Adoption and Change Management for Enterprise Business Applications

As I’ve written about recently in “Re-thinking Adoption, Again“, much of the “adoption and change management” (ACM) world has stayed the same, but a few dynamics are worth noting to bring this discipline up to speed in the modern, digital organization. These dynamics will vary in impact based on a number of factors, but are worth noting as you plan your next employee-facing business application.

Let me know what you think at

  • True change management still underinvested. Getting people to understand and learn something is one thing, but getting them to change behaviors towards a common business goal is another. This requires active change management that can be a harder sell than traditional application training and enablement.


  • Cloud Quickens TTV. Delivery of technology via cloud models promises to free up resources to work on adoption and change management (vs. the usual focus on developing the technology capability), enabling faster time to value (TTV)
  • Training Mechanisms Evolving. Training still paramount, but execution methods vary. As always, knowing how to use something is key, but improvements in UI/UX, contextual self-help, and P2P support via social mechanisms changes the mix of classroom/virtual/self-help investments needed.
  • Know the audience: Understanding your user segmentation and personas is key to any ACM initiative. Many organizations have already done this as part of other programs; re-use prior artifacts as much as possible.
  • Leverage the mobile dynamic. It’s no secret that end users are increasingly engaging with their enterprise systems via mobile devices, so having a “mobile first” strategy is key to promoting usage.
  • Focus on high value business processes and use cases. Prioritize use case development towards high visibility processes and use to showcase functionality before, during and after rollout.
  • Usability barriers lessened, but challenges remain. 10-15 years ago, many tools in this space suffered from usability issues and avoidance behaviors; many of these issues have been mitigated with a focus on UX (and mobile access), but gravity towards email and spreadsheets will always be a factor only addressable through programmatic approaches that utilize core change management principles (ADKAR, influence strategies, etc.)
  • Last Mile Scaling Strategies. One of the biggest challenges to adoption and change management in large, global organizations is scaling the ACM mechanisms out to different business units, regions and cultures. Defining the right, cost-effectives scaling strategy upfront in the program/project design is thus paramount. E.g., developing “business adoption kits” that roles imbedded in the business take ownership of and leverage in their execution.
  • Organizational capability. Having the right roles, processes and overall operational maturity is key to the success of ACM initiatives.
  • Leverage, Adopt and Supplement Native ACM Practices. Organization vary drastically in their approach to ACM, so program strategists/managers need to quickly assess organizational capability maturity in this regard and leverage/extend as necessary to achieve stated goals.
  • ACM Focus Early in Lifecycle. Planning for adoption and change management needs to start early in the process (ideally in the Discovery/Envisioning stage) so that that the planned execution mechanisms are included in project budgets and built into project delivery (vs. later development as an afterthought).
  • Game the Re-Org. ACM strategies need to take into account possible organizational changes and staff reductions that may impact execution of programs.
  • Manage the overlap. For many application domains, organizations have a plethora of overlapping, competing apps (as well as fall-back methods) resulting in a need for proactive disambiguation – this will only get worse as buying power and governance further shifts application ownership to the business (vs. IT).
  • Impact of peripheral element maturity. For most digital initiatives, data quality, information architecture, governance and other topics will need tending to, which may pose challenges for business ownership not as familiar with these practices as those in IT.
  • Adoption varies with firm-type and culture. Driving end-user adoption of new digital applications in certain (often more traditional, vs. tech forward) companies can be challenging – need to develop an “adoption profile” early on, including the use of maturity models, etc. to determine the right approach.
  • Knowledge gaps. For many newer technologies (e.g. marketing automation), there is a talent shortage and with that, challenges of finding people with knowledge and perspectives within and across functions that comprise organizational capability. This needs to be factored into any ACM strategy.
  • Business owners partner with IT/HR for ACM. With the increasing use of easily procured cloud-based applications, many solutions are procured/owned by business units themselves, which may or may not have the same level of maturity with ACM practices and may need to consult a centralized, shared service function in HR or IT (or outside expertise).
  • Functional variation. Solutions will vary in their need for proactive ACM, so vary programs accordingly.