Five Stages of Technology Adoption and How to Accelerate Success

How do we increase the effectiveness of user adoption at speed, at scale and through a virtual channel?

There are two challenges of technology adoption faced by today’s CXO: digitization and virtualization. Firstly, our ability to work with digital technology has never been more important. As COVID-19 has accelerated digital transformation, we can no longer delay strategic changes for some point in the future: now is the time to act. Secondly, digital transformation must be achieved virtually, but with little or no time to pivot to new solutions and strategies. It’s as if the train has left the station, we’re still building it and passengers are jumping on as we go!

What is the most demanding question that business leaders ask when faced with a new technology?

“How do I use it?”

No! We have seen technologists make this mistake from the start of every digital transformation, assuming that the business cares enough to learn a new tool, skill and way of working. However, a recent study found that 73% of digital transformations fail to produce any business value — suggesting that this assumption is false.

The most demanding question that business leaders ask when faced with a new technology is:

“What’s in it for me?”

When asked this question, product owners shuffle in their seats and revert back with ‘well it’s obvious… we’ve thought about that… listen to these features and benefits… we know your world… We’ve done 000s of tests…”

This approach — explaining the features of a new technology, without demonstrating the value — is doomed to fail. With the right approach, however, a company can accelerate user adoption not only for version 1.0 but in an ongoing, sustainable way for your clients and organizations.

“Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.” — Benjamin Franklin

1. Awareness

This first stage takes on the challenge of addressing ‘what’s in it for me?” To raise team awareness we need to go a step beyond teaching them about the technology, and move forward to engaging them with the technology. This entails involving them in an experience where they see for themselves what the technology can do — specifically, how it can improve their lives. You can gain the most impact from showing people how technology helps them perform their jobs better and faster, becoming more productive and efficient, saving time and effort. This may help with buy-in; but actual transformation comes from showing them in a fun and engaging way.

Note of warning: This isn’t about drawing attention to a wider transformation effort. Whilst this is important and should be communicated, don’t make the assumption that people care. Rather, the small steps are drawing attention to what they care about… if we are successful here then we can climb mountains!

2. Road map to change

This needs to be owned by the team. We can show them a beautifully crafted roadmap, with dates and milestones — again all good, but teams and leaders need to own their own change. This concerns questions such as: What do we need to change now in the way that we work with this new technology? What are the behaviors that are getting in our way? How can we run with the technology, and make the most of it? Creating this sense of ownership provides a solid platform for change, and needs to be facilitated in a considered, measured way with time allocated for conversations where these questions can be asked and answered.

3. Motivation

Changing mental models is not easy — in fact, it’s extremely difficult. We know what drives people and teams and we need to use our purpose as a handrail here. We may be motivated to use new technology because we like the UI or vendor brand (and free swag), but taking teams to a place where they can see how this new technology will help them serve their customers in a new and better way is the factor that actually drives adoption, and creates successful change.

Side bar: Whilst serving in Afghanistan in the UK Commando Forces, we were shown new technology all the time from a host of carefully selected vendors — helping us pull intelligence from multiple data systems and make better decisions. The immediate ‘this is cool’ reaction was always there, but when we discovered that this digital tool would help us achieve our mission and reach a higher purpose, adoption and engagement soared.

4. Application

We need to take users on a journey where they identify the application of new technology themselves. Instead of force-feeding the information, or simply giving them the answer, best results are achieved when they come up with the answer themselves via a curated experience. When this happens, users have trialled and tested a process and in doing so they can see for themselves both the ways that it can be applied, and the benefit of applying it. This is about ownership and achieving a strong effective context of users.

5. Community of adoption

Technology adoption is often talked about by technologists who sometimes place the human factor further down the list of importance. But humans still run things (for now), and therefore we need to support a culture where we consistently look not only at choosing the best solution but also at driving adoption — to improve our chances of getting the best results. By focusing on user adoption of new technologies, and learning from one another’s experiences, we can each get the most out of our efforts to manage the digital, virtual environment. To accomplish this, we should be looking at employee experiences from every angle and building a community around them.

A company can make the best purchasing decisions, selecting the technological solutions that will drive efficiency, performance, and growth of the business. However, without a comprehensive strategy for user adoption, projected benefits will remain out of reach — after all, an application must be used in order to be effective. Increasing user adoption can be complicated by the virtual environment and remote teams; but taking some steps including building awareness, creating engagement, and fostering a community that drives user adoption can help to create buy-in for the team, to get the most out of your technology.

If you’d like to understand how you can accelerate technology adoption in your organization, contact



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