All aboard: how to improve user adoption of collaboration tools

We have seen an explosion in unified communication-as-a-service solutions over the last year. Videoconferencing, in particular, has proved popular, with Microsoft, Zoom, Google and Cisco all reporting record uptake. But at a time when employees are more likely to be working remotely, are businesses seeing the right levels of user adoption?

Across enterprise IT, user adoption has long been a challenge. One 2007 study reported that low user adoption was increasing UK IT project failures, and the situation does not appear to have changed much in the intervening years. A 2019 poll of IT teams about their top unified communications challenges found that the number one issue was helping users adopt UC tools and helping them get the most value from them.

Why does it matter? According to a briefing paper from Talking Pointz analyst Dave Michels, there are three ways in which low engagement and user adoption can affect an organization: a rise in shadow IT, as employees reject corporate technology in favor of their own solutions; a negative economic impact, whereby true return on investment is never realized as features and licenses remain underused; and an inverse network effect, where smaller user numbers mean the value of a solution or service is less than if it had greater levels of adoption.

All aboard: how to improve user adoption of collaboration tools

There is also the impact on employee productivity, morale and engagement. Technology, whether UCaaS solutions or their corporate-issued hardware, is all that connects homeworkers to their employers. If they do not know how to use it or feel uncomfortable with certain tools (being on video meetings, for example), they will be less engaged, less productive and more likely to leave. One report said that more than half of all employees have become unhappy at work at some point due to the software tools they're using, while just under a quarter have considered leaving their jobs due to the software they are required to use. One eighth followed through with that threat.

Driving better user adoption

So how do enterprises overcome this, particularly as remote working patterns become entrenched and a fact of life for many?

Training is critical. A McKinsey article notes that "when highly engaged employees are challenged and given the skills to grow and develop within their chosen career path, they are more likely to be energized by new opportunities at work and satisfied with their current organization," yet according to Gartner, 70% of employees say they haven't mastered the skills they need for their jobs today, highlighting an overall need for better training and development. However, delivering that training has become more complex. The analyst also noted that more than 80% of learning and development functions have moved from in-person training to virtual, while Katy Tynan, Principal Analyst at Forrester said that, "there are great reasons to do online learning, but you cannot take something that was a classroom class and replicate it in an online environment and expect to get the same learning outcomes."

Building the right training approach

To provide the right training in the right format and ensure greater levels of user adoption, enterprises need to follow three steps: audit, understand and test.

  • Audit what you have

First, companies need to know what they have. That means reviewing all solutions (and licenses) currently in use. That includes those procured through official channels and those that have sneaked in as shadow IT, perhaps as part of the turmoil of the early days of the pandemic. The audit needs to cover both elements so that a true picture of what is actually being used can be captured.

  • Understand how people are working

Enterprises need that picture to compare what they have got with what they need. The latter can only be determined by understanding how employees use the tools available and how they work and collaborate in general. This should come from a mix of quantitative and qualitative data, with usage intelligence generated from the solutions themselves and feedback gathered from a mix of super and ordinary users. Together, this should identify how employees will work so that any subsequent investment is tailored to their requirements.

  • Trial and test

Armed with an understanding of how employees want to work and what the current portfolio is, organizations can start to identify ways to close any gaps. This might mean investing in more licenses; it might mean a new tool. However, it does not mean it is time to sign off on investment. Potential solutions need to be trialed and tested; not just demonstrated by vendors but deployed in real-life situations and tried out by the employees who will use them over a sustained period of time. It is only by doing this that any potential issues can be identified and either fixed or another solution trialed.

Only once they have followed that, is it time to train. Even though many collaboration tools are championed because they are so easy to use, users must receive appropriate training tailored to their roles and how they will interact with the solutions. This will have been informed by both the initial phase of how people work and the feedback from testing. So rather than having a single, impersonal webinar, or instructing employees to read through an ebook or slide deck, the training will support the user to learn as they use the solution.

Greater collaboration through improved user adoption

UCaaS solutions offer companies a significant opportunity to maintain continuity through easy-to-deploy collaboration tools and negate the disruption of no longer being in a limited number of offices. However, partly thanks to how easy they are to get hold of and start using, many tools are not fulfilling their potential, with enterprises missing out on significant value. User adoption is critical to the success of any new technology integration. Still, it is also vital that employees are comfortable and confident with the tools they have at their disposal. This is why businesses need to take a structured approach that gathers and takes action based on feedback from the entire organization. As Michels concluded in his briefing note, "it takes a village to make collaboration tools effective."

User Adoption Services is an optional service feature for your communications solution. Facilitate communication and collaboration with professional help. Adopt new digital solutions, embrace change and reap the benefits. Download this brochure to find out more.

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