Use it or Lose it! Why User Awareness and Adoption are Crucial to Digital Transformation

Executive Summary

When IT staffs finish installing a new application or service, the next action typically is not developing a marketing strategy to ensure employee or customer awareness and adoption. Rather, they may move onto the next item on their project list, and transition the new service into operational mode, focusing on break/fix, patches, and minimal enhancements and upgrades.

The problem with that approach is that service after service goes underutilized, employees are not as efficient as they could be or worse yet, they do not know the latest security protocols, collaboration capabilities, or easiest way to remotely access the network. What’s more, customers using these new technologies may be completely unaware they exist, resulting in poor alignment with business initiatives, reduced awareness of IT’s contributions to organizational goals, and greater shadow IT as employees and lines of business seek capabilities outside of approved IT capabilities because they believe that IT doesn’t offer services that meet their needs.

How successful and strategic can IT ultimately be if only a fraction of employees or customers enthusiastically adopt the technologies available to them?

Proactive companies have full-fledged IT marketing programs underway that have improved both awareness and adoption of technology. Some have activated these programs for select IT services; other more leading-edge companies use them as a matter of course. This report evaluates the best practices for establishing what Nemertes dubs User Adoption and Awareness (UAA) programs, addressing the following questions:

  • Who should run the program for maximum success?
  • What tactics work best for raising awareness?
  • What are the top training methods?
  • Within what timeframe should organizations expect how much improvement?
  • What role should trusted partners play?

The Issue

IT professionals are as good at marketing technology as marketing professionals are at running IT. But for some reason, far too many organizations for far too many years have expected IT staffs to effectively get the word out to employees—and in some cases, even customers—when new services are available, to pique their interest, and encourage them to adopt them.

That hasn’t worked so well for many organizations, and for a variety of reasons (which we will discuss here) IT leaders are launching User Adoption and Awareness programs.

This report is based on Nemertes’ Digital Transformation and IT Futures research project, which included interviews and surveys of 368 organizations. We will examine the following:

  • Adoption, definitions, and drivers
  • Organizational strategies
  • Methods to the madness
  • Measuring success

Adoption, Definitions, and Drivers

What is UAA?

User Awareness and Adoption (UAA) programs are cyclical and typically contain the following components:

Screen Shot 2016-10-12 at 2.29.18 PM

  • Establish baseline – The UAA team conducts surveys, interviews employees or customers, and reviews reports from network or application monitoring tools to gather the initial metrics on utilization of relevant technology, reasons for using or needing technology, and any reasons for not using an available technology. During this process, they also can ask about potential technologies—establishing the baseline for demand.
  • Set goals – Based on the initial metrics, the team sets goals for awareness and adoption improvement and develops a marketing and awareness program to achieve them. They also can use this data to help build a use case for a new technology.
  • Implement programs – The UAA team implements the awareness and adoption program over a designated time period.
  • Measure success – The team measures success of the program by re-surveying and re-interviewing the employees and evaluating the monitoring tool data.
  • Evaluate results – This is a crucial phase to examine to success. After the first success checkpoint, the team spends time analyzing the progress to the goal, and how well each component of the program worked.
  • Adjust program – Based on the analysis, the team adjusts the marketing program to achieve the awareness and adoption goals, and they may use information to adjust apps to meet demands.

Adoption of UAA

More than half (55.5%) of companies have an initiative underway to boost user adoption of technologies. (Please see Figure 1.) Additionally, 55% say User Awareness and Adoption programs will become a bigger part of their jobs in Screen Shot 2016-10-12 at 2.29.24 PMthe next two years. Prior to starting the program, organizations should first develop a business or use case for any new technology. For example, they may justify the need for pervasive whiteboards to help remote teams collaborate on the design of new products. What they typically forget, though, is to evaluate demand generation and to then market the technology to the appropriate people—and with accurate expectations. In this case, for example, the technology may only be applicable to 25% of the employees who work for three departments, only two of which are tech savvy. Having that knowledge up front would jump start the UAA initiative.

Organizational Drivers of User Awareness and Adoption Initiatives

Why have so many companies started paying attention to UAA? One of the big reasons relates to the rise of personal and team productivity tools. In fact, 57% of companies say they want to focus on UAA programs because they know employees will be more productive if they used the technologies available. Similarly, 43% want to use technologies to improve customer experience. Those clearly are the more altruistic reasons to launch a program. (Please see Figure 3.)

Other reasons, perhaps understated based on our interviews with IT leaders, relate to changes in IT spending and staffing. In the past, when IT staffs implemented a new technology, they typically requested and received a budget to do an on-premises implementation of a technology. Once the implementation was complete, IT sent out an email saying the service was available (if relevant to employees), perhaps provided a few training sessions, and they were off to their next project.

Screen Shot 2016-10-12 at 2.29.32 PMMeanwhile, no one ever went back to validate the budget or cost savings. And it didn’t really matter whether 10% or 90% of the intended employees used the service or not.

Now, however, more and more services and tools are running in the cloud, which means the CFO or procurement scrutinize the budget annually. Now it matters if only 10% of the intended audience is using the service. The IT manager in charge of the service risks losing his job and IT overall risks losing budget. So it’s become more important to justify IT spending, in large part because cloud services increase visibility of specific components of IT spending.

Additionally, good IT leaders know they have launched plenty of services that employees or customers no longer use. By focusing in on the “establish baseline” and “reset goals” components of the UAA program, they can tell if people still use or want existing capabilities and deactivate them as required. Also, they can regularly test proposed capabilities through the UAA program components so they do not roll out services people don’t want, or for which they cannot justify costs.

Technology Drivers for UAA Programs

Awareness and adoption are important for many, but not all technology implementations. Employees and customers won’t care if the data center now Screen Shot 2016-10-12 at 2.29.38 PMhas virtual servers; they will care if they now access virtual apps vs. those on
their desktop. So, the programs rightly focus on new IT services that affect how employees or customers use technology, collaborate with their peers, sign on to apps, gain network access, and so on.

We asked research participants which technologies were driving the user adoption initiatives at their organizations. Collaboration—whether personal, team, or room—account for 49% of the drivers. Mobile services are the next most common at 27%, followed by security (22%) and enterprise apps (22%). (Please see Figure 4.)

Organizational Strategies

Unfortunately, most organizations do not have the right structure in place for a successful UAA program. Only 27% of organizations have a marketing staff (or person) within IT running the program, which is the most successful structure. Others have marketing staffs outside of IT, the technical staff within IT, or no one conducting the program. (Please see Figure 5.)

Who Does it Best?

We correlated the data from Figure 5 with self-rated marketing success—and the results validated our expectations: The most successful programs come from those who hire people with business, marketing, or communications backgrounds to work for IT. They typically have an interest in technology and/or experience with it. Why are they top? The marketing person or people are fully devoted to IT and to making sure employees or customers actually use the services they deliver. (Please see Figure 6.)

Screen Shot 2016-10-12 at 2.29.48 PMThe next best structure comes from those who depend on corporate communications or marketing to raise awareness and adoption of IT services. On the upside, this team knows the company and the employees or customers, and it has the education and experience to know how to market. On the downside, IT is not its top priority, so it often is not on top of the priority list.

The technical staff within IT does not have a high success correlation (though not a s low as having no one market). The reasons for this are clear: IT experts are just that. They have expertise in implementing and running IT systems, apps, and services. They are not marketers, and for years, IT has expected that team to effectively market the services they deliver.Screen Shot 2016-10-12 at 2.29.53 PM

Methods to the Madness: What Works?

We evaluated several success factors for the programs themselves, and which marketing tactics work best for the goal of increasing awareness and adoption. Most important, overall IT success is much higher when companies have a UAA program vs. when they don’t. Figure 7 shows the average self-rated Screen Shot 2016-10-12 at 2.29.58 PMsuccess of those who have a program for user awareness and adoption, and those who don’t.

Success would be much higher if more organizations used the right tools to increase awareness and adoption. When we asked IT leaders to stack rank the most effective to least effective marketing tools, the top three were email, intranet, and e-newsletter—pretty easy to enact, yet not necessarily efficient at increasing awareness and adoption because of the number of emails that go unread, the lack of time employees spend reading e-newsletters or visiting the corporate intranet.

However, when we evaluated the tools that actually correlated with companies who have the highest marketing success rates, the tools they used were quite different. Those that result in success include tweets, professionally made videos, blogs, grassroots initiatives, and digital billboards. As shown in Figure 8, email, intranet, and e-newsletters are among the lowest tools that correlate with success.

Screen Shot 2016-10-12 at 2.30.04 PMTypically, marketers will write creative tweets (and getting creative with 140-word characters is much more difficult than unlimited character counts) to lure customers primarily and employees secondarily to click on a link. That link may be a blog, intranet “how to” site, or professional video, illustrating the benefits of a new IT service. At the end of the video are links to other content—perhaps internally made videos showing how to use the service, or blogs from people with different job responsibilities showing how the service helped them.

Others focus on grassroots initiatives, whereby they identify employees who enjoy using new technologies and also interact with many peers. Once trained on the new service, these employees spread the word about how it’s making them more efficient, prompting other employees to ask for the same.

Measuring Success

On average, most companies see improvements in adoption ranging from 11% to 50%, and the improvements (regardless of the percentage improvement) happened after one to two quarters.

Screen Shot 2016-10-12 at 2.30.11 PMBased on additional analysis we conducted, we can identify the types of marketing tools that work best based on the goal of the marketing initiative. When the main goal is to have a large percentage improvement, regardless of the amount of time it takes, the top marketing tools include:

  • Blogs
  • Professional videos
  • Grassroots initiatives
  • Lunch and learns

When the main goal is to quickly show improvement, regardless of the actual percentage improvement, the top marketing tools include:

  • Lunch and learns
  • Digital billboards
  • Email
  • E-newsletters

Conclusion and Recommendations

With nearly 70% of organizations actively engaged in some sort of digital transformation initiative, the race to implement new technologies is fiercer than ever. After all, gaining value and competitive advantage is a core goal of such initiatives.

But rolling out the technology is only half the battle. If employees and customers are not aware of it, or if they don’t use it, success is out of reach.

Nemertes recommends the following:

  • If you’re not thinking about UAA, you could be putting your company—and your job—at risk
  • Develop a methodical approach that works for your environment
  • Do not rely on the technical staff within IT; you need ‘marketing’ experts to have success
  • Conduct baseline assessments and measure incremental improvements to know what’s working, and what’s not
  • Use marketing tools that align with your goals – rapid adoption in a short period of time, or higher adoption over a longer period of time.

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