How to form the right digital adoption strategy 

Published Jan 5, 2022

Today, employees have more options than ever before. If they don’t like where they work, they can move on to new opportunities with unprecedented ease. And that is in fact what’s happening. The so-called Great Resignation shows no signs of letting up, with millions in the U.S. and across the world continuing to change jobs at record rates. 

So how can a company become the exception to the rule? The best way to reduce churn is to make sure employees are having great experiences at work. And with the rise of the digital workplace, that means making sure they’re having great experiences with software. 

The biggest hurdle to driving adoption

Driving adoption of software by employees is not easy. In a new report on digital adoption by Harvard Business Review Analytic Services sponsored by Pendo, only 30% of 600+ surveyed executives said they thought their organization was very good at it. At the same time, nearly 75% said they believed successful adoption is a competitive differentiator. How should companies go about tackling the problem? 

It starts with forming the right strategy. Executive leaders surveyed cite multiple roadblocks to successful digital adoption. Insufficient expertise, frustrating legacy software systems, and poor leadership of adoption initiatives are all top of mind. But more than any other factor, not having a well-defined strategy is the hurdle that keeps leaders up at night. 

Ground your strategy in a clear purpose 

Forming a digital adoption strategy can seem daunting, but starting with the right foundation is the first step towards success. That foundation should be a clear and concise purpose for embracing a new technology. What’s the business problem it’s designed to solve? What goal does the new or improved software set the company up to achieve? The answers to these questions may vary–having a leaner tech budget, boosting employee productivity, growing revenues by a certain percentage, etc. What matters most is that delineating clear objectives will help business technology leaders keep their eyes on the prize as they go about formulating their strategy and building their roadmap.

Just as important as establishing a clear purpose for adoption is communicating that purpose to employees. As the report makes clear, “Digital adoption often involves a steep learning curve and psychological hurdles; employees need to be assured it will be worth the effort.” Bringing your employees in on the ground level of change does more than just provide clarity on what’s ahead. By contextualizing the “why” of adoption and how it serves the greater good of your organization, you’ll help employees feel invested in driving change themselves. Adoption, after all, ultimately comes down to changing employee behavior. Even the best strategy will be doomed from the start if employees are unwilling or unable to execute it day to day. 

Make sure your employees have skin in the game

It’s an unfortunate statistic that over 80% of digital transformation plans fail in the long term. Many fail because companies are unsure of what their true goals are. Lack of focus and unclear objectives end in employee frustration or indifference, and the company is left where it started: adrift in a sea of cultural and technological change.

It’s easy to look at statistics like the one above as signs of how difficult it can be to get employees to successfully take up new software. Instead, leaders should reframe it as an opportunity to do adoption right. That starts with crafting the right strategy grounded in a clear purpose, and continues with communicating to your employees where you want the company to go–and why.    

The Software experience gap And why you need to close it.

Sometimes small changes in the world get intensely scrutinized while big ones just seem to… slip in unnoticed.

This is about
one of those big ones...


pretty huge

has happened to the world

and it directly impacts
everything you do

Here's what
we mean...

In the old days,

A bank was a

An insurance company was an insurance company…

And a car manufacturer was…

(you get the idea)

Today, it’s different. Today, every company is a software company.

Every. Company. is a software company.

For your customers:


Software is part (or all) of your products and services.

Software shapes — or defines — a huge part of the customer’s lifecycle.

For your employees:


Software is where
work happens.

Software governs every process and workflow.

Software defines
a huge part of your employee experience.

Window Background

In short,


Your business is the
sum of its software

But here’s the problem...

There's a huge

Software Experience Gap

between what users* expect from the software you
ask them to use

and what they actually experience.

*Users = your employees, customers, partners, and suppliers

The experience
users expect:

• Intuitive
• Simple
• Fast

The experience
users get:

• Clunky
• Bloated
• Frustrating

Now multiply the software experience
gap by the number of different
applications you deploy.

The average enterprise maintains 288 SaaS applications—around 10 applications per employee— and that’s growing
30% a year.

— Blissfully 2020 SaaS Trends report

And you start to see the scale of
this problem...

Since software touches every employee and customer: The software experience gap puts the brakes on every goal across your business.

All the things you care about

from sales, marketing, product
adoption, and customer loyalty

to employee efficiency,
productivity, and happiness

to strategic innovation and

They’re all held back by the software experience gap.

That's a lot of impact.

The impact


of software budgets
are spent on
applications that
nobody ever uses.

— Insight Enterprises


of digital
transformations fail
to hit their targets.

— Boston Consulting Group

And the software experience gap is
a key driver of McKinsey’s infamous

"Digital Achievement Gap."

"Digital Leaders grow 2-3x faster than competitors"

— McKinsey & Company

If you’re more moved by stories than data, here’s one:

A major international bank (okay, Citigroup), lost $500 million recently because of a confusing internal user interface in its loan operations software.


The good news:

When you close your software experience gaps, great things happen:

Customers get more value so you capture more value.

Lower cost of sale

Greater usage

Less churn

Employees adopt and use software more
so their work is happier.

Process excellence

Digital adoption

Faster transformation

Closing your gaps
also drives down
these costs:


new employees and customers.


so people turn software into value.

IT helpdesk support

for users and customers.

Custom software

and point solutions (that don’t scale).

All these costs go way down when you close your software experience gaps.

The really good news


Software experience is something you can control, even if you didn’t create the software.

It works in any software (whether you built it or bought it).

It’s a two-step thing.

First, you have to know how users are using the software.

Where they’re getting stuck.

Which features they use regularly and which they avoid.

Which steps are most important for the outcomes you want.

That’s the analytics and feedback part.

Then you can use that insight to help them...

With little guidance boxes.

And contextual tips.

And workflow helpers they see as they’re using the software.

That’s the
in-software guidance part.

And the analytics then let you see the impact of the guidance—an important feedback loop.

Okay, let’s wrap this thing up.

We all agreed that every company is a software company.

(including yours)

And we saw how the software experience gap hurts everything you value

product experience (for your customers) and

employee experience (for your people & partners)

In short:

A better software experience improves all the great things your company cares most about

Serving customers.

Helping employees do their jobs.

Minimizing frustration, mistakes and foul language.

Improving productivity, efficiency and whatever KPIs you’re tracking.

Accelerating digital transformation.

Driving down IT support and helpdesk costs.

Speeding up onboarding and training.

Creating a wonderful work experience for everyone.

All that, just by paying attention to how people experience the software that drives your business.


Your business is the
sum of its software.
Make it delightful.

We're Pendo

We help companies like yours give their customers and employees insanely great software experiences.

It’s kind of a mission.

If you’d like to explore ways to improve the software experience in your business - get in touch!

Not ready to talk? Take a look around our product.