User Adoption: Getting the Most Bang for Your Buck

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If you have worked at any company long enough to see a new program introduced only to fall flat on its face, despite the promises of ease and riches, then you understand the challenge of user adoption.  There are a lot details that an organization needs to get right for CRM or any other software to be successful; central to those details is user adoption.

The Dollar Dilemma

A real life representation of the User Adoption problem and the embedded solution is illustrated by the hot political debate of dollar coins vs. paper dollars:

Over the past 100 years the Federal Reserve has released 8 different types of 1 dollar coins.  And while seemingly every other developed nation in the world has successfully switched from the paper 1 dollar to a one dollar coin we are still struggling to lose the paper, why is that?

Let’s first ask the question:

Why does it matter?



It's not hard to understand how the initial cost of producing paper money is less than that of a coin. But over time the paper money will tatter, tear, soak and crinkle then after 5.8 years (on average) it will be removed from circulation. At the point of paper money’s decommissioning the dollar coin is just barley starting it’s 30-50 year lifespan and over the long run the dollar coin will cost the tax payer around 40%* less than the paper dollar. And that figure doesn’t account for the fact that production costs for paper dollars will continue to rise over the 30-50 year lifespan of a coin.  The point: The payback on coins is far greater than on paper dollars.

So it makes cents...I mean sense. So, if 1 dollar coins are more efficient, practical and fiscally responsible to produce and use than paper 1 dollar bills : why haven’t we changed?

The answer is USER ADOPTION, that’s right, you and I are the problem. In all instances people fear and avoid change, even if it makes sense or is the right thing to do. We are just so comfortable being comfortable and therefore have caused the failure of the 1 dollar coin becoming the only 1 dollar (I hope you’re satisfied).

What Does This Have to Do with CRM?

The -cheaper to produce- paper dollar directly relates to the current antiquated processes your business uses which may seem easier and cheaper than buying, building, training and supporting a new CRM tool to replace your processes.

And for the short term it may be cheaper to retain the antiquated processes, innovation DOES have a cost, but once CRM has fully taken root long term payoffs will be robust.  To get to those payoffs you must address the user adoption limbo that can occur when users are not able to fully adapt to the new CRM process much like Americans are not able to fully switch to the 1 dollar coins.

Making the Change ALL the Way

After we have made the decision to jump head first into CRM and accept the fact that change isn't going to be comfortable, we can move on to how we can MAKE user adoption a success.

Going back to our Paper vs. Coin debate, an interesting fact is that the US Government has failed where many countries have succeeded. The one thing I am aware of that those countries did differently than the US is simple: They fully retired the paper dollar bill.  By taking away “the other” option, people only had the coin to use, so they did .  Likewise with CRM, you want to take away the old process as an option.  It’s far too easy for an employee to stay comfortable and just do it the way they have always done, especially when they are under pressure.

Considerations to Pull the Rug Gently

Here are just a few pointers to make the transition smoother when exchanging your antiquated process to adopt a more efficient, innovative, long term CRM process:

  • Verify and re-verify that the new process works and is understood by your users
  • Have a backup plan in your back pocket, but don’t let anyone know there is a backup plan.  Someone is far less likely to “fall” if they think there is no “net”
  • Make sure good training materials and internal resources are available to the users to answer questions and walk them through processes so they don’t get stuck
  • Make a hard cutoff date for the old process (no more than two weeks)
  • Communicate often and thoroughly internally about expectations and time-frames around the process change


  • Change is a hard thing but with proper user adoption strategy CRM will be a great investment
  • To make a process change successful and drive user adoption you must take away the other option, no crutches.  Remember every country that has successfully made the switch to the 1 dollar coin has done so by releasing the coin and simultaneously discontinuing the paper dollar
  • Pulling the rug out from people can cause revolt, so gently “Sell” the change internally and remind them of the overall goal of progress
  • The quickest way to adoption is to remove old process as an option

I am the first to admit, change is hard but Innovation and change bear the fruit of progress and growth, making change worth it. With the right partner to guide you through the process your company will reap those long-term rewards.

*Based on my calculations using the average lifespan of the paper dollar at 5.8 years costing 4.9 cents per note and the coin’s lifespan is 30-50 years and costs just under 20 cents per coin to produce.

Here is where I learned some details about paper money and coins:

by Hitachi Solutions America

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