Project Success Demands Adoption

michael's picture

The true measure of success of any product or project is adoption.

In my technologist persona, I thought OS/2 was a light-year better product for multitasking than Windows 3.x, but it wasn’t adopted. In my corporate persona, I thought the Windows phone was a better device for getting work done than the iPhone, but it wasn’t adopted. Nothing is more frustrating than hearing senior bank managers lament the time and money spent on content management products and projects that yield less than stellar, or even the promised, results. Having been in literally hundreds of banks and credit unions that can benefit from better content management, why then do these projects not meet expectations? The answer is not that complicated.

Content to be managed is created and received during a business process.

This demands that the process gets reengineered to leverage the content management system from the beginning of the process.

When it’s all said and done, if workers (a.k.a. users) are able to get their work done “the old way”, then they will not adopt the new system and, worse, the extra steps to minimally comply with the new system will lead to an even more inefficient process than before. Something resembling Frankenstein is usually the resulting process design.

As someone who is very adept with software, data, process, and change, it should be unnerving to think that a worker would choose shared drives, printers, and Excel over imaging and workflow. But the fact is that most of the process workers and even the knowledge workers in banks are not adept with software, data, process, and change. That’s not why they were hired and it’s not how they are wired. To get these workers to adopt a new way of working requires education and support once the process has been reengineered. Adoption as a measure of success includes not just how many but how well.

I propose that the better you score on how well, the more successful the project.


An email with a two-paragraph overview of the change is not education.

A 25-page PDF of the procedure with narrative, step-by-step instructions and screen prints is not education.

Education is conveying the end-to-end process and how the worker’s efforts contribute to the completion of the process. When the worker doesn’t see the big picture, they will perform a task, not a process. They will design task steps that they think are the most efficient for them. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard in a process assessment presentation “Are they really doing that?”.

Education does not have to be in-person, lengthy classes. Those are probably the least effective way to communicate a major process change of the kind that usually comes with a content management implementation.

Workers are already familiar with video based learning. Every process should have a library of 7 – 10 videos that cover both the why and the how. Videos that are 2-4 minutes in length and that are readily accessible are very cost-effective ways of initial education and on-going reinforcement.


A help desk phone number is not support.

After convincing the management team, and oftentimes the board, to spend the money, why would the resources not be dedicated to ensure adoption? During the first weeks and months of a new process rollout, workers should be monitored and observed for a couple of reasons.
• Identifying remedial education opportunities and opportunities to refine the education program that may have caused the deficit in the first place
• Confirming that the features and functions of the new system and process are working as designed and opportunities for feature/function enhancements to make the new process even more efficient

So the next time change is rumbling, make sure you dedicate the resources to ensure high levels of adoption.

That’s the whole reason for the change anyway.