We are creatures of habit. Implementing a new way of working can sometimes feel like running an ultramarathon – through the mud. If you’re a natural-born salesperson, product manager, and HR specialist all rolled into one, you might find it easy and even enjoyable. When it comes to new software adoption, deciding on the tool might be the simplest part of the process.

It’s what comes next that’s the hard part – buy-in and deployment.

Because so many software solutions are inherently collaborative, a successful adoption process must involve, engage and convince all key stakeholders in order to deliver on its potential. A single user that builds a resistance to a solution can drag out (and down) even the best of your efforts.

Here are a few high-level tips for a successful software solution roll-out.

Establish Roles and Norms Very Early

The Social Influence Model of Tech Adoption identifies three critical elements that predetermine success in the uptake of a new initiative: group consensus, group cooperation, and group authority.

People look to one another for cues to guide their own behavior, because “group membership legitimizes actions and the individual is guided by the group’s rules of practice.” When software tends to be collaborative by nature, successfully adopting software solutions requires a socially-minded approach to ensure that they are embraced, not just accepted by a handful of users at the individual level.

A first step is to identify the people who will play an active role in the adoption process – the deployment team. Identify and gather the decision-makers, heavy-users, IT administrators, and other key representatives to form a deployment team that will not just tackle the practical details and feature set requirements, but also champion your new tool and establish group norms. Group consensus at the outset will lead to group cooperation down the road.

Ultimately, both before and after you hit challenges to adoption, the “authorities” in the group need to be aware of and take ownership over their contributions to ensure success.

Pick the Right Tool at the Outset

This should be obvious – but no matter what a (shiny) new marketing, advertising or other software solution promises to deliver, you are choosing a tool that someone will probably find themselves using every day. If you’re not making a decision with their convenience in mind, adoption failure is nearly guaranteed.

A solution that isn’t user-friendly is not adoption-friendly. It means your users are likely to abandon the platform and return to their old habits that favor shortcuts, work-arounds and the “hodge-podge”.

Even if you’re working with the most enthusiastic technophiles, the right tool shouldn’t require a manual or a multi-day training schedule to get your end-users up off the ground and running.  And who knows what future users will be intimidated by your tech stack.

This isn’t to say that your admin won’t need training or need clarity on a wide range of feature questions – but the focus is on the lowest common denominator.

Other basic factors to consider in your tech selection:

  • Can you run a full no-commitment trial?
  • Will you get great support (including during the trial)?
  • Will your teams receive the training they need?
  • How is the product maturity?
  • What kind of uptime can you expect?
  • Can you ballpark the ROI of your investment (including the time required in the adoption phase)?

On top of this you’ll want to build a feature checklist – collaboratively – to help you navigate your selection, ranking your requirements in levels of importance.

Getting Buy-in: Convincing the Skeptics and Luddites

Your deployment champions will help establish a receptive baseline for adoption, but you may have a small contingent who resist your broader efforts to roll out a new tech initiative. There could be a number of reasons that these people are naturally averse – the tech-unsavvy will not be as comfortable picking up and running with something new, and of course, there are those whose knee-jerk reaction to any change is resistance.

You’re going to have to customize a part of your adoption strategy to these people and their quirks, and do a little more hand-holding along the way. Capgemini Consulting’s Didier Bonnet, an expert on IT and digital transformation, suggests asking them directly if they have a preferred medium for training on a new tool, rather than trying to intuit that information.

Be extra communicative with this group about why their participation is important – from the high-level organizational goals to the hyper-specific, like how it will improve their own workload (perhaps with quantifiable examples from other collaborators who have already migrated).

Of course, you’ll save yourself and your colleagues considerable strife if you choose a tool with these people in mind from the get-go.

Test First, Deploy Later

Your deployment committee will be your beta testing group to trial your roll-out. Ideally, this group is representative of the various needs and realities of your wider user base. A good, balanced team, representing the range of roles, will avoid numerous minefields down the road.

For many collaborative software solutions, you should be able to test out a new tool while you are still live on the tool you are looking to replace (that is if you are replacing one). Alternatively, when running a test, doing a comparative analysis, contrasting the before-and-after (ideally with a workflow diagram) should be helpful in illustrating the added value of the proposed solution. Map your current workflow or process, map your ideal process, and then maintain a degree of flexibility to work with the particulars of the new platform – and internalize any improvements or new (better) ways of working.

Based on how testing goes in each area, you may be able to proceed with a phased roll-out, unit by unit or team by team, starting with where things went most smoothly. These same people who tested the solution can then hold informal micro-trainings and help with troubleshooting for their teams and collaborators once it’s time to get them onboard.

Flexibility With A Strong Dose of Reality

Oftentimes the old way of doing things is so hard to change that even if a new technology can dramatically transform a process, it might be doomed from the get-go. Many well-intended efforts with clear benefits fail because it’s just too transformative. There are ways to illustrate to stakeholders that there is irrefutable upside from the adoption of a new solution. But sometimes it just doesn’t matter.

Two critical considerations to gauge here are the level of disruption and what a phased approach looks like. If adoption won’t require a major investment from your biggest skeptics, the probability of success is much higher. Similarly if it’s possible to phase in only pieces of the solution to acclimatize specific users before a wider rollout, you’ll also see greater adoption success.

With these ideas in hand, you should be able to improve the probability of a successful software adoption. And like any project, the stronger the collaboration, the better the results.


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