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Pre-Project Components That Can Impact User Adoption

Cory Schmitt Cory Schmitt  |  
Sep 12, 2019
Does the following situation sound familiar?
You were on a project that rolled out a new application to the organization. You and the team spent many long days (and some nights) building the new application. The team worked hard, and you came in on-time and on-budget. As part of the rollout, the team did a little training, but (to be honest) since the go-live and training, you really haven’t thought much about the new application because you’re already on to the next project. Now, three months later, the executive sponsor of the project is looking at a variety of reports and determines that hardly anyone is using the new application, and they’re asking you, “Why?”
Chances are good that if you’ve been involved in enough technology projects, you’ve run into adoption issues at some point. User adoption, or lack thereof, is a very common problem. Fortunately, there are steps that can be taken to help avoid many of the pitfalls that lead to poor user adoption.
In Part 1 of this 3-part series, we will discuss the pre-project components that can impact user adoption. In the subsequent parts, we will discuss what you can do during the project’s execution and what happens after execution and launch.

User Adoption is Important – Treat it Like it’s Important

There are many reasons why adoption fails on projects, but one of the biggest factors that contributes to failed adoptions is that adoption is not treated with the respect and urgency that it deserves. Adoption is one of (if not the) most important goal of most technology projects. Sure, goals like ROI and delivering on-time/on-budget are important, but if the users don’t use the system, the ROI isn’t going meet expectations. It won’t matter if you delivered within budget because, if the system isn’t used, the money spent is wasted.
The bottom line is that, without user adoption, you cannot maximize the value of the project. Yet, many organizations think of adoption in terms of sending a few emails and holding a couple training sessions at launch. Here are some keys to helping you improve adoption on your projects.

Start at the Beginning

Adoption starts before the project kicks off. It starts with questions like:
  • Why are we doing this project?
  • How does this project align with the organization’s strategic goals?
  • How will this project impact the organization?
  • What is the priority of this project within the organization?
  • Does this project have the backing of leadership?
At this point in the project lifecycle, we’re trying to get the project started out on the right foot. The more closely aligned with the organization’s strategic goals and objectives, and the more executive backing you have, the better your chances are at generating ownership from the project team and creating positive energy from the users. Without strong strategic alignment and backing from leadership, adoption will be more difficult.

Alignment Starts at the Executive Level

Strong alignment to organizational goals and support from the executive team will help encourage buy-in. If the project team believes the project is going to make a difference, then they will work harder to make it a success…they will buy in to the project. If the users believe that the project is going to make a difference, then they will be more open to the disruptive change that comes with a new system.
The bottom line is if people BELIEVE that it is important to the organization, then it will be important to them as well. That belief starts at the executive level with the projects that are approved and how they are prioritized.
Will every project perfectly align with the organization’s strategic goals, have strong executive support and be a top priority project? No. If your project doesn’t have these characteristics, there are ways to offset the lack of support and organizational alignment, but your job will be more difficult. Understanding where your project stands in respect to these “pre-project” aspects will help you plan for adoption going forward. Having a firm grasp of how to maximize user adoption (and how your organization works) can also help you influence the project selection and prioritization processes to give your projects a better chance of being successful.
Project Management


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