In January 2018, I had the opportunity to deliver my session “When cookie-cutter user adoption doesn’t cut it…” at SharePoint Saturday St. Louis. The session explores the wicked problem of driving adoption and true business engagement for SharePoint and Office 365. Horst Rittel first coined the term wicked problem in the 1960s, referring to social challenges (e.g. discrimination, poverty, refugee crises) that can’t be solved via conventional means. In recent years, this notion of wicked problems has expanded into the business and technology realm, describing the inherent difficulty in driving change across companies and work groups.
The session also outlined the inherent issues with taking a copy-and-paste approach to driving user adoption. Your organization’s culture, the skill set of your SharePoint/Office 365 implementation team and the unique norms of your user base require a custom approach to driving adoption. There is no recipe to follow for guaranteed results, nor is there a simplistic 10-step program for rebuilding your user’s relationship with IT or their opinion of your Collaboration tool offerings. And copying a winning user adoption program from another company and launching it as-is in your organization almost always guarantees failure. In order to be successful, adoption strategies must be targeted to your company’s culture, your implementation team and your user base.
To help you design a custom adoption strategy, I recommend building a SharePoint/Office 365 user adoption continuum. The continuum enables you to map out key engagement initiatives and tie them to phases in the adoption growth scale. Early on, companies should focus on formation efforts that build rapport with your users and define key business objectives. Many companies also use the formation stage to establish an internal user group and seed starter SharePoint/Office 365 projects that will serve as examples of success.
Once the foundation for your user adoption strategy is formed, you can move onto the adoption stage. The adoption stage is a driver for pipeline growth. This is where you start hitting critical mass and engaging users across multiple business lines to leverage SharePoint and Office 365 effectively. This will require a consistent approach for user education. Educational initiatives (e.g. SharePoint/Office 365 training classes, user group sessions, etc.) tend to be a focus for this adoption stage.
Once you’ve started mastering the adoption stage, you can think about building out advanced adoption programs (e.g. SharePoint/Office 365 evangelist programs, special internal events like SharePoint hack-a-thons or code days, etc.). The initiatives in this maturation stage require a high level of engagement from a pre-existing community. You’ll need enthusiasts that are willing to volunteer their time and organize meaningful programs that drive continued interest in the Collaboration platforms. Attempting to launch these types of mature programs too early in your user adoption continuum can hamper your success. The formation and adoption stages provide the raw materials (community engagement, an educated group of power users, internal brand recognition for SharePoint/Office 365) that will help support these mature programs.
Your user adoption continuum should be a living, breathing artifact. Build it over time so it can track your current efforts and serve as a source of motivation for your continuing journey. The continuum doesn’t have to relate to a specific timeframe, but the formation, adoption and maturation stages will take time to complete. The amount of time required is wholly dependent on your organization and your implementation team. So don’t approach the continuum as a race–it’s all about the adoption journey.