Last week a client asked me, “How do we get better adoption? It’s such a challenge.” At this point I can’t count the number of times I’ve been asked how to improve adoption of SharePoint intranets or applications. I have plenty of recommendations. And I know that the number of presentations, training courses, articles and opinions out there on the subject are also beyond counting. Clearly there’s a problem and the community is doing the best it can to address it.
When I was asked this last week for the nth time it came to me very clearly:
"Adoption" doesn’t exist.
At least, not the way most people think about it. It’s not an entity or a competency on its own. It’s not a feature or an endpoint with a well-defined set of characteristics. It’s not an improvement or an upgrade that you can run like a project and dedicate attention and resources to as its own workstream.
Think of the way the color white is made, which many of us learned in grade school or at a science museum: the result of many colors of light added together.
This is adoption. The “white” at the center that can’t exist without all the other colors.
Original photo source: Jared
These are the critical colors that need to be in place:
- Executive support – Has using the new system or tool been made a priority at the highest levels?
- Business alignment – Does the new system reflect how people actually get their work done every day, and does it improve that for them?
- Marketing / Communication / WIIFM – do the users know about changes in advance, and has it been sold to them why the change is good for them?
- Staffing, training, and support – Do the users know how to do what they need to do, and whom to contact when they hit a snag?
- Trusted infrastructure – What would make the users leave their desktops, email, file shares, etc. for something unknown? Has it been proven to them that the new system is even more trustworthy than the old one?
- Dynamic, fresh content – Who is in charge of making sure that content is up to date, and do they have enough time to perform this function?
- Users have a voice – Increasingly, users want intranets to work the way the internet does. This could mean anything from voting and commenting on content, to uploading their own content, to sending feedback about a problem and/or making a suggestion. Does your solution span the range?
- Usability – Is the system usable, more efficient than the way users worked before, and even appealing and beautiful?
- Accessibility / mobility – this isn’t only about mobile devices; it’s about whether people can connect quickly from home, and/or do their work on a plane or commuter train. It’s about whether the folks in the warehouse or out in the field have a way to access the system.
And there are likely many more than this (for example, Carrots and sticks – has the organization considered what to turn off (e.g. file shares) and what to light up (e.g. performance incentives) in order to drive behavior?).
Put them all together, and you’ll have user adoption. I grant you, this is much harder work than shining a collection of colored lights in the same spot. But everyone, from the CIO to the content owner, needs to stop thinking about adoption as if it's something that can be affected in a vacuum. It is the result of all the other efforts you make.
And your efforts within your organization will be different from others - the mix of colors will almost never be the same from one to another (but that's an article for another time - Why Intranets Are Like Snowflakes):
So if you're struggling with the adoption of your intranet sites or applications, remember that it can only exist as the result of a mix.
And for those of you who prefer a more retro look and feel, I reversed the time-honored prism poster and envisioned the mix as follows (click to see full size).
Quick strategy briefing for project managers - tell the CIO that you're the prism. ;)
Original photo source: Brittanica.com