User Adoption Insight Over Margaritas

This far into spring many Seattleites are more than ready for the first glimpses of that odd, warmish bright thing in the sky. When I lived back east we called it “the sun”. But sometimes, like this last Tuesday, we have to pretend and somehow manufacture our own sunshine.

Which is how a group of friends and I found ourselves at our neighborhood’s most brightly painted Mexican place. It was with near-salivating anticipation for our dry, near-perfect summers we ordered our pitcher of margaritas. Or…ok, maybe it had just been a long day for each of us.

Being the most technically-inclined person of the group – to the extent that I’m the only one with an iPod even – I try to be the one who kicks off our usual how-was-your-day round-robin with the briefest description of what I did, just to get my IT-related day behind us so we can talk about things that are common to the whole group.

That day, I’d designed a Power Point presentation for an
 upcoming conference on 
user adoption in the cloud. When the conversation turned to the cloud my dear friend Jane, an office manager, recalled how just hours before her bosses sprung a new cloud-based Power Point-like software on her, telling her their whole organization was moving to it and she needed to learn it. Oh, and while she’s at it, convert all the other slide decks their office regularly uses too.

“It seems to me we’re always upgrading or switching to something totally new and the technology changes so fast, no one can keep up. It’s like technology’s moving so fast, we’re just running along behind doing our best to catch up, but we can’t. None of us can. It just moves 
that fast and changes
 often. It’s not the technology’s fault. It’s just that as humans, we can’t change as fast as it does.”

Despite my best efforts, I couldn’t help but grin over my salted rim and say, “Precisely. And that’s where user adoption consulting comes in. We’re the ones you bring in to help you navigate through all those changes, with all those personalities and competing interests, and we set you up for the long-term. Because you 
it’s going to change again. ”

Curt, a school counselor, looked at me and said, “So…it’s not the technology. It actually has nothing to do with the technology…it’s all about the people…and how they manage and get through the change, as individuals, as departments, as whole organizations.”

And it was like the sun came out right there at the table: the heretofore somewhat abstract notion of “user adoption” finally made sense to everyone at the table. Here was a real-life example they each could relate to; they’d heard it from someone going through it and heads nodded in recognition.

So while this last Tuesday afternoon didn’t set records for instant sunlight over Seattle, having my friends see a real-world example of what I do on a daily basis was definitely something to toast to.

Originally published on Tri Tuns’ blog.

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Chris Cairns

Great post. I never really thought about User Adoption Consulting as being a major market, but given the issue of rapid tech change and user learning, there might be something there for a lot of freelancers and companies.

Jeff Ribeira

Very nice post Elizabeth. User adoption is definitely a people issue. It’s the speed and ease with which an individual (or organization) is able to not just adopt but adapt. I think it’s that adaptability that makes the younger generations so “tech savvy”. Not because they actually know more about technology necessarily, but the constant cycle of tech upgrades and advances has trained them to be tech chameleons where the rate of change doesn’t even phase them.

That being said, I will say that I think there is still a definite tech side to user adoption, at least in smart user adoption. Not every software upgrade or new piece of technology is necessary! And knowing the differences in the software or hardware upgrades, and then choosing when to make the shift accordingly, can be the difference between riding the tech train or being dragged behind it 🙂

Elizabeth Purvis

Thanks for the comments Chris and Jeff. After being out of town, they were good to come back to.

Chris, user adoption is definitely a niche, but we’re seeing some rapid growth in recognition of need for it. Tech can easily be considered the fulcrum of an organization, and changing that – and with speed! – organizations now seem to be realizing they need User Adoption experts…not just more user training, or the latest, more intuitive release. Add organizational changes to that (closing offices, opening others, layoffs, hirings, new business models, etc.), and you can have a mess. A very EXPENSIVE – and ultimately avoidable – mess at that.

Jeff, I think you hit on something with the idea of ‘adaptability’. What we’ve found is that even if the software/system AND the users are flexible and adaptable – which is not always the case; barriers to adoption are everywhere. Often it’s the >business< in which the technology and people are situated that isn’t willing to change, or even know WHAT should change to increase effectiveness and maximize IT ROI.

Thanks again for the comments!