Six steps to overcoming the digital adoption challenge

Hartmut Hahn, CEO of Userlane, identifies six steps that organisations can take towards overcoming the challenge of digital adoption

Software can radically change the way a business operates, giving employees new capabilities, automating repetitive processes, and boosting efficiency. But all of this only matters if employees feel comfortable making use of the full range of features available. As tech leaders well know, this is rarely the reality – at best, most users develop familiarity with the narrow range of features they use most frequently, and at worst, they stop using the software altogether and instead use a slower, more traditional solution.

The data supports this understanding of the issue, with 96 per cent of businesses reporting that they struggle with digital adoption, according to Userlane research. A similarly high number of employees (84 per cent) currently experience difficulty using digital applications at work, and around a third lose at least an hour each week to software issues. Almost half of employees (44 per cent) even postpone tasks out of frustration with the software they are required to use to complete them.

Here are six actionable steps that businesses can take to break free of poor digital adoption.

1. Measure your company’s current software TCO

To begin the process of getting value from its software spend, a business needs to quantify the extent of the problem internally. The best way to do this is to examine spending in terms of total cost of ownership (TCO). Looking at the subscription or implementation costs for software alone misses the bigger picture. There are also significant costs associated with training and adoption that a business needs to understand.

For a start, retraining costs often rival the subscription rate for software. Classroom-style training produces less-than-ideal results, as studies have found that people forget as much as 90 per cent of what they learn within a week. This necessitates frequent reviews, which interrupt work and only address the issue temporarily. Businesses should look at training costs over the past year to identify the ongoing cost of using software.

While harder to quantify, lack of confidence using software also damages a business’s productivity. Mistakes, duplicate processes, support tickets and more introduced by challenges using software all harm a business’s bottom line and should be considered as part of any digital adoption project.

2. Investigate the reality of workplace tech experiences

The average employee only uses 40 per cent of the features available to them. In business terms, this is simply unworkable – it’s like renting office space and only using two-fifths of it. The only portion of software spend that is generating return on investment (ROI) is the part that is being used, and, according to this data, businesses are paying for a huge number of unused features.

Fundamentally, software forms a major part of many employees’ daily activities, which makes it an employee experience issue. Despite this, Userlane data shows that 88 per cent of people frequently feel frustrated with the software they use for work. This high level of frustration is untenable and holds true across demographics.

To identify feature use and frustration within an organisation, leadership should carry out interviews with employees who actually use a given platform or piece of software for their work. To get accurate results, they must also make clear that it’s the software rather than the employee themselves being judged – in other words, that they won’t be punished for acknowledging that they use only a limited set of features.

3. Get employees involved in the software purchasing processes

Once leadership has a better handle on the extent of the issue in their organisation, they need to make some changes. Co-creation is a growing trend across all aspects of business as leaders increasingly recognise that ivory-tower decision making does not yield ideal results.

Rather than imposing software from the top down, decision makers should involve employees in this process. Collaborating on a solution gives employees a sense of ownership and ensures that their important ground-level insights won’t be overlooked.

4. Build a comprehensive software training plan

As discussed earlier, the conventional one-off approach to training is ineffective, and topping it up with regular reviews is expensive. However, training is a necessity, so businesses need a new approach. This isn’t to suggest that there isn’t a place for classroom training – just that it shouldn’t be the only option on offer.

A more effective model for training involves blending a variety of methods. This ensures that there are options that cover a range of circumstances, needs and learning styles. The most popular solution for training, according to Userlane data, is one-on-one support. Businesses that can make this available should do so, but it runs into obvious scaling issues.

The next most popular solution – and a far more scalable one – is the use of a digital adoption platform (DAP). These are practical, interactive guides that are embedded into the software itself, providing on-demand support and training. Organisations can easily translate existing written training materials into interactive guides in the DAP, tailoring them to suit the specific needs of different roles or teams. Another key advantage of a DAP is that, unlike the IT team, it is always instantly available to help employees navigate software challenges.

5. Create a team and keep moving forward

Software adoption isn’t a one-off process. To succeed, it needs regular review and updating as the software itself and the landscape that employees use it in continue to evolve. This requires oversight, so it’s important to create a team that is responsible for it.

An ideal digital adoption team would include representatives from multiple departments, including IT, people and operations, and meet on a regular basis. Many organisations that have successfully taken on digital adoption have also placed the team under the leadership of a Chief Digital Officer (CDO).

The team would then have responsibility for managing the internal messaging surrounding the software to ensure that everybody understands the reason for adopting software, the ways it will affect their daily work, and the full feature set available. This contrasts with the current model, where software is often selected by leadership with little explanation given to employees about why.

6. Measure and analyse digital adoption

The digital adoption team will also track the rate of adoption among employees, using a combination of product analytics and interviews to ensure that the organisation is making full use of the software it invests in.

This is not a case of how frequently or for how long employees use software, but rather how effectively they are able to achieve business goals. After all, software adoption is a means to an end, not an end in itself.

Digital adoption is a solvable problem

Many treat limited software adoption as an intractable fact of modern business, but this simply isn’t the case.

Businesses that can successfully diagnose and address the issue with a combination of better software choices, more effective training, and a data-driven approach will have a major advantage over the competition.

Written by Hartmut Hahn, CEO of Userlane


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