New research

How digital adoption works in practice

Published Jan 12, 2022

In today’s corporate world, the verdict is in: Getting employees to successfully adopt digital tools is a competitive differentiator for companies. In a new report by Harvard Business Review Analytic Services, sponsored by Pendo, nearly three-quarters of executives polled agreed. But at the same time, the reality is that the vast majority digital transformation initiatives fail. How does a company become an exception to the trend? What does successful adoption look like in practice?

These and other topics took center stage in a recent webinar based on the report. Host Tatyana Mamut (SVP, New Products, Pendo) spoke with Shari Chernack (Head of People, Industrious) and Enrique Jenkins (VP, Business Technology, Pendo) about their experiences driving adoption, and the methods and steps that work best. 

Start with strategy

More than any other factor, executives in the report cite the lack of a well-defined strategy as the biggest hurdle to adoption. A strategy grounded in a clear purpose has to be the foundation of your adoption plan. Starting with tactics, in contrast, usually leads to a reactive approach that almost guarantees failure. A common pitfall involves not prioritizing goals or tasks. “Everyone tries to boil the ocean,” Jenkins warned. “They don’t know where to start. If you have too many apps, for instance, you can’t just start with them all at once.” 

The right approach to ownership

Knowing who should take the lead is equally important. The report shows leaders almost evenly divided between those saying IT should be the clear owners of adoption efforts and those saying leadership should be shared across multiple departments. Chernack favors the latter approach. By siloing responsibility to only one department, she explained, “not only do you get a narrow view of what’s important to the organization, you run the risk of people not feeling as invested in other departments or other teams. They also need to be a part of the experience and design.”

Jenkins favors a hybrid approach wherein IT cultivates a network of adoption partners across departments. “Instead of me knowing how to use every single tool we have in place, I leverage those people as partners and teach them the governance model,” he said. He also pointed to the model as a great way to overcome the limited knowledge of any one person or department about how a tool is used. “I may make a decision on something and not actually understand the impact on your world. I need that partnership to understand.”

Listen to your employees—and act on their feedback

For adoption to truly take hold across an entire company, it’s important for employees themselves to feel they have a voice. Yet almost half the organizations surveyed in the report rate their ability to collect feedback about how employees use digital tools as weak. How can companies get better at feedback? Chernack explained that “it’s both an art and a science to think about what the right listening strategy is for any given organization. There’s no one size fits all approach.” 

Although the right feedback solution is unique to an individual company, Chernack said she does generally counsel organizational leaders to handpick people they want to hear from as part of the process. “Select the highest performer, the best connectors, and the people who have their fingers on the pulse of what employees are thinking about,” she advised. “Get your data from the many, your insights from the few.”. 

To learn more about how to drive successful adoption of employee-facing software, check out the full webinar here