8 Ways to Increase the User Adoption of Your ECM System
John Mancini

By: John Mancini on June 26th, 2009

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8 Ways to Increase the User Adoption of Your ECM System

Change Management  |  Enterprise Content Management (ECM)

A consistent topic in ECM circles is low user adoption. We think of Enterprise Content Management (ECM) as “mature” technology; however, most companies still struggle with broad user adoption. In implementing ECM technology, we fundamentally change the way an individual or group does their job. Consequently, the business process and culture change associated with the technology is much more significant than the implementation of the technology itself.

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Below are eight things you can do to increase user adoption of ECM Applications:

  1. Get top-level support.

    This seems to be a “no brainer” but one that is consistently overlooked. ECM implementations often require significant changes to the underlying business process. A strong sponsor at the executive level can work to remove any organizational roadblocks the team may (or should I say will) encounter as you roll-out applications across the organization.

  2. Start small.

    We have all heard the phrase “take one bite of the elephant at a time.” Trust me; it is harder to do than it sounds. To start on the Enterprise Content Management journey, take a relatively straightforward business process, and work with that first. Select a group that has at least one or two individuals who are champions for the new system. Get the first project over the finish line and in the winner’s circle before you embark on project #2. Measure the results, celebrate the success, and make sure the rest of the organization hears about the success. This will create a level of excitement that will drive other groups to “want” the new technology.

  3. Be fanatical about internal PR and communication.

    User adoption is driven by system acceptance. Become a PR and communication expert as they form the cornerstone of gaining organizational acceptance of the system. You must evangelize and spread your messages to executives, managers, information workers, and outside vendors and suppliers. Build a PR/communication plan early in the project and incorporate different mediums to get the word out. A simple grid with audience (executives, managers, workers, etc.) on one axis and form of communication on the other axis will suffice. The key is identifying major stakeholders and messages, then planning the communication campaign to ensure all messages are delivered multiple times.

  4. Use “personas” to understand how the new system will impact users.

    Create a persona for your key stakeholder roles and ensure your system addresses their needs. The typical organization has multiple roles that will interact with any given business process and, therefore, the system. Each role has its own unique requirements (at least from their perspective). Understand who will interact with the system and what they need to be successful. Make sure you have them covered with the solution – ultimately, it is all about making their life easier. Understand the WIFFIM (What’s In It For Me) for each persona.

  5. Focus on the business process.

    The business process that ECM technology will support should be the focus – not the underlying technology. The business user wants to get their job done in the most straightforward manner. To the extent technology provides tangible benefits to the user – adoption will follow. If you implement technology for technology's sake – you will probably struggle to get users to actually use the system.

  6. Get users and business owners involved.

    People love to be heard. Leverage that core human trait and get the users/business owners involved at the very beginning of the project. Other than the typical steering committee thy these avenues for involvement:

    • Have a representative from each group on the implementation committee and make sure they communicate regularly with the group they represent.
    • Organize an occasional brown-bag discussion or whiteboard session to make sure you understand the process and how ECM will improve the process and the lives of the users (well at least their working lives!).
    • Drive hands-on involvement by establishing a “model office”. Use the model office to engage with users, conduct process “what If’s” and to develop and test applications prior to their general release. The model office is also useful for ongoing training as you add to or change staff.
  7. Leverage collaboration tools.

    In the world of Web 2.0, it is very easy to create a dialogue with the broad user community. Check into leveraging an existing corporate intranet or wiki to engage the organization in the discussion around the new system. If you don’t have a corporate standard, there are many ways to generate conversations with free web-based tools such as Twitter, Yammer, Facebook and Slack.

  8. Training is more than just a class.

    If I had a dime for every time I heard the words “companies did not plan for training,” I would be on a sunny beach. You hear that training is often overlooked, and that is a key piece of the user adoption puzzle. In many cases, training is conducted, but it is ineffective. To be effective, training must be more than one how-to class. Here are some additional ways to ensure people make the jump to using the new system:

    • Provide online or hardcopy step-by-step user guides with screenshots to help users the first few times they use the new system.
    • Conduct a training session prior to use and then one week after implementation.
    • Leverage the wiki or whatever collaboration tool you use to enable users to ask questions and get quick answers – that can be review and used by others as you add to staff or bring different groups onto the system
    • Review the question and answer site to see if there are any trends indicating issues you need to resolve with the new system.

The broad adoption of technology is difficult but not unattainable. If you take change management seriously and follow these eight steps carefully, you will find your users adopting your ECM system in greater numbers.


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About John Mancini

John Mancini is the President of Content Results, LLC and the Past President of AIIM. He is a well-known author, speaker, and advisor on information management, digital transformation and intelligent automation. John is a frequent keynote speaker and author of more than 30 eBooks on a variety of topics. He can be found on Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook as jmancini77. Recent keynote topics include: The Stairway to Digital Transformation Navigating Disruptive Waters — 4 Things You Need to Know to Build Your Digital Transformation Strategy Getting Ahead of the Digital Transformation Curve Viewing Information Management Through a New Lens Digital Disruption: 6 Strategies to Avoid Being “Blockbustered” Specialties: Keynote speaker and writer on AI, RPA, intelligent Information Management, Intelligent Automation and Digital Transformation. Consensus-building with Boards to create strategic focus, action, and accountability. Extensive public speaking and public relations work Conversant and experienced in major technology issues and trends. Expert on inbound and content marketing, particularly in an association environment and on the Hubspot platform. John is a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of the College of William and Mary, and holds an M.A. in Public Policy from the Woodrow Wilson School at Princeton University.