Just as in any digitalization project, it is people who will make or break digital administration. They will decide whether or not the targeted improvements have the desired effect and achieve cost-effectiveness in administrative processes. This is where user adoption comes in, as the indicator of the attitude employees develop toward the new digital administration tools and the extent to which they use these new tools.
Key to a high level of user adoption is targeted support for employees in completing their tasks, frequently involving one or more specialist applications. However, the user-friendly design of such applications, discussions with staff and the restructuring of organizational areas also play a vital part in keeping the workforce on board with the changes. The following six building blocks provide a guide for how to boost user adoption in a targeted way so as to smooth the path toward state-of-the-art administration.
1. Structured planning as a basis for user adoption
The structuring of user adoption should begin at an early stage – preferably right at the start of the digitalization project. Key drivers include intensive communication, efficient training measures and active knowledge management. The communication plan you put together for this purpose should highlight the added value associated with the digitalization project and provide employees with information about the measures and options that will support them on the path to the new way of working. A training concept will set out differentiated training options for the different target groups.
Before you start, get yourself an overview of the following points:
- What will change as a result of the digitalization, e.g. through implementation of the Online Access Act (Onlinezugangsgesetz, OZG)? Which members of staff and processes will be affected?
- Which challenges will arise for staff as a result? How can user acceptance be boosted at these points?
- What resources are available?
- What is the schedule?
Structure the issues according to how much added value they bring and how urgent they are, and review this regularly. Include this planning in your eGovernment master plan.
2. Professional change management supports user adoption
Encourage willingness to change among employees by including them in the process from the outset and transparently communicating why the change is needed, what their new roles will be, and what tasks will be involved. Expect and anticipate concerns and resistance. Take objections seriously, and ensure employees feel that their concerns are being heard.
In practice, employee support provided by three groups – disseminators, change agents and managers – has proven to be successful. Key users of the specialist procedure who communicate well and are open to and interested in change make excellent disseminators. Change agents are methodically trained, offer a bigger picture perspective and can help resolve conflict, while managers represent the goals of the organization and lead by example. Experience has shown that change processes are particularly successful when these three groups all pull together and make themselves available as points of contact for their colleagues.
3. Having the correct information at the correct time helps user adoption
The more targeted the way in which employees are able to build up the skills they need, the more quickly and readily they will accept the redesigned administrative processes and digital solutions. You should therefore put together a training matrix that provides information about which employees need which skills. Include everyone involved in the process – across departments and hierarchical levels. You can use personas – imaginary people who represent the different roles in the department concerned – to define the requirements and work out the specific skills needed by individual employees.
In addition to the selection and timing of knowledge transfer, methodology is also key to user adoption. Blended learning has now become an established element of training. This combines in-person events with other, digital modules to create flexible learning scenarios that take account of the different needs and levels of learning of individual staff members. Your users receive additional support directly at their workplace in the form of both key users and intelligent digital tools (digital adoption solutions) that guide them through stages of the procedure step by step.
4. Agile skills building helps user adoption
Employees’ roles and tasks and the use of specialist applications are frequently very fast-moving, and every change involves mastering new skills quickly. By offering digital learning options that are anchored in the tasks and working context of employees, you can generate acceptance and encourage user adoption. By putting your employees in a position to access these learning options exactly when they need them – while they are working with the specialist application, for example – you will encourage the agile growth of their expertise based on independent learning.
When providing digital resources, take account of the following points:
- How detailed does the assistance need to be – in relation to any given procedure, for example?
- At which point in the work process do staff need which information?
- How can content be produced quickly enough and kept up to date? Not every format or technology is suitable for this.
- What kind of budget is available to you for these measures?
5. Suitable tools anchor user adoption
User adoption never starts on a blank slate, and any training traditionally builds on previous in-person and online training. A SharePoint is also often in place as a knowledge management solution, and the roll-out is accompanied by experts, who act as floor runners or offer support to employees from the other end of a telephone line.
To ensure user adoption continues to rise and is anchored in administration for the long term, it is worthwhile using digital adoption platforms. These are specialist software programs that help boost user acceptance and include the following functions:
- During a work step, they display information for users that can help them complete the task they are working on, e.g. a step-by-step guide. Ideally, the digital adoption solution guides users through the entire process across various different applications.
- The learning content is tailored precisely to the role and/or function of individual employees.
- Whenever there are revisions to a process or changes to software, training materials and tools can be updated on a (partially) automated basis.
- All tools are provided centrally through a single point of contact.
6. User adoption concepts integrate learning content from all departments
Generally, three pillars form the basis for organizing user support – the training department, which takes care of conventional staff development and training; a project team that undertakes the IT training for the specialist procedure; and the user help desk and key users that provide support after the go-live.
Concepts for boosting user adoption change this structure. They integrate every aspect and pool the learning content from different areas and departments. In effect, digital adoption platforms bring training materials, quick guides for the workplace, responses to current issues and proactive information about changes under a single roof.
Successful user adoption is based on regular communication, systematic skills building, and ongoing support before, during, and after the go-live. There is no one-size-fits-all solution. Every authority has to decide for itself where to put its focus and how to keep its staff on board with the digital transformation. However, administrations that address the questions raised here have the best chances of achieving a high level of acceptance among staff for the new digital administration tools and enabling efficient usage.