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This article was originally published on LiveBlogSpot

Key Steps to avoid poor User Adoption in your CRM – and reduce your CRM project budget

Imagine – you have completed the rollout of your new (or upgraded) CRM.  But… the users are not happy.  Some of them are reluctantly using it, and the others are just sticking with email and their spreadsheets – or whatever they were using previously.  A few are vociferously complaining and making the situation worse for everyone.

When you find that your users are not willing (or able) to use a newly provided CRM solution you are seeing one of the biggest causes of CRM project failure.  Many of my clients are surprised about this problem of poor user adoption.  You only see User Adoption challenges after the solution is live.  This is because testing users are different from actual users, either because they are working with test scripts, or they have not adopted the world of the users.

It may surprise you to discover that the CRM projects with the greatest risk of a failure in user adoption are those based on technologies that can be radically changed

This is because where there is an opportunity to make a lot of changes, changes - and sometimes lots of changes - are made.  People modify the technology with the aim of meeting business requirements.  However, where this modification is not an option, people find ways of learning the software and making it successful.  Perhaps we should adopt this approach of learning the technology before we embark on changes!!

A successful CRM project will have done two key things:

  • Really take advantage of the CRM software and how it is designed to be used
  • Modified business processes to use the best practice embedded in the software

When you fail to achieve this your CRM project costs are likely to go through the roof.  So it goes without saying, that achieving good user adoption will reduce your overall CRM budget.

Causes of poor user adoption

As a user, you will use new technology because you believe that it delivers benefits to you.  Your benefits will be:

  • Your job (or at least key tasks) becomes easier
  • You achieve your targets or KPIs more quickly than previously

Many users are very focussed on themselves – the WIIFM (or "what is in it for me").  Projects that mainly deliver benefits to areas of the business outside of the user in question, especially where the people perceived to be benefitting are senior management, are rarely readily accepted by users.

What does a failure in user adoption mean?

A failure in user adoption means for you as a project sponsor is:

  • The project costs more (perhaps significantly more) than you originally anticipated
  • Reports do not give you the correct information

In a worst-case scenario, project sponsors lose their jobs because of the failure in user adoption, and the resultant lost revenue or profit compared to what was expected.

The three key parts of User Adoption

User adoption success has three key parts:

  • Delivering benefits to the users
  • Users knowing how to take advantage of those benefits
  • Users believing that the benefits are real – and worth the effort in changing how they do their work

These three parts are achieved differently.

Key Steps to achieve User Adoption

Although you only see user adoption challenges at go-live, protecting yourself against these challenges begins well before go-live.  A poorly designed solution is unlikely to ever really achieve user adoption -regardless of how much effort is invested.

The key steps are:

  1. Optimise your business processes
  2. Understand the key functionality of your chosen technology
  3. Ensure that your solution design works with your optimised processes
  4. Provide end-user training so the users are confident in their use of the solution.

You can see how these points create poor user adoption in the diagram below:

flow user adoption

Most organisations acknowledge the importance of end-user training.  However, even these organisations too often then sideline this end-user training because time or budget has run out.  When time or budget runs out, it can often be traced back to unsatisfactory stakeholder involvement, or insufficient testing.

The other three key steps:

  • Optimising your business processes,
  • Understanding the key functionality of your chosen technology,
  • Ensuring that your solution design works with your optimised processes,

are frequently completely overlooked – so it is hardly surprising that there is this failure in user adoption.

Optimising your business processes is important because business processes evolve over time and unless they are reviewed, they are likely to be less-than-perfect.  An upcoming CRM implementation is an ideal time to review the processes and remove any wrinkles that have crept in.

Understanding the key functionality of your chosen technology prevents reinvention of the wheel.  A surprising number of technical implementers of software do not have a good grasp of the standard functionality – functionality that exists before changes are made.  These technical people tend to create functionality without realising that it already exists.

Ensuring that your solution design works with your optimised processes means that you support your users with the technology, rather than leaving them to fight with the technology – which will lead to resentment and ultimately a failure in user adoption and project failure.  This means that you must base your solution on your business processes – not on a list of requirements

How does Agile fit into this?

Agile project management is an iterative approach to managing projects that focuses on continuous releases and user feedback.  However, we can only release to users when there is enough functionality working to meet needs.  Please do not fall prey to believing that Agile removes the need for:

  • Scoping
  • Training
  • Documentation

or any other aspects of successful implementation.  So, choosing to work agilely does not change how you ensure user adoption.  Perhaps, it even introduces the risk of too much change, so users get frustrated.

Change Management

Change Management is essential – and often overlooked or only given lip-service.  Any change to processes or systems will have a technical side and a people side.  Change management is the processes, and techniques to manage the people side of change to achieve the required business outcome.  This includes training and support so that the users can embrace the solution.

Change Management is one of the key steps to avoid poor user adoption. By ensuring that users are comfortable with and understand the changes as they arrive vastly increases the chance of successful user adoption and so a successful project.   

And if you find yourself in the challenging situation of having poor user adoption in a system that you have already gone live with, what can you do?


This article was originally published on LiveBlogSpot