3 Reasons for User Adoption Death Gaps (Part 1)

Any product's success can be determined by user adoption. If they don't use it, it wasn't successful. Enterprise software faces this challenge every day. Millions are spent on the software and configuration only later to find that people don't use them. Look at your own organization and ask what software solutions and tools are being widely used every day. Now compare that with your asset list of purchased solutions and tools. If you're company is like most, those two numbers will be different. This gap is the user adoption death gap.

Death Gap

Why do we have this death gap?

First of all, let's assume that there was a valid reason to purchase the software. So, we will exclude things like "it was the wrong fit". I would like to focus on what happens AFTER the software was purchased with good intentions.

We have heard a number of reasons for this user adoption death gap, such as the lack of executive commitment, people's reluctance to change, and so forth. I suggest the following three factors as the underlying reasons why software fails to gain traction.

3 reasons for the adoption death gap:

1) Users didn't understand the benefits.

2) Users didn't receive awesome (and continuous) training.

3) Users gave up since it was too hard to use.

The first factor butts up against the notion that people don't like change. The reason many hate change is not knowing the value change will bring. Users mostly welcome change if they agree the new solution will not only drive company value, but also bring personal benefits. This means the individual's work life could be a little more satisfying from personal productivity. Who doesn't like to feel they are accomplishing something better? Why this one fails? The main reason is that we forget to express why this solution will be great. If we do explain, sometimes it's too focused on the value for the enterprise and not enough on the value for the individual. Another reason for this failure is that we assume users will get the idea when they receive training. But training in many cases is about how to use the tool, not why to use the too. And, as explained in the next factor, training is already squeezed for time.

The second death factor is the lack of awesome training. I say "awesome" because it has to be that great! This is not easy to do. For one, it requires more budget and time. Secondly, it requires a low student-to-teach ratio. For example, PIEmatrix training services keeps the student-to-trainer ratio between 2:1 or 3:1. Yes, that's expensive, but it's effective. Small group training for robust solutions succeeds because students learn different ways and personalizing training will provide higher knowledge retention. Continuous training is also important. This means either reviews or adding new learning opportunities over time.

The third factor brings up a common problem with the adoption of many enterprise software solutions. They are complex to learn and use. We all know about the Pareto Principle where 80% of the effect, comes from 20% of the cause. In software, that could mean that 80% of its use comes from 20% of its features. For this ratio to happen, there must be a lot of stuff in the tool. Stuff that is in the way. This could sometimes be valuable stuff, but since it's not used that often, it's mostly eye clutter. Add poor design and the stuff really becomes an eye sore.

What are your experiences with user adoption challenges? Please comment below. I would love to hear from you.

In the Part 2 version of this post, I share some ideas on how to reduce the user adoption death gap with three steps you can take to improve user adoption.