What Customer Success and Software Adoption Teams Can Learn From Nature!

I recently watched this great video from Sustainable Human that tells the story about how reintroducing just 14 wolves to Yellowstone National Park in 1995 had a profound impact on that natural ecosystem.

The video states that “We all know that wolves kill various species of animals, but what perhaps we’re slightly less aware that they give life to many others.” The ripple effects of introducing major changes, in this case, bringing wolves back to an environment where they have been missing for 70 years, had many positive, unintended impacts.

The video shows how introducing the wolves “radically changed” the behavior of the deer that had grazed away the vegetation across large areas of land. When the wolves came, the deer started avoiding specific areas of the park. In turn, the vegetation grew back, and other animals came to inhabit the park. Rivers also changed. The impact across the entire ecosystem was amazing, and the catalyst was traced back to just introducing 14 wolves back into the environment.

Similar things can happen in organizations when you introduce Customer Success teams (if you are a SaaS supplier) or internal software adoption efforts (if you are purchasing software). Creating groups likes these can, and should, shift the behavior across your organizational ecosystem. Creating a team, even a small team (remember, there were only 14 wolves), that is sufficiently strong enough and empowered to shift the way business is done can create new patterns of behavior across your entire organization. This can lead to new levels of success, beyond which you might never have thought possible.

But success is not guaranteed.? Wolves are a strong, powerful animal with the ability to shift the behavior of others. Your customer success team needs a strong leader with authority to make changes. The entire executive team needs to be open to questioning the way things currently work across the organization. And you need to look at all areas of your organizational ecosystem to see what else is shifting, or needs to shift, in order for the organization as a whole to thrive.


The World Cup, Software Adoption and Customer Success

The most amazing thing happened after the recent World Cup game. The Japanese spectators all cleaned up after themselves in the stadium. Many of them had even brought their own trash bags to make sure that they could leave the place spotless. When have you ever heard of such a thing happening at the sports events you have attended?

So, what do Japanese sport spectators have to do with software adoption customer success? The answer is they both depend on the behavior and showing respect for others. Let me explain. The BBC article about the Japanese spectators discusses how this is a cultural phenomenon. Japanese children are taught from an early age to be respectful and to pick up after themselves. This behavior is reinforced as they grow and continues even in adulthood.

The key to software adoption and customer success is creating a culture in your organization that rewards desired user behavior. It requires you to build a culture where everyone is focused on how they do their jobs and how they use the software to ensure that everyone across the organization can use the system as designed and intended.

Most organizations get into trouble with software adoption and customer success when they narrowly focus just on system functionality. They tend to ignore modeling, driving, and reinforcing the desired work behaviors. They ignore focusing on driving user behavior where everyone is conscious and intentional about using the software as it is intended.

The BBC article goes on to say:

“With constant reminders throughout childhood, these behaviors become habits for much of the population.”

The lesson here for software adoption customer success is that you need to constantly reinforce the behavior that you want with reminders. This critical effort is oftentimes overlooked in many organizations. Who’s job is it to model this behavior? Who’s job is it to give the reminders? Who’s job is it to actually identify the desired user adoption customer success behaviors?

Another interesting point is that this behavior is a source of pride for the Japanese spectators.

“In addition to their heightened consciousness of the need to be clean and to recycle, cleaning up at events like the World Cup is a way Japanese fans demonstrate pride in their way of life and share it with the rest of us” – explains Prof North.

How can you create a culture in your organization where it is a source of pride that everyone is using the technology well? How do you create a corporate culture that rewards desired behaviors? How do you create a corporate culture where people are encouraged to make sure that they not only do their job well but that they are doing their job, and using technology systems in a way that enables others to use the data and system to excel at their jobs as well?

We can all take a lesson from these Japanese spectators about how to improve software adoption and customer success. To be more successful, focus your efforts on creating a culture and environment that rewards desired user behavior. What steps do you take to create a culture that reinforces desired norms for effectively adopting systems and technology?

Create the culture of system users taking pride in creating high-quality data the is shared throughout the organization. Think of these Japanese spectators and engage your users around these behaviors and principles. Model the behavior that you want. Be aware and take note when you see people using systems and doing their job as intended. Publicize it across your organization when you see examples of excellence in using the software effectively. If you do, you will have much greater success from your software investments!


Learning To Drive Digital Transformation: Lessons From Roommates & House Guests

The rise of the digital workplace is changing how people collaborate and conduct work, forcing us to reexamine a lot of assumptions and rote behaviors. We need to rethink both how we work and how we impact others’ work.

This got me thinking that we can learn a lot about how to drive effective digital workplace behaviors by looking at how we deal with roommates and houseguests. Kind of an odd connection, isn’t it. Well, not really when you look at the underlying issues.

Over my life, I have had a lot of roommates and houseguests. I had roommates in college. When I was studying in England, I shared a flat with a bunch of international graduate students. In my twenties, I shared apartments with friends to save money. And I have had tons of people come and stay as houseguests over the years.

What is interesting in reflecting about roommates is that there are a lot of different types of people and how they approach living with others.

There are those who are extremely considerate and always clean their room and clean the common areas. And there are those who always leave dishes in the sink.

And what about houseguests? Oh, my goodness – what a range! There are those that you know they’re always going to bring a gift. There are those that are always going to clean up after themselves and be very considerate.

There are the ones who take the sheets off the bed and make sure that the place is in better shape than when they found it. And then there are the ones who always leave wet towels on the floor, the bed unmade, drop food everywhere, and then leave you with a big mess to clean up after they are gone.

What has been clear from these experiences is that roommates and houseguests each have extremely different ideas of what are appropriate behaviors, and they display far different levels of consideration for others. We see similar patterns when looking at the digital workplace.

Effective digital work requires that people adopt similar ways of working. They need to collaborate effectively using digital tools. They need to be aware of the interdependencies between how they perform their individual job and how they use software tools and the impact it has on the ability of others to also perform their job effectively.

Take, for example, something like Office 365 or a CRM system.

These technologies change how and when people need to work together.? To be effective, they require people to utilize centralized tools and adopt similar work behaviors.

People need to:

  • Share files in the correct location, with proper names, in order for others to access, collaborate, and utilize the materials.
  • Enter all required information in a CRM system in order to allow everyone across the organization to enter it.
  • Enter information with accuracy, clarity, and enough detail that anyone can quickly understand the full picture just from what is entered in the field.
  • Enter data and share files in a timely manner (ideally the moment it is generated) so that others can access the data they need, when they need it, to do their jobs.

How many times have you looked in a system and can’t find the file you need? Or looked in the CRM and found that most of the data is missing or wrong? How confident are you in using what is available? How much time do you waste trying to track down what you need? How is your customer experience impacted when you don’t have the information they already shared with your company because someone else didn’t enter it into the system?

Whether it is in the digital workplace, living with roommates, or being a houseguest, the key lesson here is that you need to focus on behavior and consideration.

  1. Pay attention to your behavior and how it impacts others. It is no longer enough to be a great individual performer if the way you work prevents others from their best performance as well.
  2. Be considerate of others. The way you do your job directly impacts how others do their job. If you are not collaborating effectively or using digital tools as defined and designed, then you are making more work for others.
  3. If you are a manager or a supervisor, it is your job to help drive the desired behaviors among your team. You need to clearly articulate the behaviors that are required from your staff.? You also need to reward people when they are considerate of others and work in a way that allows everyone to succeed. And you need to take action to correct inconsiderate or inappropriate collaboration behaviors.

Focusing on digital collaboration behaviors and ensuring all people are considerate of their impact on others’ work is essential to achieving success in the digital workplace.

Most software projects fail to deliver the expected business outcomes because of the approach the buyer takes to getting the system live and driving adoption. Most buyer’s organizations don’t have the expertise, tools, and capacity to deliver their own success.? This short video explains many of the methodological and structural problems organizations face when dealing with software.

If you are looking to help software buyers create their own internal software success programs, Success Chain can help. Contact us to find out what we can do for you.


Actions CEOs, CIOs, and CFOs Can Take to Increase Software Success

It is widely known that most software investments fail to deliver the expected business results and Return on Investment (ROI). Here are often-skipped, specific actions that CEOs, CIOs, and CFOs can take to get more value from their software investment.

A long history of software failure

For years research groups have reported the CRM projects alone to have a 60 ? 70% record of failing to deliver expected business outcomes. What is staggering is that executives have accepted these dismal results for so long and not taken action to address such poor performance. 

Why this long history of failure? Either executives are not aware of the problem (unlikely), or they don’t know what to do to solve it (highly likely).

The problem is the approach

When I speak with leaders across a variety of organizations and industries about how they approach software success, the typical answer is “training.

While relying on training consistently fails to deliver success, organizations keep turning to it as the go-to move, each time expecting a different result. Somewhere out there, Einstein is rolling over in his grave, thinking everyone is insane!

Its time to stop the crazy-train and start looking for new approaches that will deliver results. 

Over a career spanning more than twenty years focused on helping organizations improve user adoption and getting more value from their IT systems, I have learned many tactics that make a massive impact on success.  

New SaaS Sales

You need to plan how you will achieve long-term software success

There is no way any organization can justify putting money into a software investment without having a clear, realistic plan for how they will get their value back out of it. 

History has shown us that just doing a little system training ? at the time of go-live ? will not deliver the results you want. It is time for something new.

A world of perpetual change

Your organization operates in a world of continuous change, with lots of fluid factors that impact the level of adoption and business results you get from your system year over year.

 What changes can you expect over the next 10+ years?

  • Employees will join and leave your organization
  • Updates and changes to the software
  • Strategic priorities will change,
  • The competitive environment will change
  • New government regulations impact how you operate
  • You might be involved in an acquisition or merger
  • And many more

All of this constant change has a direct impact on the user adoption and value you get from your software. Merely relying on a little training, delivered at the point of go-live, is never going to give you the long-term software success you seek.

To get the ROI you want from your software, you need to have dedicated, skilled resources working to manage all of this complexity. You need to take action to sustain the effective adoption of your systems and ensure you achieve your desired business results. 

While you won?t know all the specifics of what will change, you can and should forecast out what skills, resources, and funding you need to ensure the software delivers the results you need, over ten years. You need to require these resource estimates as part of your initial business case and carefully look at them as part of your funding approval decisions.

When I speak to executives about the original business case and forecasted returns they used to justify their software purchase, I always ask them what the assumed level of user adoption was. Inevitably they start to quickly look downtrodden when they realized they overlooked something straightforward, yet very important in their calculations. It is almost universal that most IT business cases assume 100% user adoption, from day one when they calculate the expected ROI. The assumption is that once the system goes live, they will immediately start realizing all of the cost efficiencies and increased productivity from day 1. And we all know this is not the case.

Use weighted user adoption to adjust your business case / ROI forecasts.

When developing your business case, you should explicitly state the level of adoption you expect for each year over the next 10+ years. How will drops in the rate of effective adoption reduce the benefits you realize each year? 

Use this information to adjust the forecasted ROI from your system.  

For example, if you know that the system you are introducing is going to be a significant change for the organization, you can discount the expected returns in the first year (or two) substantially. People need extra time to adjust to substantial changes in how they perform their daily job. During this initial adjustment period, adoption is typically low, and productivity usually dips.

Continuing out into the future, you should look at the return you get based on different levels of effective user adoption. 

  • If you only get 70% effective use, does your project still make sense? 
  • What about 50%effective user adoption? 
  • Does the project still make sense at 30% user adoption?
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Free eCourse: Why Software Projects Fail…and How to Ensure Success

Let history be your teacher

Are you not sure what is a realistic estimate for a sufficient level of adoption? 

You can start by looking over current and historical user adoption rates and corresponding ROI of other existing applications in your organization. 

  • What level of adoption do these applications have?
  • What percentage of the forecasted business benefits have they delivered? 

Justify your adoption resource needs

Once you realize how significant an impact on the level of adoption has on your bottom-line results, it becomes easier to justify the resources required each year to drive and sustain adoption.

Many organizations have a project sponsor that is accountable for getting the initial funding and then getting the system live. However, very rarely is the owner accountable for ensuring the system is used effectively and achieves the measurable business outcomes and ROI used to justify the investment. 

Assign a senior executive to be accountable for long-term adoption and success

One simple, high-impact tactic to deliver software success is to ensure a senior executive has an explicit, significant, vested interest in taking action and allocating resources to ensure the software is used to achieve bottom-line results.

You need to make sure there are real impacts for the executive for missing, meeting, or exceeding outcome targets. 

To achieve meaningful results, you often need to tie compensation, promotion eligibility, etc., to the executive?s performance plan. 

Oh, and if this executive leaves the organization or changes role, you need to assign this responsibility to their successor formally.

You need an ongoing user adoption and success team

Driving long-term user adoption and ensuring that business goals are achieved requires tremendous work and effort.

You need an internal team in place to make it happen. 

Many organizations now setup internal Software Success Teams. (Some organizations call them User Adoption Teams, User Adoption Program Management Office (UAPMO), or Adoption Center of Excellence). Regardless of the name, you need a team that will plan, accelerate, and then sustains the level of user adoption that is necessary to achieve your business goals. This team needs to maintain effective user adoption, year over year, over the life of the system. This is no easy task!

Start managing software success long before the software is live!

There is a lot of planning and preparation that needs to happen to put in place an effective user adoption and success program. You need to:

  • Define what constitutes success in both the short and long-term
  • Build the success team and operating processes
  • Analyze the organizational barriers and drives of success
  • You need to begin preparing your organization to navigate change before the software goes live
  • You need to accelerate software adoption and get employees to embrace new ways of working at the time of go-live
  • You need to sustain full, effective user adoption over the long-term 

All of this work takes time and skilled resources. The size and complexity of your software project will directly impact the amount of work required to drive success. The more complex and disruptive the software, the more time and resources that are needed to help you manage success.

 We worked with one client that brought us in to help set up their adoption program several months before they even selected their software vendor!

New skills and approaches required

We work with a lot of internal technology teams, and most of them don?t have any experience in organizational change management or user adoption concepts and techniques. 

While IT staff do not need to be experts in adoption, they do need to understand the general practices and the various touchpoints and dependencies that a valid user adoption methodology has with the technology team.

Similarly, very few people on the business side understand user adoption concepts and activities. Staff on the business side need to understand these concepts since they will need to be involved in many of the actions required to deliver success.

Train IT and business staff on user adoption practices

To ensure the best results, be sure that at the start of projects that all project members (including both IT and business team staff) are trained on the adoption activities that need to happen and why. Ensuring both IT and business staff share a common understanding of user adoption activities enables them to collaborate during the development and rollout process effectively.

You will also need to periodically refresh everyone?s understanding and remind them where they are in the process.

User adoption portfolio approach

To maximize your results, you will want to have a Software Success Program across all of your applications.

After you have experimented on building software success programs for a few of your applications, and have learned what works and what doesn?t work in your organization, then it is time to scale and mature your efforts. Eventually, you want to get to the point that you have an ongoing software success program across your entire IT portfolio.

There will be different levels of attention required for various applications. These will vary based on:

  • The size
  • Scale
  • Complexity
  • Level of investment. A

When rolling out new systems, there will be changes to the level of usage and value received from other existing applications. 

  • New systems may divert attention from the use of current systems. 
  • Functionality deployed in the new system may replace functionality in existing systems, thus lowering the use and value received from the existing systems. 

Having a software success portfolio approach enables you to measure, monitor, and manage the costs, resources, and ultimate business value received from each application. You can now focus your resources and achieve the best overall results.

Taking these actions will significantly increase your overall effectiveness, maximize the value you get from your IT investments, and improve your bottom line. 

The challenge is that this is new for many organizations, and they don?t know where to start. And there are many challenges along the way. 

Most software projects fail to deliver the expected business outcomes because of the approach the buyer takes to getting the system live and driving adoption. 

Most buyer?s organizations don?t have the expertise, tools, and capacity to deliver their success. This free eCourse explains many of the methodological and structural problems organizations face when dealing with software.

If you are looking to help software buyers create their own internal software success programs, Success Chain can help. Contact us to find out what we can do for you.