Posted by: datango AG | June 20, 2011

Usability versus user adoption…

I was recently in a meeting with an individual from a CRM vendor and I was challenged with the following statement:
 
“Soon, CRM systems will be so intuitive and the generation leveraging them will be so IT-savvy that user adoption of these systems will be less of an issue.”
 
Without wanting to get into a lengthy debate regarding the validity of this statement, I responded with my tactful, “I respectfully disagree…” and moved onto how our technology can help accelerate system deployments rather than enhance user adoption. Nevertheless his comment has been rattling around in my head for almost a week and I feel compelled to put my thoughts on the topic ‘out there.’ So here goes…
 
Usability (namely the ease with which one might intuit how to operate/navigate through an interface) addresses just one piece of the user adoption equation. For me, user adoption isn’t just Sales Person + Intuitive CRM System = Adoption rather it is Sales Person + Process Knowledge + Policy + Relevant Environmental Information + CRM System (Intuitive or Otherwise) = Adoption.
 
Lets take a simple CRM example of ‘adding a new opportunity’ to the system and assume, for the sake of argument, that the CRM system itself is so ‘usable’ that learning how to traverse the fields and actually process the new opportunity is exceptionally intuitive. What else is needed? Lets take each in turn:
 
Process Knowledge – Adding an opportunity to the system is a subset of the sales process. Information pertaining to what constitutes an opportunity, actions that need to have been taken prior to adding an opportunity all need to be explicit in the greater context of the overarching sales process if they are to be truly understood and accepted.
 
Policy – Similarly, most opportunities require certain information to be captured and documented as they are deemed critical to asses the viability of the opportunity. Typical examples would be things like budget availability, timeline/steps to purchase, probability of closure based upon certain criteria, etc. All of which are important related information regarding the opportunity that require greater insight than merely a knowledge of how to leverage the CRM system itself.
 
Relevant Environmental Information (REI) – As with all enterprise systems, there’s ‘other stuff’ that surrounds the end user and their role which also encompasses their use of the system. In my simple example above, one of these REI might be effective sales skills. Clearly, when trying to secure adoption of the process of adding an opportunity into the CRM system, important related information might be how to effectively sell and manage that opportunity through the qualification stages. While not explicitly process, policy or CRM-related, it is important information that ought to be reinforced.
 
In summary, the answer really lies in the true objectives behind the initiative. Is it really just about learning to add new opportunities into a system or is it about selecting a CRM system that supports a sales approach and process that improves sales productivity? If it’s the latter, then an intuitive user interface to the CRM system can only get you so far.
 
Do you agree?
 
As you ponder that question, I’ll leave you with this:
 
Dilbert on User Training

Dilbert on User Training

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