Why Adoption is Key to Innovation

Transformation and innovation is crucial for businesses to grow and stay relevant in today’s competitive markets. And yet, the benefits promised by new technology are lost when adoption is low or inconsistent. Low adoption is a main driver for why the majority of transformation projects underperform, and why PWC surveys find that 76% of CEOs say that their ability to adapt to change, i.e., drive the adoption of transformative technologies, will be a key competitive advantage. Contrary to popular thinking, driving adoption within organizations requires more than having great user experience design, it also requires encouraging people to use the technology and earning their buy-in.

The likelihood that technology is implemented but not fully used or adopted is heightened in large organizations with multiple international locations. Inconsistent usage damages business results and fails to get the most out of expensive technology investments.

Problems are amplified when an organization fails to have executive-level sponsorship. While teams may be pushing for digital transformation, inadequate support from the top can lead to low enterprise-wide adoption, with usage isolated to particular business areas, teams or geographies. Spotty adoption causes inconsistent operations and reduces ROI.

The Cost of Adoption Failure

Failure to realize the benefits of technological innovation organization-wide, leads to wasted capital. Projects receive funding, the technology is engineered and implemented, while the rewards of the investment remain unrealized. See below for an actual case study on the consequences of inconsistent adoption.

Inconsistent adoption also causes problems with Management Information (MI) reporting. When data is collected and structured differently across a business, it is almost impossible to provide a single, congruent view of what is happening at a senior level.


Sometimes Good UX Design Doesn’t Spread

Below shows the level of effort and time spent on an identical work process throughout an enterprise fleet. The process was optimized via a well designed application. Some sites fully adopted the application, other sites only used parts of the application in an unintended way, while some sites did not adopt the technology at all and continued operating via a manual process. The driver behind the inconsistency in performance was the level of adoption of the technology. Those who fully adopted the technology achieved higher levels of operating performance.

Results of Spotty Adoption-04.png

Driving Adoption is about more than user experience,
it is about Culture & Changing Mindsets

Common thinking within innovation hubs is that as long as the user experience is good,  the technology will be adopted. This notion is false. Multiple case studies show that in addition to good user experience, employees need to be made aware of the technology, be able to easily procure the technology, and be encouraged to use the technology for adoption to accelerate.

Traditional Change Management processes alone do not guarantee adoption either as they tend to exclusively focus on communication and training without addressing culture and mindsets. A canned corporate message via email and optional staff training alone are not sufficient to ensure that the technology will be used, or even if employees will receive the message. Instead, driving adoption requires a complete track of activities and expertise specifically focused on mindsets that make it easy for users to adopt the technology.

UX researchers and designers can play a critical role in collecting the input needed to drive large scale enterprise adoption and change. To do so they must expand their traditional role, and:

  • Understand how a corporate message promoting the technology and its roll-out will be sent and received and ensure that this method will effectively reach the audience.

  • Understand culture and work practices to consider how best to get the message across (email, posters, intranet, presentations, and give-aways), and ensure the approach is appropriate to each group and location.

  • Identify champions and social influencers within each group and engage them in the product’s co-creation. Not only are such people experts in their job–though often without the title–they are the often ‘go-to’ person for those seeking help and possess a lot of informal social power. They are ideal for communicating benefits to their peers and winning their buy-in.

  • Task these champions to communicate with their peer group, sharing their enthusiasm to gain their confidence, buy-in and reduce resistance. These social influencers can impact their peers more strongly than an executive message.

  • Ensure consistent messaging across the organization. Provide talking points and communication toolkits for managers to use in their regular update meetings, communications, and technology introductions. Craft these messages so that they are consistent throughout the organization.

  • Identify the different staff profiles within the organization and consider their impact. During change, of any sort, there will be three profiles: resistors, fence-sitters, and promoters:

What are the resistance points? What upsets them?
What do the promoters like about the changes?

These profiles need to be mapped and understood in addition to typical user personas of the technology.

  • Use all this input to design a communication strategy.

  • Work with Change Management and HR professionals and ensure communications and training take into account what resistors and promoters are saying and give them the cultural insights needed to tame resistance and accelerate change.

Driving adoption is about mindsets and culture, and without focusing on the human side of the equation, adoption will be difficult. To do this, engage early with the users to understand what works well and what doesn’t. Build their input into the new system’s design,  and communicate through social influencers to achieve buy-in from the workforce.

When done well, implementing solutions that remove barriers and simplify functions will win over staff and improve technology adoption.

UX practitioners must begin to focus on adoption specific activities. The features and look and feel of the new software is not sufficient on its own to win the hearts and minds of the staff and change their behavior.

Easy Wins To Improve Adoption Odds

Driving adoption starts with understanding users. The steps to increased adoption are not elaborate, nor will they significantly add scope to a project because they can be integrated with existing UX activities that are commonplace in most projects. It is a matter of asking the right questions when collecting requirements and listening to the right information.

UX designers and researchers must:

  • Engage early and frequently with the end-users

  • Identify and use champions and managers to roll technology updates out to staff

  • Put in place a consistent communication strategy that is appropriate to each team and location

  • Identify and collect positive and negative feedback about mindsets through observation and focus groups

  • Engage with change management, training, and HR, and share the UX feedback