11 Expert Tested Strategies for Getting Monumental User Adoption

Kevin Turner
Kevin Turner
Vice President, Customer Success Marketing, Coupa Software

Kevin Turner has executive leadership responsibilities for a global team focusing on building a platform for customer advocacy, outbound marketing, and sales campaigns.

Read time: 8 mins
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If you’ve ever been part of implementing a new enterprise software system, you know how much work goes on prior to the purchase, identifying requirements, making a business case and determining what the return on investment is likely to be. Once the purchase is made, the real work of achieving the projected ROI begins.

Getting widespread user adoption – as close to 100% as possible -- is critical to meeting your projection. Even with the best software, there’s bound to be pushback from people accustomed to doing things the old way. Change is difficult; it’s natural and human to prefer doing things the way they’ve always done it - even if it’s slow and inefficient. Here are 11 field-tested strategies for getting widespread user adoption, and maybe even winning raving fans.

  1. Fortify the Executive Steering Committee. Naturally, you’ll want the executives involved in the purchase on board through implementation, as their continued support will help influence adoption. Consider also enlisting some additional executives who don’t have a vested interest in the project. A unified front across departments will enhance credibility and create a sense of company unity around the project.
  2. Align with Other Departments. If your implementation will have a direct impact on other departments, let them know what that will be and enlist their support. The more across the board buy-in you have the better.
  3. Align Goals. Make sure everyone understands how implementing your system will impact the company’s bottom line, even if there’s no day-to-day impact on them. For those that will get a direct benefit, make sure they understand exactly what that will be. If they’ll be able to complete a project in 5 minutes that used to take 30, let them know that.
  4. Give it a Name. Sometimes a name can blunt the otherness of the new system. Choosing a topical name that’s related to your company or industry can pave the way to acceptance and maybe even create some buzz for the project.
  5. Create a Timeline. Set a deadline for the end goal - full user adoption - and measure against checkpoints along the way. This lets people know what to expect and when, keeps them focused on a common goal and gives them milestones to see the impact of their efforts.
  6. Build Awareness. Run an internal marketing campaign to boost awareness for the switch. Create a few collateral assets such as emails, posters or mini-solution papers to drop on people’s desks. Be sure to mention the purpose, the name of the project and the timeline.
  7. Start Small. Roll out the platform as a pilot for a small, hand selected group of people who are positive about the project and have a vested interest in making it work. Collect their feedback and make adjustments. That way, when it’s ready for wider release, some issues will already have been addressed or be in the process of being addressed, and you’ll be better able to anticipate and respond to concerns.
  8. Build an Internal Website with Support and Training Information. If users can answer questions or troubleshoot simple problems on their own, it helps them build trust and confidence in the system, drives faster adoption and lightens the load on administrative support people.
  9. Sponsor a User Adoption Contest. Reward the users who can channel the most business through the new system in the first few weeks. Gift cards, days off, or lunch with the boss are all great incentives.
  10. Establish a Super User Community. Identify the power users within the company - maybe the winners of the adoption contests – enlist them to mentor others. This isn’t a substitute for tech support, but advisors who are naturally adept with and enthusiastic about the system can supplement support efforts.
  11. Keep the Lines of Communication Open. From beginning to end, maintain constant communication on what’s happening and why, and keep everyone abreast of progress. Acknowledge challenges – this is enterprise software and unforeseen challenges will arise – but keep the focus on the positive benefits. If you persistently communicate the benefits, with a clear tie in to the company's bottom line, you can keep everyone pulling in the same direction.

Not all of these steps are necessary for every project, and some may or may not be suited to your situation or company culture. Nor is this list exhaustive; you may need to get creative in finding solutions for unique challenges you’re facing. The important thing to remember is that once the system is purchased, adoption is job one, and 100% adoption isn’t going to happen on its own. Don’t leave it to chance. Be proactive and use these best practices as a starting point. If you come up with any great ideas that work, tell us about them. We’d love to add them to this list.

Kevin Turner is vice president, customer success at Coupa. He was previously director of eCommerce integrations for Dell.