Posted by: datango AG | December 20, 2010

Will we ever be able to stop worrying about user adoption?

In a word, “No”. I’ve had a number of chats with people that have read the recent white paper by our very own Jochen Wiechen regarding the importance of user adoption in a SaaS/Cloud application context. The theme has been fairly consistent; namely, “will there ever be an app. that is so intuitive that user adoption problems just melt away?” To which I give the same response, “No.”

Why? Because I think it’s the wrong question to ask. The application isn’t the problem: Lawson, Epicor, Manhattan, Oracle, SAP, etc. don’t make ‘bad’ software (please don’t let that statement cause a barrage of emails by way of retort). The issue is that the application supports business processes. These processes are inherently unique (often, in fact, the source of significant competitive advantage). So ‘user adoption’ really defines the nexus of where the user, process and application all meet. And so long as we have differing, evolving or particularly onerous processes, we’re going to have to configure applications to meet specific organizational needs. And then we need to convey to the user how to operate the system within the context of their firm’s business process if we are to achieve effective adoption.

So what does all this mean for software? Well, it means that ISV’s will continue to pre-configure for the majority of use cases and optimize usability for those. But when the rubber meets the road in an individual client, the fact remains that the company’s process, rationale and the system need to be conveyed to the user. That can’t, by its very nature, be done ‘up front’ and ‘en masse’ for all organizations. Sure, you could develop an application that provides a wizard-like interface for a company’s business processes – but ultimately you end up with a new application at each and every client. So while applications may become increasingly intuitive, they’re still encumbered by the ‘unique’ processes that they were designed to support and the fact that awareness of, appreciation for, and a willingness to adhere to these processes by users will still present the biggest hurdle to achieving optimal adoption.

Your thoughts?
-Steve, datango

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