Unconventional Wisdom: 5 Steps for Developing a Powerful Adoption Playbook

May 8, 2017 Jason Whitehead

Unconventional Wisdom:  5 Steps for Developing a Powerful Adoption PlaybookIt is time to rethink some major assumptions and turn conventional wisdom on its head when it comes to how buyers and sellers of software approach user adoption. For many years, user adoption was, at best, an after-thought once a system was live.  At worst, it was ignored completely.  IT departments and executive sponsors were left scratching their heads wondering why the magical benefits they believed the software would deliver never appeared.

Conventional wisdom had led them to believe that if they selected a great product with the right features, trained people on the functionality, communicated ‘What’s In It For Me’, then everything would be fine. Then the ‘If you build it, they will come’ approach repeatedly failed to deliver the software ROI that buyers expected. Customers reduced licenses or churned completely leading to a big ‘ah ha’ moment for the software vendors. SaaS vendors realized they need to proactively support their customers in adopting their software, achieving their business goals, and consequently renewing. Thus, the field of Customer Success (CS) was born.
 

Adoption: The Critical Path Problem You Need to Solve

At its core, the root-cause problem that most CS teams need to solve is that customers are not effectively accelerating, maximizing, and sustaining full adoption of software within their organizations. If the customers’ users cannot or will not incorporate the use of a given software into their daily work routines, they will not get the value they need.  Quite simply:

No Adoption = No Value = No Renewals

CS teams can spend all the time in the world talking about features, roadmaps, strategy and quarterly business reviews (QBRs), but without adoption, this is all moot.
 

The Challenge: Conventional Wisdom Doesn’t Apply to Adoption!

If you are still following conventional wisdom and focusing on training and traditional change management, your renewals will suffer.  User adoption is not a technology issue.  It is not a marketing or sales issue. It is not a training issue (though training plays a role).  User adoption is a complex organization and people issue. It is a performance issue, dependent on both organizational and individual performance.  The old approaches don’t work.

Effective user adoption is about getting people - lots of people – to change their behavior to reliably use your software to do their jobs. It is about coaching them to develop new work habits and to keep them going day, after day, after day.  It is about removing the organizational barriers (which often fall outside the users’ control) that prevent them from using your system. And it is about aligning and focusing how different groups use your software to make sure the customer organization is achieving the desired business goals.
 

The Future: Actionable User Adoption Playbooks

Let me ask you, what have you done to learn about the components and complexities of user adoption? What sources did you consider?  How did you determine the actions you would take to drive user adoption? And what made you think these would be effective?

Once you understand that user adoption is a new type of challenge and the old rules don’t apply, you have freed yourself to work with your customer for answers to these questions. Here are 5 suggestions to get you started:

  1. Educate on User Adoption Fundamentals
    Chances are high that your customers do not have expertise in user adoption challenges and methods. Educate your customers (and CS staff) on effective user adoption methods so they can spend their time on proven strategies.
  2. Provide Your Customers an Adoption Best Practice Playbook
    Make it easy for your customers to proactively drive adoption within their organization. Provide them with the simple, actionable toolkits they need to drive adoption within their organization.

  3. Develop a CS Adoption Coaching Capacity and Playbook
    Your CS team needs to guide your customers through the adoption process. Provide your CS team with the training, skills, tools, and plays they need to coach your customers in adopting your software.

  4. Start during the Initial Sales Process
    Introduce user adoption plans and actions very early in the sales cycle. Help your customer understand that without fast, effective adoption they will never get the ROI they want. Use your CS services as a competitive sales differentiator to demonstrate how your organization will reduce their risk and improve their ROI

  5. Continue Over Time
    Don’t stop at go-live! Focus on sustaining full, effective adoption among your customers’ users over the life of your system.  As soon as users stop adopting and getting value, your customer will churn.
     

Flip The Model

Developing effective, scalable and profitable Customer Success services requires user adoption expertise and new ways of approaching interactions with your customers.  Beware of approaches with an over-reliance on marketing, messaging and training. Our organization, Tri Tuns, has had great success in flipping the model for delivering user adoption and customer success services. By fundamentally rethinking how we approach and deliver our services, we have accelerated how we engage with customers to deliver even faster results. As you go forward building your adoption playbooks, I challenge you to identify where you can throw conventional wisdom out the window and develop a new, more effective approach that delivers faster results for you and your customers.

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About the Author

Jason Whitehead

Jason is the Founder and CEO of Tri Tuns, and a leading expert in Customer Success Management and User Adoption of IT systems. Jason has over 20 years of experience implementing information systems and driving successful and sustained user user adoption of systems in a varierty of medium and large organizations.

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