5 keys for a successful implementation that ensures adoption

5 keys for a successful implementation that ensures adoption

There are two distinct phases to embracing new technology — implementation and adoption. Implementation is the nuts-and-bolts process of putting the technology in place. Adoption, on the other hand, is the total buy-in and continued use of the solution by its users.

While the two go hand in hand, a successful implementation does not guarantee successful adoption. It’s entirely possible that you can run the ideal implementation only to be left with no one using the new technology six months down the line.

This is why it’s crucial to approach new technologies with an optimistic adopter mindset. By that, I mean going into the project thinking, “What if it works?” — excited about the technology’s potential and what you and your team could gain. The adopter mindset not only energizes people around you and encourages buy-in, but it’s also open to optimization. It appreciates that implementations can be made more successful over time as you change and improve the technology based on user needs.

Where change management fits into adoption

If SaaS implementation plans are designed for just that (implementation), then adoption programs require their own planning resource too. And that’s the change management plan.

A change management plan challenges you to look at the people who will be adopting the technology and how they will be impacted as a result of the change. This is essential since these are the end users who will ultimately decide whether or not a technology is used. In my experience, when there’s not enough focus on the people involved, even perfect implementation plans can fail to get adopted.

A robust change management plan is one of the three points on the Prosci Change Triangle. I’ll be discussing the other two points a little later on.

I’ve been involved in successful implementation and adoption programs for both small and large multimillion-dollar enterprise engagements across various industries. Here are what I have identified as five key change management principles that will increase the adoption of change in an organization.

How implementation becomes adoption

1. Ensure you have an effective sponsor

According to Prosci’s “Best Practices in Change Management,” companies saw a higher adoption rate of new technologies when an effective sponsor was creating the project, compared to a much lower adoption rate when an effective sponsor was not present.

When identifying a sponsor for your project (client or supplier side), I’ve found a set of common attributes to be the most influential for adoption success:

Once you’ve found the perfect sponsor for your project, follow the ABC framework to make sure they’re really pushing your project forward in the most effective manner possible:

An effective sponsor leads the project and ensures buy-in from the team, which leads us nicely to the next point.

2. Secure buy-in from the rest of the team

This buy-in starts with the sponsor — without total sponsor buy-in, it is unreasonable to expect the rest of the team to also be on board. You need your sponsor to effectively communicate to the rest of the team not only what is changing, but why.

As mentioned earlier, a SaaS implementation plan focuses on scope, time, and budget. On the other hand, a change management plan focuses on the people side of change. A robust change management plan will answer questions about what is going to change, who that affects, and how that change is best managed, including:

But most importantly, it answers this ever-present question: Why?

The focus of your change management plan should be on the people who are going to use the new software and the questions they might have. It’s essential that organizations acknowledge this and act on it. If you fail to appreciate how you’re asking team members to change, then there’s a good chance their behavior will fail to change when they are asked to adopt the change.

3. Take an iterative approach

A new software implementation will often start by solving a problem for one team or business unit before looking to roll out across the organization. As the adopting team begins to use the new software every day, other teams may see the benefits and move to implement the solution for their workflows too.

This is a great approach, but there is one caveat to note — different teams are likely to have different requirements and challenges to solve. It's unlikely that you’ll be able to transplant new processes and workflows directly from one team to another.

Instead, the focus should be on processes or functionality that will help the organization see value quickly and achieve an ROI on the product. Once this is achieved, you can investigate expanding into additional workflows.

To support the expansion of a new implementation across teams or business units, come up with a value plan to determine what matters most and when. From there, you can iteratively build on your workflows as you roll them out across the company. Demonstrating key processes or functionality with individuals affected by the change as early as possible in the change cycle will allow you to highlight the strengths of a new implementation to key stakeholders and leaders across the company, encouraging widespread adoption.

4. Look beyond the launch

Sometimes, your sponsor and team will be highly engaged and committed during implementation — but then due to competing priorities, they might be tempted to lessen engagement after launch. Be careful not to lose focus after the product has been launched, as implementation is just the first step. Real change comes only in ensuring long-term buy-in and use.

A post-deployment plan should be in place and ready to go as soon as the implementation is finished, and it should include system administrators or SMEs designated to help end users during and after launch. Just like your change management plan, a good post-deployment plan should be similarly focused on people and address concerns individuals may have:

Your post-deployment plan needs to be updated and optimized to keep it aligned with changing priorities, rollout to other teams, and the inevitable problems you will encounter along the way.

A good way to evaluate your post-deployment plan is to review adoption focus areas found on the Adobe Workfront adoption wheel.

5. Think like an adopter, not a purchaser

Lastly, let’s return to the concept of an adopter mindset. This mindset should come from your sponsor but run right through the team.

Adopters are comfortable with a state of flux — they see an opportunity to shape the product to work to their needs. When facing growing pains with a new solution, adopters don’t give up. They find ways of improving or tweaking the solution to achieve the ultimate goal.

Apple and Nike are just two examples of adopter-mindset businesses that use their levels of innovation and adaptability to create commercial value. They’ve even managed to get their customers to embrace the adopter mindset as well. It’s not uncommon to see Apple customers camping outside flagship stores to get their hands on the newest (untested) products. These customers aren’t worried that the product is going to fail — they’re ready to adopt and iterate with the company and be a part of that change.

Here at Adobe, we’re all about adoption. We’re constantly challenging ourselves to innovate on behalf of our clients. We’re always asking, “What if it works?” because we have the adoption mindset.

And we put our money where our mouth is. Adobe Implementation Services are Adobe Workfront adopters. We use Workfront to manage our implementations, not external work management solutions. We really believe in being adopters and take that mindset into everything we do.

And we have a proven record of success, too. For the second consecutive time, Forrester Research named Adobe Workfront the Leader in The Forrester Wave: Collaborative Work Management Tools, Q4 2022. Forrester’s evaluation concluded that “Adobe Workfront remains the leader in the market” and gave Workfront the top possible score for the “ability to connect disparate teams.”

This was all possible thanks to our adopter mindset. We bought into Workfront as adopters and took it from being a good tool to one that “excels in creating work, asset creation and management, and supporting work at scale in global deployments.” And if it worked for us, it can work for you too.

Achieving your adoption goals

When rolling out a new technology in your business, implementation is the starting point, but adoption is the goal.

With Adobe as an implementation and adoption mentor, you get access to highly experienced consultants as well as the support of Prosci-certified change management experts — from the very first steps of your implementation through the post-deployment period.

For more information on how Adobe Professional Services can help with your workflow, visit our website today. For details about Adobe Implementation Services, check out this page. Or if you’d just like to discuss your future implementation and adoption plans, I’d love to hear from you. Drop me a message on LinkedIn, and let’s connect.

Jared Hall is a program manager for Adobe Workfront Client Services with over 10 years of experience in helping clients achieve organizational goals through implementation and change management initiatives.