Why End User Adoption is Still Needed in a COVID World
Author: Blair Pleasant, President & Principal Analyst at COMMfusion and Co-Founder of BCStrategies
One of my passions as a business communications industry analyst is end user adoption and training for unified communications and collaboration (UCC) products and services. You can deploy the best technology in the world, but if your end users don’t actually use the technology, it’s worthless. End user adoption is critical, yet many organizations tend to simply ignore it. Focusing on usage and adoption leads to greater success than simply focusing on making technology work.
While still important, the role of end user adoption and training has changed in the COVID era. A couple different factors are at play that impact organizations’ end user adoption strategies:
• The current phase of response to the COVID pandemic
• The accelerated move to cloud-based services
COVID Response Phases
There are several phases of responding to the global pandemic, including:
Depending on the geographic region, different organizations will be in different stages and phases of their response, which impacts the role of end user adoption and training. As cases continue to rise in the United States, India, and other countries, but decline in China and much of Europe, the timing of when organizations in these regions evolve to the next phase will vary.
With the initial shock of the COVID crisis, organizations quickly realized that business continuity and keeping operations moving was the top priority. Plans to enable work from home were put in place, enabling workers to access the corporate network and phone system from laptops, home computers, or mobile devices. Organizations that quickly deployed new products and technologies to their employees didn’t have time for a proper UCC user adoption program or strategy.
To help organizations quickly transition to WFH and cloud services, many UCC vendors provided temporary free or discounted offers. For example:
• Avaya offered free 60-day access to its cloud meeting and team collaboration solution, Avaya Spaces
• Dialpad Pro and UberConference Business were made available for free for a limited time to allow users to seamlessly work from anywhere
• Microsoft offered a free 6-month Office 365 E1 Trial, including Microsoft Teams, in response to the increased need for employees to work from home
• Mitel’s MiCollab customers (Cloud or Onsite) were able to activate MiTeam Meetings for free with no obligations for 6 months
• Salesforce’s Quip Starter was made available for free to any Salesforce customer or non-profit organization through September 30, 2020 to help teams collaborate while employees are away from the office
• Vonage extended the availability of its free desktop and mobile video collaboration product, Vonage Video Conferencing (VVC) through the end of the year
During the React/Respond phase, many businesses and organizations were quick to take advantage of these free or discounted offerings to help their employees more easily transition to work from home environments, which meant user adoption and training was required.
While many organizations already had UCC solutions deployed, usage and adoption were spotty and inconsistent in many cases. With the urgent need to use these tools to effectively communicate and collaborate with colleagues, partners, customers, and suppliers – most of whom were also working remotely – adoption and usage of the UCC tools was a necessity. End users need to know when, how, and why to use the basic and more advanced functions. Knowing how to mute oneself and others on a video call or how to use a virtual background has become indispensable (especially with kids or dogs around). Many workers needed to be trained in how to launch both scheduled and ad-hoc meetings from any device, or how to launch a meeting from within a third-party application such as Salesforce. In many cases, users aren’t aware of some of the more advanced features within their UCC tools, which clearly limits their usage.
Enhance and Refine
Most organizations are currently in the second phase – Enhance and Refine. In this phase, organizations are identifying what worked and what didn’t work in the initial phase, while defining best practices going forward. User adoption in this phase is focused on overcoming resistance to the new tools by some workers, as well as increasing utilization of more advanced UCC features and capabilities. For those that have deployed new UCC capabilities, the focus is on best practices, such as how to support spontaneous brainstorming in a WFH environment, or how to engage workers in a hybrid environment, where some workers are at home and some are in the office.
Video has clearly been the technology de jour during the COVID crisis, as individuals turned to video to replace in-person meetings and interactions. Now that the novelty of video has worn off and everyone - regardless of age or demographic - is accustomed to using video, how do businesses maintain its usage without the downsides of video fatigue going forward? Organizations will need to develop strategies to address these issues.
The final stage is all about planning for the future and the “next normal,” identifying new needs and developing new strategies. Organizations that took advantage of the freemium or discounted cloud offerings for WFH will have to decide whether to deploy these services as a long-term solution. Reports from the various vendors and channel partners indicate that around 10-20 percent of the free or trial users have converted to regular paid licenses, with businesses expanding and deploying these services to different locations or offices.
Accelerated Transition to the Cloud
The COVID crisis has accelerated organizations’ digital transformation strategies, including the move to cloud services, which has been in the works for years. Companies that were planning on moving to a cloud-based UCC service in the next 6-12 or 12-18 months realized that they needed to move up their plans and deploy the new services ASAP. As organizations recognize the benefits of cloud services for business continuity strategies and deploy new cloud-based UCC services, they need to properly prepare employees and teams for these changes.
Without aggressive adoption programs, these digital transformation strategies will go out the window as people fall back to their older, safer methods. Additionally, without an adoption program for the new and transformative tools, users may bring their own solutions. For example, people who have been using Zoom for virtual family get togethers, religious services, and of course virtual happy hours, may be using Zoom for work, without the blessing of their IT department. With IT out of the picture, there may be security and compliance issues.
Approaches to user adoption and training will change. For example, hands-on, classroom training will be replaced with virtual online training; internal marketing may involve more emails rather than posters hung up in the office. While user adoption approaches and techniques will have to be modified, the role and importance of having a well-thought out strategy for user adoption and training will not change.