Adoption & Effective Use

Easy First Steps – a User Adoption Strategy (and what IBM is doing in IBM Connections with Touchpoint)

In my User Adoption Strategies book I write about many strategies that can be used to encourage user adoption of new collaborative tools and approaches. One of those strategies is called “Easy First Steps,” a Stage 3 (Enlivening Applicability) strategy. Here’s what the book says on page 188 and the top of 189:

It can be pretty mind-blowing to hear about all the things you can do in a new system, but mind-blowing is a big turnoff to second wave people. Too many options and configuration choices decreases their interest. An Easy First Steps strategy provides a way of addressing this risk.

New systems appear overwhelming to new users, even after they understand the basic concepts. Thus you need to make the first steps into the new system as easy as possible. This strategy makes a conscious decision to downplay all the possibilities of a new system—“It can do this,” “It can do that,” “It can also do this other thing!”—and instead lay out four to seven must-do activities. The approach works because it breaks down the perceived barriers to taking that first step. This strategy can also be used as a Making It Real strategy in Stage 4, but it is put here because its role starts in Stage 3.

How to Use It
Create a set of “Easy First Steps” that people can do quickly and easily. Let’s use IBM Connections as an example when considering how the strategy could be used. IBM Connections offers capabilities that can be used across a broad variety of business scenarios, but this breadth can also be intimidating. Following the Easy First Steps strategy would mean that a new user—Victoria—follows a narrow range of instructions on how to:
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  1. Write a few lines in her Profile about the focus of her work, and if appropriate, her non-work life.
  2. Invite a colleague to join her in IBM Connections.
  3. Use search to discover and join a community in IBM Connections that holds professional interest.
  4. Contribute a Web page to the shared bookmarking portion of IBM Connections, and add descriptive tags so others can find the page easily.
  5. These Easy First Steps provide the initial pull for Victoria to start using IBM Connections, give her some real-world exposure to the different capabilities, and enable her to benefit quickly from what other people are already doing in IBM Connections. While the five examples above are generic activities, they are broadly applicable within Connections and similar collaborative systems. A more tailored list could be created for particular needs.

    In light of the strategy and what the book says above, it was very interesting to read about IBM’s new Touchpoint consulting service for on-boarding new users to IBM Connections. Touchpoint steps users through creating their personal profile, adding some tags and interests, adding some network contacts, a few key colleagues, and some communities to follow. It’s a good use of the Easy First Steps strategy, it’s a good strategy for a vendor to embed in the toolset, and it’s a good strategy for organizations to customise to their needs.

    However, it is vital to note that Easy First Steps is a stage three strategy, and that organizations need to have an adoption approach that engages their staff across the first and second stages too. Without Winning their Attention (Stage 1) or Cultivating Basic Concepts (Stage 2), potential users are likely to have little patience for the Easy First Steps strategy.