November 16 by Kamal Ahluwalia
Bottom line: Increasing user adoption of new and automated selling systems increases sales, improves customer satisfaction and is a strong catalyst for greater collaboration.
Apttus recently reached a new milestone – 500,000 users are now using our applications across 50+ countries. In the enterprise world, a lot of shelfware seats have been sold by vendors like Siebel leading to commendable revenue growth for big software vendors followed by a slow but inevitable demise. In the cloud world, you grow only if your applications are actively used and consistently endorsed by end users. In the subscription model, expansion or contraction of user base is discussed at every renewal anniversary. The previous model of automatic “maintenance” payments for software not used is over.
At Apttus, we’ve learned several valuable lessons about how to increase user adoption and maximize value for our customers.
One of the most valuable lessons learned is to focus on usability and responsiveness to changing user needs. This is key to driving high user adoption rates critical to time to value for any solution. Usability is increased through having a configurable, consistent, intuitive, familiar interface across all devices just like Facebook, Google and Amazon have today. Additionally streamling the application delivery process using web services APIs for system to system integration ensures speed and responsiveness to customer’s changing requirements and requests.
Lesson One: Speed and responsiveness to changing requirements is key to immediate and continued use
Bluewolf just released their State of Salesforce Report, an extensive survey of leading Salesforce customers and their top concerns. Respondents are clearly concerned with user adoption and view the ability to respond to requests as important as intuitive interfaces to increasing engagement with system software. “By implementing user requests faster, the productivity and adoption of end users increases.” – The State of Salesforce – Annual Review 11.2013
With the Salesforce Platform there is clean separation between customer data and customer customizations. Because deployments are independent of multiple customer-specific configurations, we’re able to move quickly on customer needs and requests, not constrained by a legacy of custom installs and configurations. Additionally many of our customers require integration with their Oracle, SAP, and NetSuite systems in addition to using Xactly for incentive compensation, and Docusign and Adobe for e-signature. Again the Salesforce Platform allows us to integrate rapidly at minimum cost.
The following are the key lessons learned from striving to be responsive to customers:
- Reflect customer input in new updates released frequently, alleviating the time and cost drain of doing IT upgrades. Ease of deployment and automating updates make it possible to keep entire CPQ and Contract Management applications current and delivering the latest features. Our customers tell us that alleviating the bottleneck of IT upgrades is saving them weeks and in some cases months of down sales time.
- Don’t ask customers to compromise. No sales executive wants to hear the words we can’t meet that request now but here’s a workaround until we can get to it. Projects are compromised and the results diminish the value of the systems and often the level of engagement by users. Rapid customization and upgrades means applications can keep up with the pace of change demanded by the Sales team.
- Avoiding the “boiling the ocean” trap. Because Apttus solutions are 100% native Salesforce Platform applications they can be deployed via a modular approach. Customers do not have to compromise. Apttus quote-to-cash automation solutions can be implemented on an as needed basis without the cumbersome and lengthy requirements discovery process that often mires business process automation projects. This modular approach is critical to creating immediate success and momentum for continued adoption of software through the organization.
Lesson Two: Focus on usability
With many sales professionals using Salesforce in previous positions, we’re also seeing quick learning curves on new Apttus applications compared to highly customized, on-premise applications or variations of these in private clouds. Here are the key lessons learned in usability:
- Greater consistency and quality of customer experience in Salesforce Platform applications across mobile devices including tablets and smartphones. The Salesforce Platform has given Apttus the ability to design applications that respond with greater customer insight and intelligence across mobile devices. The consistent user interface across all devices further reduces the learning curve for new selling apps. Cloud-based consumer apps including those from Google, Facebook, Amazon, and many others just accelerate this aspect of sales app adoption faster.
- Native Salesforce Platform applications all share common navigation, usability and user customization options that accelerate learning curves for new apps. Gone are the days of having weeks of training to just use a contract management, CPQ or revenue management app. The Salesforce Platform’s common navigation, usability and user customization options are getting sales teams up and running in days, not weeks or even months like on-premise applications typically require. Sales teams are more confident that they can learn the app faster and get back to selling and closing business faster.
Would love to hear other tactics deployed by you to increase adoption of business applications in your companies.