“If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?”

As I walked around Enterprise Connect 2017 this year, nothing seemed more refreshing to hear company leaders gloating that their products have the best user experience.  This was repeated throughout the show — in product demos and panelist discussions about the future.

To me, this is an accomplishment. Only a few years back, people didn’t even talk about user experience for business software. I attended a panel session that helped me realize that we’re still not talking about a critical final phase of the users’ journey. Adoption.

Even though there is a strong race to ship products with a great user experience, what happens after the customer buys and deploys it is very different.

Being part of a product team, it’s common to receive feedback from the sales teams about feature gaps: “The customer won’t buy until this or that feature is available.” As a result, this often becomes the primary way you think about user adoption when designing products: Ship more features to drive adoption.

I attended a panelist discussion that had representatives from vendors and consulting companies. The very focus of the consultants is to help companies adopt the software they’ve purchased — in this case, workplace collaboration software. Imagine the challenge: After spending thousands of dollars on purchasing software, they need to hire dedicated professionals to achieve successful roll-out.

Halfway through the session, I started noticing two themes.

The importance of effective internal communication: When rolling out new software, it’s not enough to send out a mass email announcement and hope that everyone will adopt it. Internal communications should include using multiple modes and mediums to communicate the benefits of the new product. The panelists also focused on finding early adopters and champions. There’s great opportunity in sharing internal success stories to spur adoption and highlight use cases. If HR is an early adopter, share the story with your finance and legal teams.

The importance of staying close to the deployment, physically: Monitoring numbers from a distance will only help you quantify adoption progress. You won’t know the why and how behind the numbers unless you get close.  One panelist shared a story that illustrates this point. His team was receiving employee feedback that it was easier to schedule meeting in the old software. Working directly with an employee, the panelist explored the issue and discovered that company pop-up blocker rules were actually blocking the new software. They quickly changed the setting, which resolved the issue.

Since the panelist was actually present with an employee who was experiencing this issue, he was able to see the problem, resolve it, and remedy the user experience. If he had relied only on data, what would have happened? Probably what happens to hundreds of software rollouts to thousands of employees. Companies deploy new products, employees hit roadblocks and go back to the previous solution – or worse, find their own.

“If you a build product that users won’t use, does it exist?”

The billion dollar opportunity in user experience goes beyond the product itself. It is at the often-forgotten tail end of the customer’s journey: User adoption. This is especially important as companies are pinning their futures on new integrated solutions. When buying and deploying new products, make sure the user experience – of both the product and the adoption cycle – is part of your strategy. Even with the best products, change management is always part of the equation.


Ahmed Arshad

User Experience