Audience at Accelerate 2016

In case you missed it, Apttus wrapped up the Quote-to-Cash event of the year, Accelerate, last week. We were incredibly fortunate to host a number of great speakers during the event, including Ray Mitra, Senior Director of Product Success at Apttus, and Lauryn Haake, Managing Director of Legal Management Consulting at Duff & Phelps. As part of our Legal Luminaries speaking track, Ray and Lauryn provided an expert overview of how to drive user adoption for enterprise software systems like Apttus’ CLM.

While Ray and Lauryn’s presentation at Accelerate was specific to Apttus’ Contract Lifecycle Management (CLM) solution, the 10 steps to drive user adoption and a high ROI that they outlined is, I would argue, applicable as best practice when implementing any enterprise software system.

What is user adoption and why does it matter?

User-adoption is a term that corporations use to measure how, and how often end-users are accessing and using their enterprise software system, and what benefits that its use has driven for the organization. User-adoption is an absolutely critical metric for determining ROI and for driving a high ROI before, during and after implementation and go-live.

Poor user-adoption is a serious issue in a corporation because, in the vast majority of cases, a huge amount of resources (money, man-hours, etc.) have gone into ensuring a successful implementation and go-live of any software system, such as a CPQ or revenue management system. In a lot of cases, individual leaders of the initiative and members of the project team will even have their jobs threatened if these projects do not go well and deliver quick and obvious benefit to the organization.

Accelerate 2016 in the Shadow of AT&T park

There are a variety of causes of poor user-adoption, including poor change management strategy, lack of education for end users, lack of input from the end users, and the list goes on and on.

The consequences of poor user-adoption are daunting; but don’t be afraid! Ray and Lauryn outlined 10 steps that, if you follow, will 100% guarantee high user-adoption and a high ROI after deployment.

Step 1: Establish a Charter

This step is important to consider even before you choose a solution. You must hash out a solid adoption plan, including success criteria and a business case. It is crucial to develop a plan right away, even if it is not 100% correct. The important piece here is that you start with a plan that you can then tweak as you go.

Dr. Strangelove riding the bomb of User Adoption

Step 2: Engage the right people

To drive a successful deployment with high user-adoption metrics, you must have a cohesive project team in which each individual has a clear role, is aware of who is involved, and understands who is influencing the project.

It is easy to choose the right people for your project team when you consider questions like: who is committed to delivering the solution? Who will take mindful notes and think about how the project is going and how it can be improved?

Having the correct individuals on the team and empowering them to make decisions will, down the line, enable you to easily understand the distinct value that they are getting out of it and how they are using the solution.

Step 3: Acknowledge resistance and face it head on

Resistance from end-users is an inevitable consequence of any business transformation, regardless of the solution that you are driving, or the scale of the project. End-users will resist any change to the systems that they have been using for years, and with which they have grown comfortable.

Resistance will vary depending on the culture of the company; however, in any organization it is important to consider this at the very beginning of any transformation project. That way you can determine what the resistance will look like, and start developing strategies to counteract it.

Step 4: Involve users early and often

The importance of involving your end-users in early stage development, vendor engagement, etc. and all the way until go-live and beyond, cannot be stressed enough. Lack of user involvement in projects like these will result in resistance and ultimately, poor user-adoption and a lower return on investment.

We are not saying that all decisions on these projects should be made as a committee, but getting the users involved will enable the project team to have a more clear sense of the users’ specific solution requirements, and to see who the user champions are who will help drive success across the organization.

Be early to drive user adoption

Step 5: Provide constant communication

The key to a successful change management strategy is communication. Your project team needs to ensure constant communication to different levels from the very beginning, even when you are simply defining business drivers in the very early phases of a project. Everyone asks “what’s in it for me” so be sure to clearly and consistently articulate the individual value that this project will deliver when communicating with any level.

Make use of different modes of communication – posters, short video messages, etc. – that will drive your message more effectively than email alone. Also, communication should also never end when the project is “finished.” Communication has to continue after go-live to gain feedback from users, and to keep them up-to-date regarding any system changes, upgrades, etc.

Step 6: Make a big deal about deployment

It is critical that you celebrate when you deploy, even in phased deployments. This is crucial to show appreciation for the project team, and to generate excitement about the solution throughout the user and admin base.

This type recognition is very important; it does not have to be anything huge (pizza and cookies works!) but it has to be done in order to set the stage for success after deployment.

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Step 7: Conduct training

Conducting comprehensive, on-going training for end-users is a critical step to attaining success in deployment. When doing so, realize that standard training (5 day certification course, for instance), will likely not be as effective as taking a more creative approach to educating end-users. For example, training modes can be short videos, little laminated cards for user guidance, and even a quick reference guide that encompasses all of the key pieces of information that the end-users will require to effectively adopt your new system.

Training documents and sessions should also be conducted in a positive, exciting way, where the individual value for the end-user is consistently mentioned. This kind of training will get users excited and will entice them to use the new system.

Step 8: Encourage and engage champions

Internal champions from the end-user group are critical to a successful software deployment because, if they are empowered and encouraged by the project team, they can affect change and drive user adoption. Champions are also the first to hear about any issues with the system, or about any emerging resistance, so engaging them early on is definitely a best practice.

Step 9: Reward and recognize

Recognizing the hard work that the project team and champions have put into a digital transformation goes a long way. Rewards can be big or small, stickers and pizza is a perfect way to reward the team that has enabled this project to happen. Even if you are not in a position with your deployment to employ all of the steps listed in this post, then DO THIS ONE NOW.

Enable user adoption with prizes

Step 10: Adopt continuous improvement and value realization

Step 10 connects back to our original point: before implementing, or even choosing a solution, it is important to identify key values that you want to achieve with this project. This will enable your team to show value and tie it back to the original goal. This comparison is critical because, even if you don’t reach your goal, you still gain valuable insight into adoption challenges, etc. and this data will enable you to be proactive.

Having an enhancement process is also crucial – it could be started on a paper napkin but the important thing is to have one. The system is designed to scale with you for a reason, people will not naturally understand the value that the system has delivered, and areas where the system can be improved, so having these metrics will foster that kind of proactive discussion around the system.

Surveying end users is also a great way to gain insight on value realization and areas for improvement. We recommend surveying your end user group after go-live, rewarding them for participating, and then take action based on their feedback.

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