NOTE: Enterprise technology and Microsoft 365 (M365) customers are predominantly the context for this post but hopefully it is still useful more broadly. In this context, I define onboarding as the set of activities related to the initial provisioning and orientation of a technology for users. It should ensure that users have seamless access and knowledge of what to do when first logging in and orienting themselves with the product. Just some of the basic things to consider:
- SSO. Single Sign On, especially where an organisation has many different applications, is key when launching a new product so users login just once.
- Orientation. This should be provided especially if the context of what came before is complex and the degree of difference with existing tools, workflows or habits is high. This could be included under next point.
- In-product guidance. Probably the best way to onboard customers is through intuitive, built-in product tours. Either built by the vendor or through third parties. There are a ton of companies doing this now, Candu, WalkMe, to name but a few of the good ones.
Beyond this is the slightly longer term journey (beyond initial access and orientation) you want to take users on to ensure adoption doesn’t fall off a cliff after those first stages. Also that adoption continues on a steady exponential growth path to value. This ultimately goes beyond the technology and how to use it but focuses on organisational outcomes (see also point 7 in list at the bottom).
It’s also important to consider this if your product does not naturally benefit from spontaneous adoption. Spontaneous adoption is when users start using the product without any additional type of intervention. Reasons could vary but some are because its is in high demand and/or so easy to use that they don’t need any help with it.
If you are not so lucky either as the vendor of the product or the person responsible for deploying it in a company, these are the things you need to focus on next. Each will take your adoption efforts to the next level, exponentially. Think of it is growth hacking. This is especially useful to those responsible for adoption in an organisation where they are thinly stretched or are dealing with many thousands of users in large organisations.
Platform effects. Using the product to support the product if at all possible, is highly desirable. In the case of M365 that is very easily the case as you’ll see from the screen shot and descriptions below. This embeds learning, knowledge and value of using the tool into the tool naturally.
Network effects. Champions and community building should be used to amplify the adoption. This takes some effort to get started but once you do and with a bit of ongoing nurturing, the network will take care of itself and most importantly, the users and their adoption of technology.
Scale effects. Self service and tech touch is essentially what we are talking about. Especially with AI, BOTS, automation and machine learning this is becoming easier and better. Put the machine to work as it where and after some initial set up and configuration and of course ongoing maintenance, it will pretty much take care of the job while you are sleeping.
One size fits all?
If I was ever to suggest a one size fits all approach it would be to build a web based portal with something like SharePoint. That’s because with the right platform you can serve the most components to do the job. But the simple fact is there is no one size fits all with these things. Below is an example screenshot of what the landing page could look like of a portal I would create for users and below that a brief description of the key elements.
But when it comes to Microsoft 365 for instance, I know that these days there are many preferences for alternative front ends. For example, there is the Champion Management Platform that is built on PowerApps and mostly served through Microsoft Teams. Again, there are no hard and fast rules, as long as you holistically manage this activity for users seamlessly and ideally in one place. Each of the components I cover below (the important thing) can pretty easily be served in Teams just as well as in SharePoint.
- Community and Champions. I’m not going into the details of what and how these is best served (read more about this in the Champion Management Platform page or check out what partners like Changing Social are doing). Suffice it to say that whether it was in Teams or SharePoint that was the centre of your efforts, you can easily bring these components to the fore on a landing page like the one above. For example, Yammer (Microsoft’s Community Platform) can easily be brought into SharePoint or Teams.
- Understanding Usage and Gamification. Understanding usage levels is normally for those responsible for adoption but there is no reason you cannot share some elements of that with users. It will serve to gamify things to an extent and spur on further adoption, as long as they see others adopting the technology at good rates. In the screenshot you see the usage dashboard from the M365 Usage Analytics App built on PowerBI. I just dumped the entire dashboard in the screenshot but no need to do that – maybe just a few components. And in terms of real gamification, again check the Champion Management Platform for clues on how to go the whole hog.
- Support. In the screenshot above I share how this can be done using ServiceNow Virtual Agent which is being increasingly used by IT departments. Its’ a BOT for end users that answers questions and can raise tickets to resolve issues that are more intractable. But you could also use Microsoft’s FAQ Plus BOT available for free on GitHub. Other than the attractive price (there are some usage costs based on where you host it) it also can incorporate experts or champions when the “machine” does not have the answer with a simple ticketing system. You can also easily build on your FAQ knowledge base on the fly.
- Learning. Viva Learning is a new module from Microsoft in its Employee Experience Platform called Viva. Arguably this entire endeavor I am talking about here (the adoption of a new technology platform) is a mini employee experience endeavour but I wont go into that for now. Suffice it to say that Learning is key. In the screenshot I have just shown some videos which is a way to offer self-paced training. But you could go much much further. Also check out Microsoft 365 Learning Pathways which can be incorporated in Viva or can be served standalone and incorporated into a SharePoint site (since it is based on SharePoint).
- Mapping the destination. What is important here is to tell people where you are heading, what you are doing to help them get there, why it is important and also to get their input through feedback and other involvement. Its also important to share progress and outcomes (covered in the last point below).
- Getting feedback. Getting feedback should not only be done through surveys. Really dig into how people are progressing or feeling through sentiment analysis, interviews, etc. And get executives involved so they feel the pleasure or pain. They should anyway be involved as the most important stakeholder group in your adoption efforts.
- Capturing and sharing outcomes and success. Outcomes should be quantified as much as possible. I’ve spoken about how this should be managed before but the key thing is to find a good way to capture progress and share stories of the final outcomes (emphasis on creating stories). Nothing succeeds like success after all.