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1st December 2012

Bake-in End User Adoption to maximise Salesforce.com success

With CRM tools – even very “easy-to-use” applications like Salesforce.com – the issue of low end user adoption is a well-recorded and perennial one.

The reasons behind this are multiple and varied. It is fundamentally one about changing behaviours which, in any ones books, is not easy. People can be complicated!

In many instances, the key lies in how users are engaged through the CRM journey – from initial planning of their new CRM application, right through to the final deployment stages, and beyond. In many cases, it’s considered as an after-thought or, at best, a factor that is just discussed as a topic of note during end-user training.

The reality, however, is that end user adoption is one of the most critical factors that drive ROI and, more significantly, the performance of final outputs and success.

End user adoption strategies should hence be an integral component of your overall solution delivery and usage lifecycle, starting from the get-go. Resources, time and budget should be baked-in for this – even if it means postponing some of the functional requirements to a later date (well, at least the bells and whistles!).

After all, which is better?

a)   Deploying an application designed for 100% adoption, but might only meet (say) 80% of business needs in the first tranche; or

b)   Delivering an application that supports 100% business needs, and simply assuming it will therefore attract adoption?

The good news is that as platforms like Salesforce.com are well suited to agile delivery methods – the dynamic and capacity exist to incorporate, plan for and apply end user adoption strategies in ways that might have proved challenging in the past.

End user adoption tips

To help design your adoption strategies, here are some tips based on our observations and experience:

Engage a senior level/executive sponsor: to represent and drive the project and change initiative. This is a statement of the obvious, perhaps, but one that often is forgotten!

  • This person is important not just for the initial launch stages of a project but, as importantly, during the post-implementation stages.
  • He needs to be someone with a personal and significant stake in the ultimate success of the change, will use the application himself, and dependent on other users to do the same to deliver results.
  • He needs to be someone who can “live” the change; influence and engage adoption; and drive empowerment.

Its not good enough to appoint a “figure-head” to represent this role – no matter how senior, it just doesn’t work.

Engage End-Users through the journey: right from the initial design stages, engage champions(s) and end-users (a representative body of them) to participate and inform the design and direction of the project.

  • The group must include individuals that represent the interests of all key stakeholders.
  • Help them understand the business case and buy-in to the objectives for change.
  • Engage their input so that you can design something they will fully believe in and feel compelled to use.
  • Differentiate between the outcomes and outputs of the project/change initiative. It is often easier to engage buy-in when users understand and are encouraged to contribute to outcomes, not just project outputs.
  • To gain buy-in, include clear answers to all WIIFM (What’s In It For Me?) questions, but also explore with them the risks and issues if the solution is not fully embraced.

Design for continuous adoption: it’s relatively easy to motivate users during the early stages of implementing a new application; but often not so easy to keep enthusiasm high.

  • Your adoption strategy should include carrots and sticksto maintain adoption levels during live stages:
    • publicly reward positive behaviours and achievements;
    • tie usage into their compensation and performance plans;
    • cultivate peer pressure; and,
    • incorporate “gamification” to make using the system as a “fun” part of everyday work-life!
  • Activate Chatter to enable users to collaborate on tasks, activities and business processes. Chatter creates “stickiness”– and in turn drives adoption.
  • Consider activating Ideas, to capture the “voice from the floor” so that your community feels continuously engaged and responsible for influencing future changes. As importantly, make sure you incorporate a feedback loop to keep them abreast of ideas that have been approved!
  • Be absolutely meticulous when it comes to DATA! Poor data is arguably the number one turn-off and key factor that drives users away – and justifiably so. Ensure rigorous validation and audit controls are in place when data is populated to the system – during testing and final implementation stages and, as importantly, during live operations.
  • With respect to solution design – the old maxims still ride supreme: “Less is More”, and, “Keep it Simple”. So – focus on “User Centred Design”. There are some great applications that integrate with the salesforce.com platform worth a look. Examples include: ImprovedApps, Artesian Solutions and Hoopla – quality applications that have been specifically designed to deliver a better end-user experience and drive higher productivity.

To support the whole process, ensure that the solution design stages include reports and dashboards on Adoption – so that you can regularly assess who is using what, how and where – and, just as importantly, what isn’t being used and its associated implications. There are some great tools on the AppExchange that can help you with this – including those from Salesforce Labs themselves (just type: “adoption” into the search bar, and you’ll soon find them)!

What are your experiences? What carrots and sticks have you found work best – or don’t work at all? What are the gotcha’s?

Please share.

Posted by | Best practice, Buzz on Hyphen8 | 2 comments


  1. 3rd December 2012 at 12:28 pm Simon

    Nice Blog and thanks for the mention. I agree with your points. How you document your applications is key to driving adoption and documentation could be represented slightly differently in each of your tips. Documentation should not be a ‘Write it once, deliver and forget’ approach…today documentation should be a ‘living’ thing, evolving with end-user collaboration for continual improvements, 100% aligned to the applications and on the same platform for familiarity. As you say “Engage End-Users through the journey” and refine the Help content for continuous adoption…

    For more information: Improved Apps Product Portfolio is here: http://www.linkedin.com/company/improved-apps-ltd-/products

  2. 20th October 2013 at 10:43 am Bake-in End User Adoption Update

    Just a brief update to this great post… Improved Help now comes with Help Guides…

    You can now guide Users through your processes, procedures, forms or methods – within one or across several Salesforce pages, even in edit mode!

    Watch this 3 minute video demo:

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