In my last blog post, I suggested that many of our past information systems solutions did not fully achieve our hopes or the claims we made when we proposed these projects.  The most common cause of underperformance with these projects has been due to slow adoption growth rates.

The history of new technology adoption during the last 100 years shows that new technology adoption rates are accelerating.

However, despite this acceleration, broad adoption of new technologies often takes years.  For while some people are eager to explore what is “new”, the majority will always be hesitant to change.  This very human reality and our awkwardness in dealing with it is part of the cause for the relatively low information systems (IS) adoption rates we have experienced in the last twenty-five years.

In my experience, when an information system was deployed to people who had no choice – who were required to use the application each day as a central part of their job – with time and training, adoption can reach 100%. However, when we have deployed IS projects that are optional, adoption rates tend to be in the 15 – 40% range.  And in a firm that requires collaborative work, some of these systems have little value unless almost everybody participates.  In these cases, slow and/or incomplete adoption can effectively kill an otherwise great project, not to mention the loss of time and money invested in the project

The challenge of completing our information systems projects and getting good ROI before the next new solution comes out will always be with us.  However, there is much we can do to improve our odds.  For example, we can choose projects where human nature makes success much more likely. We’ve seen this with many of our enterprise search implementations.

However, to attain success with all IS projects, you have to take a more intentional approach to achieve successful adoption rates.  Some of the aspects of an “intentional approach” are:

  1. Don’t just deploy the search engine, build “adoption” into your project plan
  2. Understand how different groups of users view new technologies, and use this to bring all of the groups on board
  3. Follow up your new technology launch with carefully crafted and targeted reminders
  4. Observe, learn and modify

My future blog posts will look at this more “intentional approach”, exploring both the impediments that get in the way of achieving full adoption, and approaches to get past these impediments.

By analyzing our past projects to understand what worked and what did not, we can use what we learn to improve our future projects.   What have you learned from your past IS deployments?