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Implementation vs. Adoption: How to Successfully Roll Out a New Technology Solution

Author: Heinan Landa from Optimal Networks

When it comes to rolling out a new technology solution at your organization, there are a lot of boxes to check from both a tactical and a strategic perspective.

Time and time again we hear from organizations who had identified what they believed to be a perfect solution for their organization ‑ a new communication tool, a new Document Management Solution, a new video conferencing platform, or otherwise ‑ but after they made the package available to their staff, it all seemed to fall flat.

In the end, they were left with a solution that they had thrown a ton of time and money into, and that wasn’t bringing them any closer to the results they were hoping to achieve.

After over 30 years in the technology industry, we’ve learned that the trick to successfully rolling out a new technology is this: planning a thoughtful implementation project, and having a methodical plan for promoting company-wide adoption.

We’ll walk you through the difference between the two below, along with the 7 key elements of successful adoption.

Implementation vs. Adoption: What’s the difference?

“Implementation” means installing and configuring a new solution, and training staff on how it works so they’re able to use it effectively. This is largely the responsibility of your IT team.

“Adoption” means having your entire company embrace that new solution, wrap it into their workflow, and become more effective as the result. Your IT team can’t accomplish this part by themselves ‑ they’ll need your help here.

Let’s consider Optimal’s own migration to Slack as an example.

When we made the switch to Slack for our internal communication at Optimal, we were uprooting the way the company had operated for over twenty years. We were deeply entrenched in email ‑ all of our internal processes and procedures revolved around email as our primary form of communication, and while we all felt rather overwhelmed by the sheer quantity of emails that we received on a daily basis, we had adapted our way of work to fit that model.

Had we merely implemented the solution as an additional tool, organized some basic training, and said “have at it,” guess how many of us would have defaulted right back to email?

Enough to render the solution worthless.

Beyond the more tactical ability to use the tools your organization has put into place, it’s critical to take the technology you’re implementing and fold it into your operations and your culture. In a way, your goal is to interrupt the inertia that you’ve built over the years, and to pointedly redirect your team to the new and improved way of accomplishing their daily tasks.

Here’s how to go about it.

1 – Get leadership on board: The make-or-break

All levels of management need to understand the problem you’re working to solve, be bought in all the way, and be the primary advocates of the new platform. This is the absolute most critical aspect of successful adoption, as the rest of the organization will follow their leader’s example.

2 – Clear communication: Addressing the “why” 

Ensure your entire team understands WHY you are making this change. What problem are you solving (i.e. how are you making their jobs easier?), and what results are you aiming to achieve with the new solution? Address any concerns and questions upfront. Transparency is the linchpin of trust and adoption.

3 – Culture is key: Aligning tech with your company’s DNA 

Every organization has its own unique culture. Wherever possible, design your solutions to fit your organization, not the other way around. If your organization has a culture of transparency, collaboration, and fun, your solutions should facilitate that style of work. If your organization is more private and regimented, your technology should reinforce those boundaries. A mismatch here will only confuse your team and hamper the company-wide adoption of the solution.

4 – Rules of the road: Codify and enforce 

After you’ve established how you’re going to use this solution internally in a way that fits your culture, any rules, guidelines, and recommendations need to be codified in a formal document, disseminated to everyone on your team, and any deviation should be corrected without exception. The moment you let one finicky executive set their own standard, the whole construct will fall apart.

5 – Burn bridges: Making change irreversible 

The day we officially “launched” Slack (after completing all our internal training), we uninstalled our legacy instant messaging platform, our internal video conferencing platform, and our corporate social networking platform, thereby shifting all of those functions into Slack. Old habits die hard, so remove as much temptation to revert back as you can.

6 – Train from Day 1: Equip newcomers 

Any new employees that you bring aboard need to get the full picture: what solutions you’re using, why you’re using them, how you use them, and what your expectations will be going forward. Share any policy or Rules of the Road documents with them. Share recordings of your internal training sessions. Get them entirely up to speed from the get-go.

7 – Measure success: Continuously evaluate

After you transition into a new solution, keep tabs on whether or not it’s solving the problem you intended to solve, and delivering the results you intended to achieve. A couple of our goals for our Slack implementation, for example, were to (1) reduce the amount of internal email flying around, and (2) calm the freneticism that our old communication strategy (or lack thereof) was stirring up. The first goal can be measured with a simple mathematical comparison. The second can be measured with a one-question staff survey on that handy dandy 1 to 10 scale before and after the implementation. This give you insight into how well the solution is performing, give you the opportunity to make adjustments as needed, and also reinforce the “why” throughout your organization.

8 – Reinforce: Learning and feedback

Beyond these steps, seize all opportunities you have to reinforce how and why to use the solution, and to solicit feedback from your team on where you might be able to make tweaks and improvements. We’ve done this in the form of infographics, lunch and learns, Q&A sessions, surveys, and more.

Because at the end of the day, in the same way, your staff isn’t going to use a solution they haven’t been properly introduced to, they aren’t going to make the effort to change their work habits unless the shift is both universally mandated and universally embraced throughout your organization.

So take the time to consider both a methodical implementation and an equally as deliberate adoption plan. From there, enjoy your newfound efficiencies. 

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