10 Ways to Drive Cloud Adoption: It’s Not Just Training (Part 1)

January 25, 2012 Appirio

Beth Chmielowski

Cloud technologies can simplify your life – from infrastructure set up to overall maintenance. In fact, SaaS applications can be so easy to implement and use, it’s easy to underestimate what it takes to get the breadth and depth of user adoption that defines a successful implementation. As cloud technologies mature and take greater hold throughout organizations, our cloud experts get a lot of questions from customers and prospects on how to make their investments take hold.

To help answer this, we put together a list of 10 things you can do to drive user adoption of cloud technology. Here are the first five in this two-part blog series.

  • Paint the Vision, the Roadmap, and the Realm of Possibilities: Often with enterprise systems, getting it right can take time. There are likely a bunch of other systems that need to play nicely, there may be significant process changes introduced, and in some cases it may feel like you have to take a step backwards before you can take two steps forward. People will be forgiving of growing pains if they believe there is a brighter future on the horizon, which means you have to communicate a vision, a roadmap and what’s possible in the long-run.
    • Vision : Describe what the end state looks like and why it matters to the company, to an organization, and to the user. Being realistic about what’s possible (or not possible) and how we’ll get there makes it easier for people to get on board. Convince the actual users why this choice and investment is the right one.
    • Roadmap: Define what the journey to that end state looks like, and the expected stops along the way (phases and releases). Because an enterprise system typically touches multiple organizations and roles, there may be multiple goals that need to be prioritized or conflicting expectations that need to be balanced. The first go live may feel less robust than the legacy system, but if users know it’s just a foundation and that capabilities will improve over future releases, they will be more tolerant.
    • Possibilities: Set the expectation that nothing is set in stone. Vision, timing and priorities are important but you should also be clear that these may change. The amazing thing about cloud-based systems is that new things are possible all the time. The horizon that you may have set your sights on initially suddenly becomes even more expansive than you could have imagined. That’s the true ROI of the cloud: it enables business innovation and boldness.
  • Configure for Results First, Then Process: You bought the system for a reason. What is it? What are the business goals that justified the investment in the first place and how will you know if you have achieved them? Understanding what data you need to get out of a system to inform business decisions and measure business results may take time, but it can have a profound impact on the configuration, and subsequently on the adoption of the technology. For example, when configuring a sales process in a CRM tool, it’s not just about replicating business as usual in the new interface or even streamlining the process based on the new tool’s capabilities. It is about defining the desired outcome and what sales metrics matter (such as pipeline by stage, accounts converted from prospect to customer, etc), and ensuring the data that informs these metrics gets captured in the process. Always start with the output the business hopes to achieve and transform existing data and process to meet the objectives. That is, define the level of detail you need to get to, ensure the data is collected, and make the process as easy as possible for the users.
  • Provide a Stellar User Experience: No one had to convince me or train me to use my iPhone; I can’t keep my hands off it. While I know my iPhone is a personal tool and a significantly different use case from an enterprise system that requires consistent usage across multiple contributors, it helps make my point. Once you are clear what you need and want people to do with a new system, there is really no excuse for not making it as easy and as pleasant an experience as possible to do it. The more you elevate the user experience, the more you lower the urgency and required effort for everything else on this list.
  • Ensure Executive Branding: Executive branding is more than just executive sponsorship. Sponsorship is about signing checks and providing sign-off. Branding is about advocating for change and jump starting it with the cache of a business leader. I have a lot of respect for my leadership team, and if any one of them stood up at a company meeting to introduce something new and ask me to accept it as a strategic priority, I would be predisposed to get on board. Even if it added work to my plate or introduced a state of ambiguity for a while, I would give it the benefit of the doubt and make some allowances for false starts because someone I respect asked me to.
  • Balance Obligation with Reason and Buy-In: Obligation means there is limited choice in the matter. We are obliged to follow the speed limit. We are obliged to deal with increased security at airports. However, obligation is more powerful when it is not just mandated, but when you comprehend the need for it. For example, Sept 11 was a compelling reason to tolerate increased airport security. But sometimes that’s not enough. Seeing the need for something may compel me to do it, but it won’t make me happy about it. Buy-in, on the other hand, leads me to want to do it. Getting people to want to do something is largely a factor of the user experience and executive branding delivered in conjunction with a comprehensive understanding of and belief in the vision, roadmap, and possibilities described above.

These are the first five ways that companies can increase the adoption of their cloud investments, and are all critical to consider in the planning and strategy phase of a new implementation. But don’t forget that adoption ultimately comes down to the people that have to use the system. In the next blog in this series, I’ll cover how you can focus on the “user” in user adoption.

Beth Chmielowski helps lead the user adoption and cloud training practice at Appirio. She has more than 14 years experience in the high tech industry defining and building programs that increase customer success. bethc@appirio.com , @bethchm

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