Adoption & Effective Use

The Path to Sustained Adoption – John McGuigan

I attended a workshop this week about sustainable user adoption. There was a slide in the deck that transported me back to the pages of my book on user adoption from 2010 (and the second edition in 2012). But let’s start a long ways before John’s diagram.

In 2007 I approached Microsoft Press about writing a book on SharePoint. There were many resources available for the technically-focused SharePoint experts at the time – the developers and admins – but there wasn’t anything that dealt with the end user side, and I had an idea on how to write such a book. Microsoft Press said yes, I got writing, there were a few detours along the way (hello SharePoint 7 Pillars), and finally towards the end of 2008 after a very focused three months of writing after the design of the book finally crystallised, Seamless Teamwork came out.

Around the same time I attend KM World 2008 in San Jose, and aside from meeting Martin White for the first time, also met Janus Boye for the first time. He invited me to come to Europe in March to give several day-long workshops on the business side of SharePoint. It was a bigger remit than what was in Seamless Teamwork, but I dug in over the next several months and created a 300-slide workshop on business value, governance, business engagement, and user adoption. March 2009 soon came around, and I was off to Europe for the first time since March 1994. I presented the workshops as per our agreement, and headed for home … to a fairly quiet couple of months. Consulting was quiet, and the book hadn’t driven a lot of requests for help. There was a community SharePoint Conference in NZ coming up in July, however, and with 5-6 weeks before the conference, I wrote the workshop I had built for Janus into a book called SharePoint Roadmap. I self-published this one, got 80 or so printed in advance of the SharePoint Conference, and took them up to Wellington in flimsy cardboard boxes as checked-in luggage on a plane (nightmare producing conditions, to be frank). I had a presentation to give, either gave away or sold the books I took up, and … went home again.

SharePoint Roadmap was a good book, and timed just right (thanks Janus for seeing around the corner on that content). I had the opportunity to present the workshop in many places around the world, and started doing a whole lot of international travel. But every time the material was presented, there was one slide deck that drew the most questions, drove the greatest interest, and left me feeling that I wasn’t doing enough to make the material grounded and practical for my workshop guests. That was the user adoption topic, and as I was thinking about this, gained the opportunity to present a half-day workshop at IntraTeam 2010 in Denmark on user adoption. My deck in the SharePoint Roadmap workshop was only 30 minutes, so I had a LOT of work to do to get it ready for late February 2010. I got writing, commissioned a global survey to understand the use and effectiveness of user adoption strategies, and wrote and thought and wrote and thought and presented and thought and discussed and thought. The IntraTeam workshop came and went, and after I got back to New Zealand dug into the writing of what became User Adoption Strategies.

The hardest – and probably the most interesting chapter – was the one on change management, change theories, and other change models. I devoured everything I could, looked at it through the lens of user adoption, and wrote a foundational theory chapter to explore and explain what we could learn from the change literature when focusing on user adoption. One of the cool studies I found was by John McGuigan on the adoption of Salesforce at his firm, Fiberlink Communications. John had presented his material at Dreamforce 2009, along with two others in a session called “The Cardinal Rules of User Adoption.” On slide 12 was a diagram that resonated greatly with me – that the path to sustained adoption was completely around increased utility, or showing / working with / coaching people at Fiberlink Communications how Salesforce would improve their work, their job, and their pay cheque. While other approaches could be used to manipulate a rapid uptake trajectory, it was the slower and more focused efforts around actually making a difference for people that drew my attention, and I included John’s diagram in my book.

And boom – there it was again in the workshop this week. A decade after John presented it at Dreamforce. And completely current and up-to-date in its fundamental assertion: sustained adoption is achieved by making an actual difference in how people work. It’s that simple. And that hard.