Question of the Day: How do you get users to adopt new technologies?

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I was looking through the AIIM18 Braindate topics and found some really thought-provoking questions that groups met up around at the conference. Would love to see if we could get some insight from the larger membership as well.

It’s true–it’s about the people and processes first, then technology. But how do you guys get users to adopt new technologies? I loved the program 6-7@Joanna Hammerschmidt shared in the VIP Lounge regarding creating a mascot and branding across the board to help folks recognize the benefits of a program or technology and how to best jump in.

Personally, I know I fall behind in adopting new social platforms within my own org. What are some tricks, ways of thinking you can share to help promote adoption?


The programs where I have been allowed to run the change management/adoption aspect have been successful because I use things like the branding mentioned (used “Stargate” as a theme years ago for a portal project for instance), along with decidedly non-corporate-speak, high-energy, communications along with a focus on gamification, plus a strong user feedback and actioning mechanism. All of these methods, I’ve found, go pretty heavily against the normal grain of how “adoption” gets handled in the corporate world.


The “roadmap” that I use for considering adoption is Everett Roger’s work Diffusion of Innovations. His research shows that there are a set of factors that influence adoption of an innovation. It’s a good basic framework for encouraging adoption of a new technology and to get users engaged.

My review is at Book Review-Diffusion of Innovations – Thor Projects Thor Projects remove preview

Book Review-Diffusion of Innovations – Thor Projects
In San Francisco at SPTechCon, I slipped into a session Bill English was doing and he mentioned a book, Diffusion of Innovations. The context was that Bill was talking about where the groups innovators, early adopters, early majority, late majority, and laggards came from. Since in my work I spend a non-trivial amount of time …
View this on Thor Projects >

Thor Projects LLC

While I did not see the program that @Joanna Hammerschmidt presented (I’ll have to find it), branding is one of many actions that need to be taken for technology to be adopted. People need to see the technology as satisfying a need that either they know they have or that they determine they have once they see the technology (e.g. many of the smart phone apps that we didn’t know we needed until we saw them; even web search engines!)

So what’s a leader to do?
Make sure the technology satisfies a need.
It must be much better (ideally 10X) than the alternative. Why Excel beat Visicalc (showing my age!) Ensure the support of business leadership. Ideally a very vocal. Insist on it as many times the feeling is “I told them already, why do I have to tell them again?” Been there; explained that. Develop a branding and marketing program to support the effort.
Present the solution in open forums, collect responses, etc.

Be responsive to feedback.
I’m sure there are many more actions that can be taken. I look forward to hearing other ideas.


Thanks for the feedback–was talking with @Robert Bogue and very much interested in creating a CoP doc around this.

@Jose Solera – I posted Joanna’s presentation to our community library–check it out here.

Keep the thought coming–maybe we create a recommendation sheet from here.


There is some sort of twisted irony that Rimi is a raccoon and seen as cute — and it’s only the animal that God (or evolution) put a mask on. And he’s the creature that pulls things out of the trash 😉

Thor Projects LLC

My comments will be much of the same, but…
Change Management training first! And especially for the senior staff.
Top of your organization must verbally promote it, and must meet with all supervisors to explain that they must verbally support it, as well. No negative comments from them in front of those under them!! They must understand that if they make negative comments to their staff, it will sabotage the organization’s efforts!
These types of projects rarely happen overnight. It often takes years and, during that time, verbalization of the organization’s commitment to the project and comments that explain “why are we doing this” must be verbalized whenever possible.
As mentioned by others here, you must be certain the software you are implementing will be beneficial! Make sure you are in close contact with the people that will be using it the most to make sure you can support a position of “this is going to be much better”. Set aside specific work days for:
all staff to participate in preparation (cleaning up the old records? bringing in new records?) so that everyone is focused on just that all day long and have spotters going around to help during the day. Maybe even one day a week, or one day a month, for all staff to be focused on something related to the new software coming, depending on the project. Provide a great lunch for everyone for the day? in the midst of these days, you could bring everyone together for numerous short group things, such as: a quick demonstration; or, a skit that people act out how frustrated they might have been doing the work the old way and then doing the same thing using the new technology and emphasizing how much better it is with the new technology; or, a question and answer period; or, a contest where you ask questions about the new software and the person who answer the most questions gets … something beneficial, like a prize or better yet a paid day off?
training could be all day events as well, again depending on the project.
Training, training and more training.
Celebration events leading up to, during conversion days, and/or after everyone is fully moved over to the new system. Whatever you can come up with that will promote a sense of celebration or positive emotions relating to the new software.
Contests? Something relating to the new software? With significant prizes.
Have someone committed to quality control after implementation and making sure everything is working for everyone. T
hat person must check in with other staff on a regular basis to look for ways to quickly solve any problems that come up.

That’s all I can think of at the moment!

Sedgewick, AB CANADA

I spent over 20 years as a Desktop computer trainer in both work and academic settings. During those years, I had to get users to adopt new technologies virtually every day. Most of my students had no trouble accepting and becoming proficient in using new software. However, there were always a few who resisted learning anything new. I tried to give them different ways of working with the software, so they would at least find they could master a portion of the work and go on from there. As one of my students said: I gave the students a number of ways to be successful.

Of course, a small minority will always “bad mouth” the training. I pretty much ignored those students unless they were disruptive. I found that if I set aside one day in the course where I would present a problem and have the students team up together to solve it using the new technologies, the most disruptive among them actually enjoyed leading their group and coming up with a solution.

Of course, there will always be some, due to learning disabilities, age, or lack of basic skills, who will pretty much have trouble no matter how good an instructor you are. Those students, of course, need special tutoring and assistance. The sooner that is recognized, the better off your organization will be.

CMR Executive Advisory

I wish I had the ‘magic wand’ answer to this question, Jessica. I don’t, but it’s a question any change agent should be asking.

I’m an old guy, so I’ve done a lot of this stuff over the years. From inside Andersen Consulting and Intel, and for dozens of client organizations.

The main thing I’ve learned is this: It’s about culture, and culture is about people.

The first step is to make a clear-eyed assessment of the macro-culture of the organization. Is it ‘tops down’? Capital-intensive and heavily regulated industries tend to be that way. Is it ‘network-oriented’? Consultative organizations of all kinds often exhibit that tendency, but it’s not automatic. The appropriate change strategy is fundamentally affected by the macro-culture.

Talk to senior leaders and front-line workers from a meaningful sample of business operations in making your assessment. Look at what they DO, not just at what they SAY. If allowed, perform a quantitative assessment of the ‘e-mail trail’. How extensive are the conversations? What percentage of messages have attachments? Is anyone using linked attachments? If you can look at message content, what percentage has to do with discovery (who knows what?, where is it?) vs. decision-making? Does exhibited behavior show up-to-date knowledge of how to use the current tools, or is it outdated?

Finally, what is the ‘tone’ of the communications? Does it reflect an ‘information hoarding’ attitude or a ‘sharing is intrinsically good’ attitude? A little ML/AI can go a long way in this area.

If you’re not afraid of discovering potentially scary things about your change subject, you might consider running a sentiment analysis on e-mail using tools such as those from KeenCorp.

Once you’ve got the profile understood and quantified, then it’s time to prepare for and execute the change itself. That’s a subject for another post. Many good ideas on that subject are already in this thread.

My personal mantra at the execution level is this: “Make sure that path you want folks to take is always the path of least resistance”. That turns out to be really hard to do, and most organizations do it poorly, usually because of excess reliance on the ‘Field of Dreams’ effect – “if you build it, they will come”. That only works in movies.

Hope this helps.

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From my experience, it has been WIIFM hands down…

At the end of the day, we always want to know ‘What’s in it for me?”, what is the benefit to my daily efforts to tackle the onslaught of tasks? Most folks are just trying to get through their work day as best as possible while avoiding snafus that derail progress. New technologies – especially those that are being pushed down – can get met with resistance, particularly if they are perceived as a potential hindrance.

It’s been apparent that communications, training, mandating and the like have their different levels of effectiveness, but when an individual grasps the the capabilities of a new technology and particularly how they the features help them. That is the kicker… Adoption of a new technology will never be as great as it can be if the users of the technology are not able to see how it assists them in some beneficial manner.


Consideration of the environment is definitely beneficial to plan the approach. Combining that with uncovering WIIFM within the organization as well as individuals will help with adoption.

A piece that I believe is imperative, especially if you are hands-on in the roll out, is being able to quickly establish relationships, trust and their confidence that you care. ‘People don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care’.

Print Audit

A colleague recently asked me, ‘Why don’t we just keep all the electronic content and records forever?’ The implication was that, as storage costs decline, why even have retention policies in place?

For some organizations, legal risk is the answer: old documents must be delivered if there is a subpoena, and they can expose the organization to risk through mis-interpretation, or exposure of prior mistakes from old documents that could have been legally deleted.

But not all documents present a legal risk, and indeed, why not keep forever the ones that present minimal risk? My answer was cost: documents and records decline in value to the organization as they get older, and at some point the value of the content will be less than even the very low cost of storage. Storage is not a 0 cost: aside from the physical drives, there is a cost to migrating content out of active repositories, maintaining search engines so you can still find stuff. There is a retrieval cost too: at least the cost of the individual’s time who has to search and discover whatever they are looking for. If that becomes too difficult, then the cost of keeping the content has exceeded any potential value.

What are others’ thoughts on this: how do you answer others who say we should keep all content forever? Are there other costs besides the storage, indexing and retrieval time which figure in the equation? Are there any organizations you know of that do keep basically everything for all time?


Thank you for this answer. We have had such discussions at my job, where some attorneys feel that we should keep things forever.

The World Bank

Eric, I agree with your general assessment regarding risk and cost.

Regarding your question, “why not keep forever the ones that present minimal risk?” I would answer that with another question: how do you know that it’s minimal risk? My experience has been that most people don’t know what they actually have, so the risk is in not knowing — and that’s what keeps them up at night. If you know what you have then you can probably classify it, and if you can classify it then you can more easily decide what’s worth keeping.

Zasio Enterprises Inc

Why not keep everything forever?
5. Storage is cheap but it isn’t free, so information that no longer has business or historical value should be destroyed.
4. Employee time is expensive and it takes more time to open 500 documents, 497 of which could have been destroyed to find the information you need than it does to open 3 documents to find the information you need. And they’ll be less likely to keep their own cache of records rather than file them with the organizations record keeping systems where they’ll be available to other employees who need the information to make good decisions.
3. It is cheaper to provide free credit monitoring for the one million people whose private information that you needed to retain was stolen by hackers than the five million people, four million of which you could have destroyed because it was no longer needed.
2. Your reputation isn’t damaged as much by a million people’s info being stolen than give million people’s information being stolen. Not as big a bang and people will be less likely to think your organization is poorly managed (loss of reputation.)
1. It is cheaper to pay your attorneys and paralegals to go through fewer documents for legal discovery.

My $.02 worth

Right on John!

Good advice from John Breeden (glad to see you are still active, even though retired, John!).

I would also add that keeping everything forever defies all records management principles
. There are definitely the administrative and legal disadvantages and, as John pointed out, the possibility of stolen information which may cause exponential damage – this is not only about reputation, but costly remediation. Which is properly managed in the first place would all be avoided.
In my personal opinion, the consequences of not managing information judiciously are too great to simply shrug one’s shoulders and maintain that it’s okay to keep everything forever.

Pennsylvania State Archives Pennsylvania Historical & Museum Commission

We naturally focus on the hard cost of doing this; the cost of storage, the cost of eDiscovery, etc. But I would argue that the soft cost is often more significant; distraction from core business at all levels right up to the executive layer, reduced confidence within the organisation and impact on reputation from outside. These are very personal risks, they affect people emotionally and are reflected across many things the organisation does.

You tend not to hear about these events in the public domain for obvious reasons. But they are very real. Bottom line, does the person who says ‘keep it forever’ want to be the person who causes what should be a straightforward process to become a quagmire for others to deal with over years. Likely not.


One issue I haven’t seen mentioned is Disaster Recovery (DR). Yes storage is cheap – although not as cheap as some may think. It’s not simply a case of adding a few cheap hard drives and you’re done – there is an infrastructure behind this which manages your storage, backup etc.

And backups are there for when the unthinkable happens. When you lose everything, when your server room burns to the ground, when your data centre explodes etc. etc.
OK, it’s far-fetched, but many companies are not as prepared as they think they are when it comes to DR. For many companies, their information and records are key to being able to operate.

So, when the unthinkable happens, and you have to recover your information, content, files, documents, data etc to be able to operate as a business, which is best:
1. Having to recover terabytes, possibly even petabytes of content which is old, no longer required, no longer useful and may not even be accessible (digital preservation is a whole other topic to consider) or:
2. Having to recover gigabytes, probably terabytes of well managed, relevant, accurate and up to date information which is needed for your business to operate and which may be recovered in hours or days rather than days or weeks.

Attric Limited

Many thanks to all of you for your inputs!

It seems to me that the reasons BEHIND the records management principle of not keeping everything forever, even for electronic records, boil down to 3 factors. Several of you have pointed out some of the issues — which may not be so obvious at first glance — that contribute directly to these 3 factors. I’ll summarize the ones that seem most salient, with attribution (if you think I’ve mischaracterized anything let me know… 🙂 ):

Factor 1: financial (hard) cost. Cheap storage is not free storage (John Breeden). Disaster recovery costs are driven up if you have much more content to recover (Paul Adamson). Some content will become inaccessible over time, requiring investment in digital preservation (Paul Adamson again). Remediation costs for breaches is greatly increased if you are keeping everything (John Breeden again).

Factor 2: soft cost including staff time and related issues. Keeping everything slows down retrieval of relevant content, and encourages staff to maintain private storage which is undesirable (John Breeden). It reduces confidence in the organization (Alister Grigg).

Factor 3: risk. Reputational risk for breaches is increased by keeping everything (Linda Avetta). What you think is risk free content may not be, since you don’t know with certainty what you have (though a good classification effort will obviously reduce this) (Warren Bean).

Have we missed anything really important?

For me the most interesting issues are those under soft costs: a content management system which is basically a perpetual dumping ground does seem likely to erode confidence in the system and in the organization it supports, and to encourage the use of unofficial alternatives. That’s not to say the other factors aren’t real..just that the soft costs seem to be less obvious at first glance, but in the long run maybe the most important ones for some organizations.


Hi Everyone,
2 years ago I researched this very question, and came up with an explanation of why all organizations need a data disposition policy, which not only answers why, but how:

Why data disposition should be part of your data retention policy
Tech remove preview Why data disposition should be part of your data retention policy
For most organizations, data retention means keeping data forever. As stated by founder and executive director at the Information Governance Initiative Barclay T. Blair in an interview with TechTarget for, “Here’s the lie about retention schedules: I don’t know of anyone who is using them to get rid of information.

CMR Executive Advisory

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