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I sell to the C-Suite – so why should I care about the user?

High fives all round, another mega-deal done. Over the fence to delivery, and we’ll be back in 3 years for the renewal order…

On many levels that’s not how it works any more, but a key piece within all of this which most of us in the technology world are placing much more focus is ‘user adoption’. More specifically, how do you successfully embed technology in the day-to-day operation of a business, and do it quickly?

I remember rolling out ERP and ITSM systems back in the day when all of that still felt completely new. It took months, years in some cases. It felt very foreign to the user community, and was painstaking to listen to the grumbles as they were literally forced to adopt – the commercial stakes were so high. I think we all therefore underestimated the effort required to consistently reinforce the benefits and rationale to end-users. Of course, slowly but surely it became commonplace and part of everyday business life, but it wasn’t a natural process.

Fast-forward to today, and the landscape has completely changed. Technology options are plentiful, users like to experiment, the barriers to change are low, and buying decisions are often based as much upon the user experience as they are on cost and ROI.

So not only does technology need to deliver tangible, evidencable business value, it needs to be (dare I say it) fun!

OK – perhaps ‘fun’ is a bit of a stretch, but we’ve needed to adapt to an environment where even for large enterprise-scale opportunities, user expectations are being shaped by innovation outside of the workplace. Anybody can leave work and buy anything they need on Amazon with three clicks and no training. The bar is high.

So, what’s the trick? This is the point where you might expect me to reel off how you apply various technology acceptance theories to tune into your customer’s behaviours, attitudes, perceptions…

Sadly not. I tend to lack both the intellect and patience! Rather, I’d like to draw on what years of doing it has taught me, and share three key things that are critical not only in the realisation of value, but also in the acquisition and growth of new business:

  1. Put users at the heart of the selling process:
    • Engage them early, define what value means to them. Trial usage in parallel to senior level engagement. Get initial users hooked and driving demand up the chain.
  2. Put users at the heart of the operations process:
    • Make ‘user number growth’ a prime business performance measure. Remove commercial or functional barriers to scale. Listen, react to feedback, share knowledge and experiences to allow communities to thrive.
  3. Put users at the heart of the development process:
    • Tight, agile teams that narrow the gap to the customer. Rapid and iterative delivery cycles. Embrace social and collaboration techniques that allow your technology to go viral.

Adoption isn’t the thing you do post-deployment to achieve the next milestone. It’s continuous, and accountability is organisation-wide.

Make sure user value is baked into every facet of your engagement life-cycle, regardless of who you target in the sales process. It’s the only way your customers will realise the true value of their investment, sustaining business relationships, and is the key to breed both organic growth within your existing customers, and provide valuable reference points for the new.

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