Why digital transformations fail

How to drive user adoption of technological change

When you hear the term “digital transformation,” what do you think of? You might envision technology like cloud tools that help employees get more done while using less resources, mobile apps that empower your staff to finish projects on the go, and performance analytics that equip your managers to make smarter decisions every day. In short, digital transformation is big technological change in how we work.

However, three-quarters of digital transformation projects fail to generate returns that exceed the original investment. And according to PriceWaterhouseCoopers, the reason 70 percent of those transformations fail is a lack of user adoption and behavioral change. The takeaway is clear—to drive an effective digital transformation for your organization, you cannot neglect the human side of adopting your new technology. In this post, we’ll explore why user adoption is the main challenge for digital transformation, proven ways to inspire user adoption of your new technology, and the pitfalls to avoid in gaining employee buy-in.

Why user adoption is the main challenge for digital transformation

For enterprises today, embracing technological change is a mandate. Digital disruption will wipe out an estimated 40% of today’s Fortune 500 companies, making it crucial for your organization to master digital transformation in order to compete. However, introducing new workplace technology without also considering user adoption is like buying a top-of-the-line sports car without making sure your driver can operate a manual transmission. It doesn’t matter how powerful your new solution is if your employees cannot use it effectively.

However, gaining the user adoption required by digital transformation is hard because humans are resistant to behavioral change. The primary reason for this resistance is not stubbornness; instead, it’s that a great deal of new technology is too complex to offer a good employee experience. Rather than intuitively enabling employees to work smarter and more efficiently, too many new workplace technologies overwhelm users with constant notifications and poor workflows. The result is technology that promised to boost innovation and productivity instead produces distraction and frustration. Gallup estimates this employee disengagement is costing the world $7 trillion in lost productivity.

To drive user adoption for digital transformation, start with listening

Because technological complexity is the primary obstacle to gaining employee adoption, your first priority is choosing technology with a great user experience. The best way to do this is to begin your digital transformation with your users, not the technology. Ask your staff questions like: What do you want from your workplace technology? What are your daily pain points and frustrations? How could the new tools we adopt make you work more engaging and productive? By conducting this kind of internal research prior to adopting new technology, you’re more likely to choose technology your employees actually want to use. At the same time, you will make their buy-in more likely because you involved them in the decision-making process.

Once you’ve found the user-centered technology for your digital transformation, you need a user-centered rollout strategy. This begins by engaging stakeholders across your organization with in-person meetings, briefings, and data. Your goal is inspiring leaders among your employees who will champion your new technology to drive buy-in across your company.

Avoid these user adoption pitfalls during digital transformation

Once you have consulted your employees on the kind of workplace technology they need and engaged key stakeholders to champion your new tech, you’re well on your way to a successful digital transformation. That said, there are still user adoption pitfalls to avoid on your path to change. Here are three to look out for:

  1. Lackluster training: Even the best-designed technology requires quality training if you want employees to use it effectively. Design a tiered training strategy to fit different levels of expertise across your teams, create clear and easy-to-search documentation to answer questions, and tap your user adoption champions to help coordinate onboarding across your organization.
  2. Ineffective communication: Only 13% of US workers strongly agree their leadership communicates effectively—and times of change are when good communication is most vital. Everyone in your organization should know the adoption goals as well as the milestone schedule for transitioning to the new tools. Be sure all staff know who to ask if they have issues, and provide one shared version of the truth for each question. Above all, remember to include the “why” behind your digital transformation in every aspect of your communication about the project.
  3. No optimization after implementation: Avoid resting on your laurels after you finish implementing your new technology. Continue to gather user feedback into your growth cycle so you can tune your new technology as needed. You should also analyze the ROI of your solution to ensure it’s delivering the value you budgeted. By using this insight to optimize your new solution after implementation, you can add value and longevity while also supporting user adoption over time.

User adoption is essential to digital transformation

Digital transformation is hard. You are adopting technology meant to effect big change in how your organization operates. That in mind, the last thing you want to do is try to tackle digital transformation without gaining the buy-in and support of the employees who will use this new technology for everyday work. By focusing on user adoption, you increase the likelihood your digital transformation will succeed while also showing your employees you value their perspective and put their needs first.

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