Wednesday, December 10, 2008

User Adoption matters

One of the most annoying things in the WWW and most especially the Web 2.0 world is the Field of Dreams mentality of "build it and they will come". With package projects and business services this is the resort of two groups of people.
  1. People who think the technology is the only thing
  2. People who are scared of users
Sometimes people fall into both of these groups but the underlying principle is always the same. The technology is enough, its enough to "let people know" and you will then "build a community" which will make it all successful. The problem is that while there are successful internet businesses that were created in part by this approach they also had a couple of other things
  1. Marketing
  2. A user population the size of the internet
If you are aiming at the mass consumer market on the web then it might be enough to launch it and do some marketing, if however you are doing this internally to your organisation then quite simply it isn't enough.

So how do you drive user adoption? Well the first thing is to find out why users might not use what ever you are proposing. Be negative, get the worst things out there and then one by one mitigate those risks. To do this you've of course got to identify your users and be realistic about them. If you are doing a bug tracking system or a service for fraud analysis its highly unlikely that everyone in the company is going to use it, so set your objectives realistically and see why your user community might not switch.

Next up think about how you are going to market it to the users, yes that's right market it. Again its not enough just to lob an article on your intranet, think about how you are going to communicate what is coming before it is there. Create a comms plan and work out what you are going to tell them when. Maybe even create an internal buzz campaign to make people interested.

Next up look at how you transition users to your system gradually (if you can). If it is a green field system then this is easier as you don't have the data migration challenge. The point of a gradual migration is to start building a reputation for success that can then be used to go after the more challenging groups. If you have to go big bang then make sure it works on day 1. If this means delaying the launch a couple of weeks then try and do that because if you bugger up the launch day they'll remember for a long time, no matter how good it is a few weeks later (look at Heathrow T5 for an example of that).

Finally, and most importantly, don't stop on go-live day. Track usage and adoption and look at who is, and isn't, using the service/package/solution/etc go out and find out what has worked and then have a follow up campaign to get people more engaged. Keep doing this as a core part of the run for the system to make sure that the system is successful in 24 months time, not just 24 minutes after being turned on.

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