User Adoption Strategy
Keep in mind we encourage you to add your own perspective to these ideas. You know your org better than we do. These are just some things we’ve seen help orgs achieve successful user adoption.
Users should participate early in the solution business objectives stage. Don’t discuss the technical requirements at this early stage. Don’t mention SharePoint or any technology terms.
Initially, your users should be asked to explain how they currently do things and provide any ideas for improvements. Encourage them to express opinions regarding ways to increase efficiency, improve processes, reduce mundane and redundant tasks, etc.
How quickly can they find what they are looking for? How often are they asked the exact same question? What processes should be automated? What reports, documents, spreadsheets, or forms do they use on a regular basis? What ideas do they have to help with their own jobs? What about the other people they are working with or for?
Ask your users these types of questions and you can turn passive involvement into active participation. Let your users know that all of their ideas are welcome, and you also need help prioritizing these ideas.
Be sure to keep track of your findings as well as which individual or group came up with the idea. This will come in handy later when you publicly thank them for their active role in the solution requirements. Thank them for their thought leadership! If you do this with honest sincerity, users will beam with pride and be happy to actively utilize your new SharePoint solution. Often these same users will become evangelists, spreading their excitement about the new solution, and continually provide useful feedback and ideas.
People may seem to resist change on a large scale, but they do not mind small changes. Do not overwhelm your users (and yourself) by building a complete system and deploying hundreds of new processes and features users have to learn.
By actively involving users during the business objectives stage, you can quickly identify the “low hanging fruit.” When you plan your SharePoint deployment, try to plan for at least one high priority feature from each group to help build your evangelists. Even if including a high-priority feature is simply not possible in this cycle, try and roll out two or more mid-priority items.
Even more importantly – communicate these decisions and actions. Users should understand what is happening, why it’s happening, and when they can expect their personal objectives to be met. One of the questions that every one of your users will be asking is “What’s in it for me?”
Develop a strategy and plan features to be rolled out on a scheduled basis. Some orgs add features and functionality every six months, and some orgs add capabilities every couple of weeks.
Your implementation schedule will likely change as your solution progresses, but communicating a published plan goes a long way with user adoption. The process of releasing new functionality over a period of time decreases the learning curve and creates an environment in which it is clear the users are important.
We have never seen a solution fail due to over-communication.
You can easily promote ownership by implementing a feature a user recommended. It does not matter if that feature was going to be enabled anyway. What matters is a user can view their little piece of the SharePoint solution with pride. They now have a sense of ownership.
Be creative with your users. For example: create a new help section and give credit to “Betty from Membership” because she had concerns regarding usability. Give her credit for the fantastic idea of a “Help Section” for the new volunteers. Determine who is passionate and what they are passionate about. Harness your team’s energy as part of the SharePoint solution.
However, resist adding things to your solution for the sole purpose of giving someone a sense of ownership. Allowing users to enjoy a sense of ownership can be achieved without diluting solution functionality. Without a sense of ownership, user adoption is at risk. Without user adoption, your solution will be left for dead.
Strike while the iron is hot! The best time to deputize a new ambassador is when they are singing songs of praise about a single part of the solution. Let them know you appreciate their positive approach. Candidates may include virtually anybody possessing the following traits: they have the desire to help others, they provide positive reinforcement, they look for and offer solutions, and they do not detract from others’ user adoption. Beware the Detractors!
We’ve seen some interesting ways to encourage such behavior. Formally distinguish someone as an “Expert.” They could be the expert in one area of passion, like the Business Intelligence Expert, Search Expert, or Collaboration Expert.
Another great way to encourage ambassadors and show your appreciation is to host an event. Invite only active participants who have demonstrated a high level of helpfulness. This is even more important when considering extranets, where your members, volunteers, donors, affiliates, and supporters gather and collaborate. Often times, these are content-specific or industry-specific experts helping each other out, answering questions, blogging, commenting, etc. These are the extremely important users and your community leaders. They are your ambassadors.
What if it’s already too late for a first impression? How do you perform a cleanup anyway? You find a problem, and you fix it!
Start small, and keep cleaning until you’re done. You must maintain focus on the solution and constantly evolve the solution to ensure your users are getting what they need and want from it.
Do not get defensive during a cleanup. Don’t point fingers. Your SharePoint solution may be sound and may have been implemented properly. Perhaps users don’t understand how to use it. Maybe they were not properly trained or the training happened long ago, prior to going live. Whatever the circumstances, you are potentially walking into an emotionally charged situation and you need to be sensitive and diplomatic.
Don’t refer to your solution as “SharePoint.” You don’t talk with users about Active Directory, Exchange, SQL or your AMS, do you? We walk into situations where SharePoint has been implemented poorly and people don’t want to hear about how this time “SharePoint” will make things better. In fact, they may not want to hear anything about SharePoint at all. They want to do the talking, and they want to be heard.
This is your opportunity to engage your users and begin the process of getting buy-in. A good place to start is by listening to what they have to say and go back to gathering business objectives.
Training will be divided into at least two groups: the implementation team and the end users. The implementation team is responsible for the initial implementation of your SharePoint solution and may also be your ongoing SharePoint support team. The implementation team should receive broad and general SharePoint training prior to solution implementation.
On the other hand, your end users should receive solution-specific training at most one day prior to launch. You may even provide training on the day of launch. This timing will help ensure that everything they learned is still fresh in their heads when they start using the solution.
Content Author training is for users publishing content to your SharePoint Site. Content Author training covers the basics of authoring, reviewing, approving and publishing content to the Site.
Power User training targets a select group and covers more advanced components such as creating Workflows, Lists, Libraries, Sites, Site Templates, and possibly SharePoint Designer.
Depending upon the size of your org and your commitment to SharePoint, you may also designate at least one staff person as your SharePoint Administrator. Ensure this person (or team) receives proper SharePoint Administration training in addition to all other training offered.
Do not cut corners when it comes to training. Splurge for the proper training and ensure the training includes solution specific methodologies. Real-world examples should be used in training, and the examples should be applicable to the specific group being trained.
If possible, require training. Continuing education is something employees and members typically appreciate, and you should not experience much resistance. Ensure your training timeframe is flexible enough to accommodate everyone’s schedule. Classes should be offered on two different days, allowing users to select one which best fits their heavy workload.
Throughout the year, offer periodic refresher courses. Encourage participation by those who have already attended. Require participation by those who have not yet attended. Appropriate SharePoint training will contribute to successful user adoption. Training will also help your organization run more effectively.
Keep adding to your solution by continuously procuring new Sites, adding third-party solutions, and creating new dashboard Pages, Discussion Boards, Surveys, etc. Your wins do not need to be large enhancements or require significant customization.
Small wins just need to solve problems. This is another opportunity to promote ownership among users. You may even be able to turn more users into ambassadors! Implementing small wins encourages active participation.
This approach will not work at all for members, volunteers, or supporters and at best will only provide the appearance of working with staff. The illusion staff will do things a certain way because somebody important said to do it that way will only work if your employees are mindless order-takers. If this were in fact the case, they would likely not have been hired in the first place.
Your staff may start using the solution or appear to be using the solution, but this will be short-lived. While this approach to achieving user adoption may work in a military situation, it will undoubtedly prove less than ideal in your org.
In the case of The Carrot vs. The Stick, it’s easy to see the undisputed champion when it comes to achieving user adoption.
Build a user adoption strategy which will ultimately guarantee the overall success of your SharePoint solution.
Use involvement and participation to develop active participants.
Plan Feature Rollouts and let everyone know what features are coming and when to expect them. Give your users a sense of ownership and pride. Create solution ambassadors through encouragement and gratitude. Make a good first impression – don’t screw this up. Not all training is created equal. Provide appropriate training to the respective audiences. Education is vitally important to the success of your SharePoint solution. Continue gathering feedback requests and implement appropriate changes through small wins.