SharePoint User Adoption

I Duane Odumam attending the SharePoint Fest Chicago this week, and will be sharing my thoughts on some of the sessions I attend throughout the week.

In a rather interesting take on user adoption, Sarah Haase provided two admittedly not-so-simple keys to success: manipulation and motivation.

This session was quite thought-provoking as many of the discussion points are things that we have done at IBS in the past, and this session actually made me feel like we’re heading in the right direction in regards to our continuous improvement processes when dealing with user adoption.

Unfortunately when it came time for the Q&A at the end, my one question was answered exactly as I suspected…”It is out of your hands.” We’ll get to what that question was later.

Back to the first not-so-simple key to success when dealing with user adoption: manipulation.  Many people hear the word “manipulation” and automatically assume it has a negative connotation (much in the way people react when they hear the word conflict.  By definition, manipulation means “to use or change (numbers, information, etc.) in a skillful way or for a particular purpose”.  This in itself is exactly what we are attempting to do when it comes to user adoption, but first we need to identify all of the parties involved.

Each of the titles listed below come with their own unique challenges but I have seen them all:

  • Naysayer: No matter what you say or do the Naysayer simply will not buy into the project
  • Ninja: A subject matter expert that can assist others within the organization in becoming project champions and subject matter experts
  • Cowboys: The folks that do not want to have somebody else telling them how to do something because they can figure it out on their own or do it better their way
  • Enthusiasts: “This is the greatest thing since sliced bread and I am going to tell everyone about it and how it will make everyone’s life better!”
  • Tummlers: A person who has connections and can makes things happen (I had to look it up when I saw it on her slide)
  • Straggler: Every project has the folks who seem to get “left behind” 

As you can imagine, each of these types of individuals comes with their own unique challenges. However, the really interesting part of the session was not how to deal these challenges individually, but how to accept the existing challenges in every project, and moving forward.Often times we try to win over the Naysayers by presenting them with some piece of functionality that we “force” upon them to get them to buy-in to a project when there really is nothing that we can do to change their minds.  Our efforts would be better spent prioritizing the other group’s wants/needs.

The other not-so-simple key to success in user adoption is motivation.  For a long time it was believed that money was the biggest motivating factor for everything. While that may have been true at one time, motivational factors are such an individual thing that they can be hard to determine on a person-by-person basis.

Enter the first motivational method: social pressure.  To demonstrate this, the presenter showed a TED talk from OPower founder and President Alex Laskey (If you have 8 minutes I highly recommend checking it out).  Peer pressure was a strong motivating factor when we were 5 years old. Turns out it still is in our adult life as well, but we just call it “keeping up with the joneses”.  This is easily related to user adoption because, let’s face it, if that person in Marketing that everyone respects is buying in, I better get on board before I get left behind.

The second and probably most interesting motivational method is gamification. Here is a great overview of what gamification is, if you’re unfamiliar: http://badgeville.com/wiki/Gamification

The basic concept is that you apply the same techniques used in video games to engage and motivate users.  This method does not necessarily fit the bill for all members of the work force, but it is becoming increasingly popular as the number of employees in the workforce who grew up with video games increases dramatically.  Who out there that is under 45 years old does not want to beat their high score on Pong?

Last, but certainly not least, among the motivational method is mastery.  This may not be true of all users, but most want to be recognized as being masters of something and providing them a roadmap to get there can be a huge win in user adoption.  Once again, there is another TED Talk I would recommend checking out: Dan Pink: The puzzle of motivation This one’s a bit longer (18 minutes), but well worth the time.

Ultimately the best motivational methods will more than likely have a combination of all three of the above methods.Now let’s get back to the question I addressed at the start of this post – the one I asked at the end of the session with the all-too-familiar response.

My question: “As a consultant, I am often involved in the full SDLC of a project, but when it comes to ongoing user adoption I am basically cut off.  Is there anything that I can do, prior to ending our engagement with a client, to ensure user adoption is being addressed outside of training and roadmaps?”

The answer: “Not really,” which is precisely the answer I expected. Regardless, I got a ton of value out of the session to assist in manipulating and motivating each type of user to increase initial user adoption, but ultimately the ongoing adoption falls on the client alone.

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