Having been a regular attendee of tradeshows and conferences for more years than I care to mention, I’ve been pleasantly surprised to see the increased investment in quality content and speakers.  Agendas are no longer filled with just vendor presentations; instead, show producers are tackling a broad range of topics including leadership, diversity & inclusion, corporate social responsibility, and more.  

At Unleash America, the HR event held in Las Vegas last week, there were sessions on talent strategies, learning and development, digital transformation as well as the more tech-based presentations. However, there was one particular set of sessions on the topic of “Adoption” which grabbed my attention.  I had the opportunity to hear a few speakers tackle the topic of “technology adoption” -- all took a slightly different approach but arrived at the same answer. For any type of technology adoption to be successful, change management and sustained user adoption needs to be front and center in the project plan.

Jim Hazboun, CHRO & CAO, at Hyundai Capital America, in his presentation shared some alarming stats on the topic of adoption:

  1. Over a third of UK companies consider themselves laggards in adoption of new technology
  2. A majority believe digital transformation is critical, and 63% said the pace of adoption is too slow
  3. 90% of change fails due to people issues


The last point was particularly concerning. In the race to deploy a new technology-based solution, the lack of a well-thought-out, people-centric change management strategy will consistently derail successful adoption.  Having been both a vendor and customer, I’ve seen this story play out. As a marketer, implementing a new tool starts with the dream of what “could be” but can quickly become the “nightmare” of ones and zeros sitting idle in the cloud if the people piece -- buy-in, training, monitoring -- aren’t part of the equation.

John Hampton, Director of HR Systems at UPS, shared his case study on the launch of Cornerstone HCM software at this $65B global logistics company. The rollout touched 165,000 employees in 80 countries. When we think about global rollouts, we often think “tech first” - let’s get the application or tool in the hands of the user with some onboarding training. The focus of the budget and the resources is often in the tech. John shared an amazing fact that two-thirds of their project budget was spent on training alone. UPS believes that success is about both achieving and sustaining user adoption.


Mike Ettling, former president of SuccessFactors (and Topia board member), provided guidance to the audience from the vendor perspective.  His view is that the project really starts from “go live”. With the rise of SaaS-based software, the need for Customer Success teams to help deploy and onboard customers has become a necessity in order to facilitate a successful “go live” and to ensure customer satisfaction so the client will renew at the end of the term. He pointed out that “adoption” is both a vendor and client problem. “A vendor needs to understand the context of the program and change effort. The client must invest in adoption. Implement for adoption, not for go-live.”  He shared some valuable “Adoption” client tips:

  1. Ask for transparency on mutual adoption metrics
  2. Ask for access to your vendor-based adoption and usage data
  3. Link perpetual contracts to adoption hurdles (vs. a simple renewal date)
  4. Consider putting an SI’s (systems integrator) fee at risk linked to 1st year adoption
  5. Put an Adoption Leader in charge of functional implementation

It was clear that this topic resonated with session attendees as there were a lot of nodding heads in the room. It was refreshing to see this the issue of sustained user adoption tackled head on along with a number of common sense ideas offered to help companies get the most out of their investment but more importantly see the change and associated benefits come to life for the organization as a whole.

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Julie Knight-Ludvigson

About the author

Julie Knight-Ludvigson

Julie is Topia's CMO and an experienced HR Tech marketer, leading global teams at Reflektive and SAP SuccessFactors.

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