Digital adoption platforms – helping people “get” technology the first time

This just in: different people need different help to embrace new technology. Enter the digital adoption platform.
14 December 2022

Sometimes, the light of understanding needs a bridge to help you get there.

The onboarding process for new technologies frequently sets the tone for how staff are going to experience their time at a company, and there’s concern that too many businesses are getting the process wrong, leading to exclusion, disengagement, and eventual loss of staff who, if their technological onboarding had been handled differently, could have made happy careers with those companies. We sat down with Simon Blunn, Senior VP and General Manager at WalkMe, to ask how digital adoption platforms can help companies get their onboarding right and ensure better staff engagement and retention.


Companies spend fortunes on their technology. What’s going wrong?


At the moment, a lot of business investment is simply not being materialized. There are statistics that show only 50% of the value of technology investments around software deliver on their potential ROI. So there’s a lot of money left on the table, which seems to be an accepted norm over the years of companies doing this.

But it shouldn’t be.

Our job is to challenge that and ask why companies can’t get the full value out of something they’re intending to deploy to people. If you buy good technology, you expect it to be able to deliver strong results. And unfortunately, for many reasons, that’s not the case today. So our goal as digital adoption platform providers is to enable organizations to deploy technology both internally to their employee base, and to their customers and partners, in a much more successful way.

Wasted cash?


So why are technology investments not delivering as they should?


The traditional ways of working and certainly rolling out new technology, both on change management, and on how you train and enable people to use technology, just aren’t fit for purpose anymore. That classic classroom training isn’t going to work with Gen Z, but if you just send a PDF that goes with a new application that you roll out across an organization, people won’t be willing to engage with something so uninspired either.

The technologies businesses are using these days is more advanced, so they freeze whole groups of people if they’re not introduced well. People who struggle with their digital skillset, for instance, or people from a younger generation, where if it’s not intuitive from the outset, and it’s not on YouTube, they won’t give it more than 10-15 minutes of their time and attention. For both groups, that becomes a failure of the process, and they’ll just say, “Well, I’m not going to use that technology.”

That means you have to develop something that can be applicable to different types of people and different skillsets, and not a one-size-fits-all solution. Unfortunately, it’s typical in large organizations to only cater to one middle-ground, more or less optimal mindset, so they just do one set of training that will “enable everyone,” and guess what? That has very unsuccessful results across say 40, 50, 60,000 people if you’re trying to enable a whole group on something like a new HR platform.

The scale of the problem.


Those are interesting numbers – if you might be looking at up to 60,000 people in one geographically widespread organization, what’s the ultimate scale of this issue, as far as we know?


There are a couple of market dynamics on that when you look at organizations focused on their internal employees using technology. Market analysts are talking about a target addressable market there of about 20 to $30 billion, when you think of how much is invested. Those numbers are mind-blowing. When you look at the different silos of whether it’s HR technology, whether it’s Salesforce and CRM technology, each one of those silos are multi-billion dollar organizations or markets in their own right. Digital adoption platforms sit on top of all of those technologies from a SAAS perspective, so they can help people use an HR system, a CRM system, an IT service management system, and so on.

So internally, there’s a significant opportunity there, to the tune of 20 to $30 billion of potential market base. When you start to look at it externally, which is even bigger in terms of how organizations interface with consumers, or even how they conduct their business-to-business relationships, that is in the order of 60 to $70 billion of market opportunity. When you combine those two, which is what digital adoption platforms can address, that’s $100 billion of addressable market out there as an opportunity. And there are not many areas of software that have that kind of broad perspective on the addressable market.

That’s why this sector will continue to grow exponentially, because even during the tough economic times that we’re seeing right now, the ability for companies to maximize the effectiveness of the investments they’ve already made, rather than just making new ones on top, is becoming even more important, because people will need to be more efficient, and more effective.

And with some of the changes that we’ve seen with the Great Resignation, where people say, “Well, look, if this isn’t a great job for me, I’ll go and find one elsewhere,” companies are learning that people still need to find their jobs rewarding – and have tools that actively enable them to do their work. Digital adoption platforms can directly address that issue by helping troublesome technology seem more intuitive.

Just a Gen Z issue?


We’ll delve into the technology in a moment, but you mentioned the idea that there are different groups being left behind or excluded by this technological failure. The younger generation want intuitive processes, or they’re just not going to use the technology. But is this mostly a Gen Z problem, or is it an issue for older generations too?


It’s definitely an issue at several points in the age spectrum. Older workers that might be struggling to keep up with technological change can be easily turned off a technology – and to some extent, the rest of a job – if their introduction to it is either too divorced from what they understand, or if, for instance, manuals aren’t clearly and specifically written. The new generation is very demanding in what they want, and organizations are now tending to say “What are we going to do to deliver to that audience?” By definition now, the challenge is that everything becomes a pseudo-iPhone type of application, or a social media type of application in terms of the platform, but you forget about people that are just not familiar with using those types of technology.

So certainly, when you look at older workers, or people returning to work after parental leave, or even companies that have a large contractor base, those are typically groups that can struggle with onboarding and change management processes, handling new applications and technology. Contractors typically don’t get access to all the applications in an organization, so they don’t get the holistic experience. That means they’re using four or five applications that they have access to. If you don’t have a good digital experience of using those applications, your ability to deliver value, even as a contractor, is significantly reduced.

If you have a vanilla one-size-fits-all solution, you are always going to eliminate or devalue certain groups of people. And when you’ve got an audience of 5-10,000 employees, there are many subgroups within that, so that one-size-fits-all is always going to give you a very generic low level of system education. And that’s not going to give you the maximum value, for sure.

Poor utilization – and the solution?


Because one size actually fits only one group.


Exactly. And then the baseline becomes very low for everyone. And you’re probably leaving 80% of the technology’s value on the table, whereas you’ve only got people to a low level, 20% of utilization. The way we’ve approached that is to enable the person at the time of when they need help. That’s the fundamental shift with a digital adoption platform.

Imagine we’re two new members of staff, and I’ve had extensive experience of using Zoom for instance, and you’ve never used it before in your life. What you need in terms of onboarding with the application could be very different from what I need, because of our different levels of understanding and experience. So giving us the same training on Zoom probably isn’t going to make either of us that productive. But with a digital adoption platform, what you can do is say, “Where’s the user in their own journey right now?” And if they’re struggling with something, you can take the enablement and the education right to what they need to do in that moment.

Because, particularly when we look at the new generation, if you don’t deliver enablement right then and there, the willingness to find a solution to the problem just disappears. Whereas previous generations would normally internalize the problem and search until they found a resolution to the problem they had, the new generation regards any comprehension failure as a failure of the technology, because they’ve grown up in a world of intuitive technological solutions.

So if they can’t use a software tool, they’ll tend to say, “Well, I’m giving up on Zoom. I’ll go and use Teams or something else instead.” And while that’s individually valid, it’s very dangerous in an organizational context, when you translate it to spending millions of dollars rolling out a new HR platform, and if someone doesn’t use it, they haven’t got an alternative, they just won’t use that technology. And therefore, you’ve got a significant drawback of not enabling that person to use the technology correctly. That’s where digital adoption platforms can help to restore balance and engagement.


In Part 2 of this article, we’ll delve deeper into the technology of digital adoption platforms, and how they can help the left-behind engage with new technology they might otherwise abandon.