Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Driving sustainable user adoption for SharePoint and Yammer – Part I

A while ago I did a presentation at the Future of Business is sharing event on user adoption of collaboration technologies within companies. A good user adoption strategy – this is not the same as change management – is key in getting a collaborative environment accepted within a company.

Although SharePoint has been hugely successful in the past few years – there is still a gap in satisfaction between IT pros and business managers – SharePoint met the expectations of  73% of the former, and of 62% of the latter (Source: Microsoft SharePoint faces tough future, Forrester says). In my opinion, this is because in most organizations, user adoption is just an afterthought. People often confuse user adoption with training, so a typical reaction is – “let’s send our end users to some training” – probably a technical training about site collections, versioning, web parts, etc… and what happens 5 weeks after the training they fall back in the old way of working.  Training is important, it allows people to make the first jump, but it has to be contextual, if you have build a solution around managing projects with SharePoint, make a specific training on the benefits that people will get when using SharePoint.

But user adoption really is about people getting to know your solution, understand it and use it in a correct manner. In the end the success of a deployment such as Office 365/Yammer or SharePoint Online is measured by sustained user adoption. Why the emphasis on “sustained”?  A study by the Altimeter Group about usage of social computing tools found that after an initial spike in enthusiasm and usage, you typically see a gradual decline in usage until only limited groups within your company are you using the solution. [Altimeter Group– making the business case for Enterprise Social Networks] – this applies to collaboration tools in general.

Getting beyond the early adopters of a technology solution, is not easy and in a perfect world – with only IT consultants (just kidding :-)) - everything would work magically. In a real world “Build and they will come” simply does not work. one of the main reasons is that people are fundamentally resistant to change, so you will need to put some effort in it to explain them why they need to change. If a new idea or way of work is initiated and self-sustaining, it will only survive if it gets adopted by a critical mass of users (typically you will need to at least >50% adoption)

The two most important things to focus on are Why and What?  Why do you need SharePoint (or Yammer, Yambla,…) – and what are the business problems you are going to solve or mitigate.  People know about file shares and they work with on a daily basis and then comes along this  this new product – SharePoint – but untill you can explain them how they need to use in their daily work and routines, they will not adopt it. Social, Yammer – why? What is the added value of using the SharePoint newsfeed or Yammer groups to someone in accounting – don’t push a certain feature if you can’t answer why people would need it and how they can use it.

It is interesting to see that even after you have deployed a file sharing and collaboration solution, people still send out e-mails with attachments instead of a link to the file. There are two killer applications in an enterprise, Excel and e-mail. And even with companies advocating zero-email (but struggling to actually make it happen), I don’t see e-mail disappearing anytime soon. So instead of banning it, embrace it and integrate it into your solution and use it in the more efficient way.
In a next post I will talk about how to leverage a user adoption team to make your collaboration platform deployment a success.
“Success starts with deployment, it does not end with deployment” – a it is necessary but not sufficient.

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