For SaaS vendors and SaaS customers...
People are confronted by questions all the time, some as simple as "what came first, the chicken or the egg," and others are not so simple like, "who owns software adoption?"
All sarcasm aside, these two questions are related as they both apply to the world of customer success and software adoption; what comes first?
In order to drive business value, an organization needs to adopt its new software quickly and use it as designed and intended. Not a lot of argument there. But, what comes before the adoption is critical to adoption happening at all, hence the chicken and the egg question.
Machines don't adopt software; people do. In order for that to happen, an organization needs an actual written plan that maps objectives, timelines, and goals. It needs to map the changes in behaviors people need to make to adopt the new software and do so efficiently in the time frames desired.
Let's look at what we at Tri Tuns call "The 4+1 Keys to successful software adoption," where we point out those critical concepts needed for successful software adoption outcomes and customer success:
Key # 1: Software adoption is all about your people, not IT systems
Let's take Key #1 as fundamental. For years most firms saddled IT with what was "adoption" but was really "build it, and they will come." It was a passive and largely inefficient approach to get people to change behaviors and switch how they did their day to day jobs. Most times, it was really not successful.
"Machines don't adopt software; people do." IT does not own adoption because it can't. IT is awesome at getting systems live and keeping them that way, and making sure that things work as intended. It's more than a full-time job and does not involve identifying and solving human bottlenecks or gaps in an organization that wishes to resist and stay on the old software.
Software adoption is a people issue, it's that simple, and it's all about getting people to identify and embrace new behaviors that will increase business value via their new software. So give IT a break; their job is hard enough.
Key #2: Software adoption needs a clear & transparent plan before, during, and after Go-Live
If your organization is planning to launch a new major software purchase, then everyone owes it to themselves, particularly the key stakeholders, to begin the software adoption planning process early.
Very early, as in during the software selection process optimally, but most definitely well before go-live. All 4+1 Keys are actively and effectively addressed in the planning processes. No two software implementations are the same. No two adoption plans are the same, and that's why the 4+1 Keys are so important to the overall process.
Adoption planning is more than application training and communications. Since a software change is expected to increase efficiency and create tangible business value, an adoption plan needs to identify opportunities and obstacles to success. These can exist at many levels, and the work needs to be done to identify and catalog how each opportunity and obstacle should be addressed, and by whom, and in what time frame.
The adoption plan needs to be very transparent so that the entire organization affected by the new software is fully briefed and on board with what the plan is and how it will affect them. They can participate because they know what is expected of them and in what time frames.
Key #3: software adoption needs to be clearly owned by someone inside of your organization
This should go without saying, yet on many projects having a designated adoption owner is often missed. In the land of software adoption, however, it is a critical must-have for success. It is also super critical for the SaaS CSM's to know specifically who actually owns adoption on the customer side. Both sides have to have skin in the game.
As we talked about briefly in Key #1, IT does not own adoption. Adoption is about people and business value. For an adoption plan and project to be successful, there needs to be a clear business owner whose mission is the successful building and execution of the adoption plan and delivery of increased business value to their company. If there is to be accountability, there needs to be a clear owner. Without this key, unlocking business value quickly is going to be harder and slower.
The owner needs to do the hard work of determining what an adoption plan for their organization needs to look like and defines what success will ultimately look like for their project. Once an adoption owner is assigned, the real adoption planning can begin, aided by Key # 4 and Key #5.
For SaaS CSM's, this is an opportunity to help drive successful adoption with their customer.
Key # 4: software adoption requires visible senior leadership support
Leadership support looks different depending on factors such as the size, scale, complexity, and number of people involved in the software implementation. What is critical is that your leadership demonstrates through words, actions, and resource allocation, their dedication to accelerating, measuring, and sustaining effective adoption of the software.
Your new software was purchased and approved by some individual or group of individuals on the belief that having it would generate business value. Ensuring that the organization will effectively support the implementation and adoption program for your new software is essential to achieving desired business outcomes. Support needs to begin higher up rather than lower down.
It is often easier for the executive level to illustrate how your new software will bring new value to your organization globally. However, it is Key # 5 that will ultimately cement the success of your software adoption efforts.
Key #5: The employees' direct supervisor is instrumental in software adoption success
This may seem elementary to some readers, but it is often overlooked in its importance. The users' direct supervisor is crucial to seeing day to day that the needle is moving with their people, and the system is getting used in a way that delivers increased business value.
The immediate supervisor is the pointy end of the spear. Their ability to observe and influence at the micro-level will have a direct effect on how fast their team adopts the new system. Including the "direct supervisor effect" needs to be baked into each adoption plan to take advantage of and leverage this person in their unique position to positively influence adoption metrics and outcomes.
Failing to do so leaves a highly effective lever for accelerating success unused. Bring direct supervisors into the planning fold early on. This will ensure they have visibility and an ownership stake in the definition of success and metrics by which they will be measured is a smart step that everyone should take.
The 4+1 Keys to successful software adoption are the framework that most every organization and SaaS vendor can incorporate to dramatically increase their likelihood of success in launching a new software investment. Software adoption is about people and behaviors, and while there is no one size fits all solution, the 4+1 Keys have been developed from over 20 years of direct successful experience with organizations and SaaS vendors large and small.