Avoiding Rejection: 5 Steps to Smooth User Adoption for an ICM System

June 22, 2017

I was once a post-it junkie. In a previous job, my strong aversion to learning a new and seemingly complicated CRM system was a much higher barrier than keeping track of all my accounts on post-it notes, meticulously arranged in rows on my desk. After a couple weeks of using this makeshift post-it system, I was called into a meeting with my manager who told me that, whether or not I liked it, I had to get trained in the CRM system and the post-its needed to be gone. Today.

User adoption for a new ICM system is not always a smooth process. For me, I shouldered my way through the process and learned to eventually use the system to make my workweek much easier and more efficient, but it was an uphill battle to gain my buy-in. Ultimately, user adoption revolves around communication, planning, and culture.

Renowned business management thought leader, Peter Drucker, once famously said, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” If your organization’s culture is resistant to change, then even the best-laid strategies are liable to fail. User adoption is no different.

From OpenSymmetry Project Manager Greg Erp’s experience, these five tips are critical for ensuring that users adopt a new ICM system:

  1. The WHO: Consider who the end users are. Be clear about each user group that will be interfacing with the new system. This may include sales managers, finance, sales ops, comp admins, and even sales reps themselves. Be sure to understand what the day in the life of the end user looks like and what pains they experience from using the current system, or lack thereof.
  2. The WHEN: Involve end users early. If you are already well into an implementation, chances are it may already be too late. Consider user needs early on in the project, as far back as project planning. Erp says, “Too often management will dictate design without fully realizing the impact. To avoid being thrust into a situation of force-feeding a new system to users, engage them early and often. This doesn’t necessitate the implementation of every single feature request, but you should at least understand the user’s job and how the system could make their lives easier.”
  3. The WHAT: Have a phased approach, not a big bang. Ensuring that end users feel that their needs have been taken into consideration – including getting used to the system – is a must for a smooth user adoption. The bigger the change, the more likely you are to face opposition. If it isn’t feasible to release the solution to users in more digestible pieces, try prototyping to gain buy-in or composing mock ups of the user interfaces (reports) and soliciting feedback during the implementation.
  4. The HOW: Establish a clear training timeline. Make it known to users that they will be supported and actively engaged during the switch-over. And, while it may be tempting to enact a one-size-fits all approach to enabling users, don’t skimp on the details. Remember, each user group is likely performing varying, distinct tasks in the system; what may be helpful for one group could detract others, so make it relevant!
  5. The WHY: Communicate the benefits. Often, end users lack any real choice in the matter, making adoption more of an exercise in authority. Executive sponsors rightly want to see a return on their investment, which can be significant. Despite the regularity of this scenario, it’s not ideal and may leave users frustrated with more than just the system. To mitigate this risk, get buy-in by helping users understand why the system will benefit them personally. It is crucial to communicate to users that this system is in place to make their lives easier, not “just because.”

Questions to ask end users during initial stages of project research:

  • If you had a blank slate, what would you hope to gain from a new system?
  • What are the daily challenges you experience as a sales rep/sales comp manager/comp admin/etc.?
  • What would you want to keep from the current system? What would you like to trash? What is it
  • about those things that you like/dislike?
  • What are the things you currently struggle with (with respect to the current process and systems)?

Have a story of an ICM implementation where the users were keen (or not so keen) to adopt the system, or any additional tips for smooth user adoption? Email me at eugene.lim@opensymmetry.com to have your story featured in a follow-up blog and enter to win a free 2-hour ICM and sales performance health check!



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