The User Adoption Process

Imagine if you will…

You’ve just wrapped up a lengthy project, in which you’ve implemented a new solution at a hospital or clinic. Now that the venture is complete, we can relax, pat ourselves on the back and watch user adoption just roll in.

Seems like a fantasy? In reality we typically see something quite different…

Regardless of how well a project is run, and despite how beneficial the implemented solution is for the end-user; any time a solution involves changing current behavior, without a well thought out change management plan, it remains a challenge to drive user adoption. It’s not uncommon to see well-designed, robust solutions fail, due to a lack of effort to implement proper change management.


Successful user adoption is not accomplished in a short sprint, but rather, it occurs over time and it increases with stakeholder’s effort. As demonstrated in the graphic below, user adoption is a gradual process, with several steps to take towards full user acceptance and commitment.

image source: Erica Toelle – Create Your End User Adoption Strategy

These steps are building blocks, in which you ideally start out early in the project, making all stakeholders aware of the new solution. Once the stakeholders are aware of the general solution, further effort is required to ensure users have a thorough understanding of the solution’s functionality. Understanding the solution must develop into commitment and buy-in from the user-base, which will leads to successful adoption.

This begs the question, what efforts can we apply to achieve success across these building blocks?


The following are 3 key actions that should be part of the overall adoption strategy:

1.What is the baseline and what is the target?

If you are trying to improve user adoption on an existing solution that is currently available to your users, first ask yourself, where are you today and how many active users are currently using the solution?

Understanding the baseline creates realistic adoption targets. The targets should be time bound. For example, ‘over the quarter we hope to improve user adoption by 5%.’  Additionally, reviewing the existing user base may help to identify any highly active users. Active users can work as cheerleaders to ‘advertise’ the solution to their colleagues. Determining realistic targets may also require outside input from subject matter experts, or pulling data from past experiences.

The adoption rates will vary depending on the solution – for example, if the new functionality is required as part of the user’s job, the expectation would be 100% adoption. If the solution is a value add and improves the user’s work experience, but is not required functionality, it may be useful to look at adoption targets for previous comparable projects.

2. Build Awareness and Make the Solution Known

This can be as simple as trying to build a conversation related to the solution. One easy and inexpensive way to build awareness and stir up conversation is creating a poster campaign that highlights key events in the adoption process, from the launch and ongoing training, to helpful how-tos and usage success stories. A simple lunch-n-learn that provides the users with top user tips and a relaxed atmosphere for a Q&A session can be very effective.

Look at the opportunity of providing awareness to indirect stakeholders. If the primary users are physicians, is it possible to build awareness of the functionality to the patients? This might not always be possible, but if the solution is something that directly impacts the patients, they may be able to become a cheerleader for the solution.


3. Training, Training, Training….

Continuing from where we left on building awareness, effective training is an essential part of the adoption process. Implementing a training plan can be a bit of challenge when training isn’t your official role. Often training is just one of the hats you wear,  and your department doesn’t have access to the tools (i.e. eLearning authoring software, Learning Management Systems, etc.) that a formal training department would  have access to. Stay tuned for a follow-up post that provides some tips to help implement an effective training strategy, and what cheap or free tools are out there that can be leveraged.

The main thing I’ll mention here, as it relates to adoption, is that training is an ongoing process. Regardless of which training method you use (face-to-face, webinar, self-paced eLearning, blended style), it can not be assumed that once a user has received training, they then  have sufficient knowledge to commit to regularly using the solution. Cheat sheets and/or ‘short to the point’ eLearning modules can be beneficial to users so they can easily reference key steps if they ever feel stuck.  Again, I’ll elaborate on best practices for training in a future post.


These are just some of the options available for successful user adoption. I’d love to hear what successes (and pain points) you have found when trying to implement adoption strategies. Feel free to share in the comments section.