strategies almost as soon as you decide on the new software.  Work out who needs to know, how you’re going to tell them and how you’re going to deliver your training program. In my experience, as little as three weeks of upfront work can dramatically accelerate adoption. In large organizations where change management programs may take years, this alone can save millions of dollars.
  2. Get them excited. You don’t have to become Steve Jobs and hold glitzy launch parties, but if you can create a buzz around the system it will help enormously. Let people know about the functionality, features and how this will be better for them. Not them generally, but them individually. Get everyone excited over the thought that their working life just got better. Once people understand exactly what they’re getting, I’ve seen an application’s biggest critic become its major champion.
  3. Tailor your training. EIM software–such as Enterprise Content Management (ECM) and Customer Experience Management (CEM)–are sophisticated and feature-rich packages so different people will have different requirements. There is no ‘one size fits all’ model here. Take time to understand what different people need from the software and the functionality that they will be using in their daily jobs. It’s possible to identify user groups–either within the same department or cross-department–with similar requirements and tailor your training to meet these requirements.
  4. Communicate, communicate, communicate. As with any change program, you must communicate. Work out the best strategy for your business and be creative and inventive, whether it includes information sessions, webinars, newsletters, posters and flyers or hosted user groups. Work out how much you think you’re going to need to communicate and then multiple it by pretty much any number you want. Remember to build in a feedback loop and ensure people know that you’re keen to get their feedback and you’ll act on it.
  5. Identify the advocates. Change needs champions. You can have the best communication and training strategy but if people still don’t buy into the technology solution, you’ll find user adoption slow. Look for the people who are really excited about the new system and find ways to encourage them to share their excitement with as many others as possible. In the past, I’ve spent time tailoring training and communications programs specifically for people we’ve identified as advocates.
  6. Transfer ownership. This step is very, very important. Your people need to take ownership of the software. What I mean is, they must feel comfortable using the software and they must want to use it. Sadly, training remains in the classroom if people don’t then go and apply what they’ve learned. If you can make people understand how the software helps, I’ve found that, when they see the benefit, they’ll often take it upon themselves to spread the word on the benefits of the software.

Learning doesn’t stop with implementation and roll out. It’s highly possible that people will want to continue to refresh their knowledge and skills. Tools such as eLearning provide a flexible means to train new people that can’t attend or make the time for formal classroom training, and it allows others to re-visit the training they have completed. Onsite support after roll-out is just as important as refreshers for key users and internal trainers. At OpenText™, we can provide customized training plans and user adoption services and would be happy to assist in change management or user adoption planning for EIM solutions.

Adopting a new solution? OpenText Learning Services offers a User Adoption Workshop as a great starting point! Contact training@opentext.com for more information.


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Melanie Fong

Melanie is a Lead Consultant, certified Business Consultant for Content Server and a Prosci Change Management Practitioner for the OpenText Energy and Engineering Team. She works with worldwide customers, making xECM for Engineering implementation successful. Melanie has a passion for user adoption and change management.

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