3 steps to increase user adoption and ROI: #2 Know your stakeholders

Step #2: Know your stakeholders

User Adoption - Know your stakeholders

“If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.”

Sun Tzu, The Art of War (c. 500 BCE)

Wow! That was written over 2,500 years ago, and it is still as applicable today as the day it was written.

Look. I’m not saying that projects are battles and stakeholders are the enemy, although perhaps there are days it may feel like that. My modern interpretation of Sun Tzu’s words is that for projects to be successful, you must understand the strengths and weaknesses of yourself and your team, AND you must know and understand your stakeholders.

Knowing yourself is a bit (okay, more than a bit) beyond the scope of this post as is knowing your team.  Although with regard to knowing your team, I will say that spending time with your team on a more personal level and working with them over a period of time are certainly key ingredients to knowing them, but perhaps the best way to truly understand your team is to work with them through a particularly difficult challenge – perhaps this is analogous to going into battle with them.

If you don’t know your stakeholders, your ability to achieve high user adoption will be significantly diminished.

Understanding your stakeholders, however, is right in line with the focus of this series of posts. As we did in the prior post devoted to using simple terms, let’s look back at the formula from the introductory post of this series on user adoption and ROI.

Problem + Solution + User Adoption = Return on Investment (ROI)
[The solution, coupled with solid user adoption, DOES result in a return on the investment you made to create that solution.]

This formula makes the point that user adoption is critical to achieving ROI. How do you help ensure solid user adoption?

Answer: Engaged Stakeholders

For all this to come together, you need to know your stakeholders, and you must have a method to categorize them, so you can most effectively engage them.

How do you get to know your stakeholders?

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3 steps to increase user adoption and ROI: #1 Use Simple Terms

Step #1: Describe the business problem and solution using simple terms

User Adoption - Simple is BeautifulI dare you.

I dare you to ask someone to describe their current project to you.

If you take me up on my dare, you’ll probably hear the person ramble on much longer than necessary. When they’ve finally finished talking, you will most likely not have a very good understanding of the business problem or how the project intends to solve it.

Why is this?

Here are three reasons why this is the case.

1. We are not prepared with a well-structured explanation of our projects (yes, the concept of the Power of a Canned Response works here too).

2. We don’t focus on the problem-impact-solution-benefit combo (focusing too much on the solution).

3. We tend to over complicate explanations, and if we are in a technical role, we often overuse technical terms.

Meet Max and his not-so-great project description

Max is in a meeting with a group of people, which includes stakeholders for a new project that he’s recently been assigned to lead. The discussion turns to a challenge that relates to the scope of Max’s project. He decides it would be helpful to provide a description of his project to the group.

Here’s what Max says:

“I just got assigned to lead a project that . . . uh . . . kinda relates to this. We’re in the process of working out the details right now, but um . . . uh . . . well basically,  we plan to create a  . . . um . . . a SharePoint portal [author’s note: if this sounds like you check out my post Killing the dumb um]. We are going to leverage AD FS, so SSO should be handled. Anyway, it will support streamlined access and collaboration on documents especially with the SSO piece.  We are going to allow access to documents currently housed in distributed data repositories. I think the plan is to support both internal docs and docs at partner sites . . . well for most partners as a few have a better solution already. Anyway, we’re also going to leverage the workflow features of SharePoint too. You can do a lot with that. Um…I guess that’s all…<trailing off>. Oh, and we’re thinking about . . . . oh . . . I think I already mentioned that. Anyway, it should be pretty cool.”

It should be pretty cool?

Are you kidding me?!

Max was just speaking to a room full of people that included stakeholders for his project, and he ends with “It should be pretty cool.” Actually, that’s the least of the issues with his message. Let’s take a look at the bigger ones.

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3 steps to increase user adoption and ROI: Introduction

Gus Increasing User Adoption

I learned a very important lesson related to user adoption from my dog. His name is Gus, and he was an 80-pound puppy.

This four-part series of posts focuses on user adoption and explores three steps under the umbrella of change management that will help to increase user adoption and achieve a greater Return on Investment (ROI) for your initiatives. It begins with a story about Gus. While he was new to our house, our cat was most certainly not.

Friday Increasing User Adoption

Meet Friday. She runs the place, and she certainly experienced a lot of change when Gus arrived. From Friday’s perspective, Gus was an intruder. From Gus’ perspective, Friday was a toy. The result? Chaos — one chase scene after another.

While all this was going on, I was using my addiction to technology to help motivate myself to exercise. What does that mean? It means I was buying cool gadgets to help get myself excited about working out — waterproof MP3 players, heart-rate monitors, GPS watches, you name it.

I had recently purchased a new GPS watch (my third) and had just come back home from a 5K run. I was going through my post-workout routine, which includes stretching (usually skipped if I’m being honest), eating the right mix of carbs and protein, and hydrating by drinking water — lots of water. The hydrating portion of the routine had gone particularly well, so I was off to the bathroom having left my running gear on the kitchen table.

Can you guess what I heard next?

[Hint: Think back to the relationship between my pets.]

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