Hitting a Salesforce User Adoption Home Run

plastics manufacturing and distribution

Want to learn more? Read the TPI case study about their approach to Salesforce user adoption.

A modern day update for the old “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink” proverb might be: “You can implement the best technology on the market, but you can’t make Jim in Operations like it”. As technology implementers, integrators, and (sometimes) disruptors, we see a lot of this axiom being proven correct. User adoption is often taken for granted (“Who wouldn’t want an easier way to manage leads?! Of course the Sales team will love it!”) or, even worse, used synonymously with training. When it comes to successfully deploying and fully leveraging a technology platform, especially one as robust as Salesforce CRM, it’s important to understand what’s different about user adoption, how to build a strategy around it, and how to approach it as a long-term (vs. one-time) event.

First, let’s talk about why training and user adoption are not the same thing. Often lumped together as a line item at the tail-end of an implementation, Training & User Adoption become the catch-all for making sure everyone has seen the technology before they’ll be asked to use it. Most of what happens in this stage is simply training: basic navigation, key process overviews, where to click to save, etc. User adoption is a little more nuanced. It’s about helping a user understand the why (why our company chose Salesforce, what our goals are for the platform and the company, how you’ll see improvements at an individual and company level, why it’s exciting, and so on), acknowledging that they are potentially being asked to change a large part of their daily work, and demonstrating how they are going to contribute to the goals and vision of the company by not just mastering, but truly adopting the technology as part of their role.

Building a user adoption strategy takes some thoughtfulness, but it does not need to be overly complicated. A good user adoption strategy:

  • Acknowledges that change can be difficult
  • Demonstrates the benefits of moving to the new platform or system
  • Answers “why” questions
  • Motivates users to want to adopt the technology

Your implementation team and company leaders should be a part of your user adoption plan. While you don’t necessarily need the CEO sitting in on every discussion, it’s important to demonstrate corporate leadership and excitement from the beginning. A solid communication plan that shows a unified enthusiasm for the investment in a new system is a critical component of a successful user adoption strategy. A great way to kick things off is with a letter from the CEO talking about the reasons Salesforce was selected, the high-level implementation timeline, and where to get more information.

Training and User Adoption frequently happen simultaneously, which is part of the reason they become viewed as the same thing. It’s important to view them as separate objectives. Training’s objective is to ensure users know what to click in order to complete their tasks. User adoption’s objective is to ensure users take ownership for using the platform to further their individual and team goals. What’s more, training is somewhat finite; although you may offer ongoing formal training, it is usually an event whereas user adoption is an ongoing effort to ensure users are successfully using the system. You cannot assume one will follow the other and that everyone will love and accept Salesforce simply because they know how to update an Opportunity. User adoption is something of a journey and is more successful when it’s viewed as an ongoing effort.

A great example of next-level user adoption comes from Total Plastics, Inc. TPI implemented Salesforce last year and took a thoughtful and comprehensive approach to user adoption by leveraging a baseball theme to train, motivate, and communicate with its team. Integrating a simple theme helped communications be more cohesive and compelling, made in-person training fun, and incorporated an easy way to treat adoption as an ongoing effort. Training became the start of a baseball game with innings following that had additional lessons and knowledge-building as well as friendly competition to keep energy high and focused. The TPI team followed all the essentials of designing and deploying a great user adoption strategy and they’ve seen the pay-off through users that are teaching themselves (and their peers) how to do more in Salesforce. You can read more in the full TPI Salesforce User Adoption Success Story.

User Adoption is critical to the success of your Salesforce implementation. Taking the time to build a strategy that supports users beyond training on the platform will benefit your organization and bottom-line (plus, you won’t still be dragging Jim in Operations to the Salesforce river and hoping for the best). For more information about Salesforce User Adoption, check out the website or contact our SalesforceExperts@luxent.com.