Customer and User Success

IT User Adoption – a Question of Motivation

This famous clip from the movie Office Space is a quick reminder of one of the most commonly overlooked issues when implementing IT systems – motivating people to work. And sure, Initech is a fictional company, but it actually resembles a lot of organizations with which I have worked over the years. 

In this scene, the employee Peter Gibbons tells the efficiency consultants how his organization approaches motivation and the impact it has on his work efforts. Does this sound like your organization?

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How do you motivate people to use your IT system?

Whenever you implement an IT system, look at all things affecting employee motivation. Sometimes there are issues with compensation and incentives. Other times the management may actually be demotivating employees. 

As Peter says, “I have 8 different bosses right now…so that means when I make a mistake I have 8 different people coming by to tell me about it. That’s my only motivation – not to be hassled.”

Would WIIFM motivate this employee?

Convention wisdom (which is high on convention, and low on wisdom) often says that when implementing an IT system you should try to “sell people on what’s in it for me”. 

Do you think trying to sell Peter on WIIFM would work in this case? Of course not. There are bigger issues that need to be fixed here. And unless these other items are fixed, WIIFM will not work.

So, what will you do to make sure you have motivated people to use your system? Please share your thoughts and experiences with us on the Customer Success Practitioners group on LInkedIn.

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Increase Cloud Adoption: Ask users to use it

I often hear people talk about how they have a great system, if they could just “get those darn users to use it”. This usually digresses into a rant about “user resistance” and how “it’s really not that difficult” to use the system.

It is at this point, when I often ask people the simple question:

“Did you ever ask people to use the system?” 

WIIFM doesn't work. Tri Tuns recommends taking new approaches to user adoption, including having a strategic plan and a tool such as

Typically, the answer is a perplexed “no”. This is most often then followed by an exhausted vent about how there’d been training, a “communications strategy” and that they told all the users “what’s in it for me (WIIFM)”.  

About this time I usually start shaking my head in disbelief that there are still people out there who think that telling (more often, yelling) out the WIIFM message actually works. WIIFM doesn’t work. It simply doesn’t provide the right, measureable motivators and incentives for people to change their behavior. 

Truth be told, WIIFM is the easy way out and gets you nowhere. It’s the handing over of responsibility, leaving the deer-in-headlights users to motivate themselves to do something new, that they don’t know a bunch about and probably had no say in in the first place. How motivated would you feel? Not much, I’ll bet.

Most organizations never even ask users to adopt the cloud system

The sad reality is that the majority of organizations suffering with low user adoption of their cloud systems never even asked people to use the system. And nobody realizes it.

Many times when I ask the project team, they truly believe in each of their communications they did actually ask people to use the system. However, when I ask the users, I often hear some version of, “they told me the new system was coming, but they never told me what they want me to do with it.

Set SMART user adoption goals

A better alternative to the WIIFM message is to actively set SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-bound) user adoption goals for each user to achieve. Progressive goals, defined (weekly) for the first 3-6 months, explicitly stating and outlining what each user needs to accomplish help drive user adoption.  

Initial goals should get the users to perform the most basic operations quickly. Subsequent goals should build on preceding goals and slowly introduce users to more complex functionality that they might not use on a regular basis. For this we recommend a tool such as the portal, which includes progressive adoption goals as part of its core functionality. 

Measure who achieves their cloud adoption goals

Measure user adoption each week to see if users are actually achieving their goals.This takes consistent effort on the part of managers, including investigating any instances of missed targets to determine if there are barriers to adoption (that prevent people from using the system) or if this is a case of user resistance. Motivating managers to be pro-active usually requires appropriate incentivization and their own SMART goals.

Hold people accountable for using the system

Finally, no user adoption program works if you don’t actually hold people accountable for their actions. Incentives – and consequences – for hitting user adoption targets must be properly aligned, communicated and enforced.

Additional Resources

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Who owns the cloud in your organization?

So, your organization has begun to – or soon will – dabble in cloud computing.  Many organizations that move to the cloud start by looking at a wide range of cost, technical, legal and security issues that need to be considered.  Then they assign someone who is responsible for implementing and managing the cloud system.  

Tri Tuns asks: who owns your organization's cloud?And they often skip answering a critical question:  Who owns the cloud in the organization?  

What is cloud ownership?  What do you own?

Historically, many organizations will assign an Executive Sponsor for implementing a system.  There is often a system owner – someone, often in the IT organization, who has responsibility for the ongoing maintenance and enhancement of the system. But his work doesn’t constitute ownership any more than groundskeepers own the real estate they landscape.

So, who’s responsible for cloud IT success?  Specifically, you need to have someone who is accountable for driving, maximizing and sustaining effective user adoption of your cloud IT system. 

Assign ownership for cloud adoption, not just the technology

Cloud computing lowers an organization’s costs and shifts the burden of system development and maintenance from the organization to the cloud vendor because now you’re paying for service you use, not a product you own.   In turn, this shifts the metric organizations use for judging the success of an IT project.  Cloud IT is driving organizations to progress away from rewarding “on-time and on-budget” (product delivery) to “value created / ROI delivered from people using the system” (service delivery).  

With this new focus on ROI, organizations need to assign ownership for driving meaningful use of the cloud system throughout the organization.   

A senior executive – with proper incentives – must own cloud adoption & ROI

Tri Tuns recommends a senior executive is assigned responsibility and ownership of an organization's cloud.

Ensuring effective user adoption and ROI of your cloud system requires that a single individual be formally assigned accountability for results.  This also means they will need to have the authority, expertise and resources (budget, time, staff, etc.) to take action.  

Further, the senior executive must be sufficiently incentivized to make cloud adoption a priority.  The level of incentives will depend on the expected impact that effective system use will have on the organization.  

For major enterprise systems with the potential to greatly reduce costs or increase revenues, this may require a significant incentive such that failure to achieve ROI goals – or for exceptional results that far surpass expectations – will have a clear material impact on the executive’s compensation or future career prospects.

Additional Resources

User Adoption Quick Tips    Get our user adoption quick tips email

Cloud metrics    Read more about how to design the right metrics to improve user adoption.

CRM Adoption    Read how you can sustain high CRM user adoption

Leadership    Read about how to effectively lead IT projects

Project Assumptions, Software Adoption and the Underside of a Cat

This is the second in a five part series. Start at the beginning here.  


In the last blog I told you how I recently I came across a page of Mark Twain quotes and in reading them I realized that the insights and teachings of a man who died decades before modern information systems were even conceived may hold some of the greatest lessons for how to deliver successful technology adoption programs.   

So in this second installment of our look at Mark’s words in relation to assumptions and learning as they relate to IT user adoption programs. 

When examined in the context of various aspects of effective user adoption programs, Mark shows us some of the common mistakes and misplaced assumptions that often plague many IT projects.  

As I asked previously -- and will ask throughout this series -- how can you use Mark’s insights to deliver a more effective user adoption program?


Many people have opinions about how to drive effective user adoption, but far fewer have the experience, knowledge and ‘battle scars’ in successfully driving and sustaining adoption to truly be experts.  There are any many popular myths about user adoption that actually harm your user adoption efforts.  Some of our favorites include:

When you are considering all of the advice that is out there, ask yourself if the source truly has the right knowledge and experience to know that about which they speak.  


  • “If you hold a cat by the tail you learn things you cannot learn any other way.”

  • “Education is the path from cocky ignorance to miserable uncertainty.”

  • “Education consists mainly in what we have unlearned.”

Other Resources

None of us know what we don't know, but here are a few tools to help illuminate your situation:

  • Take our free User Adoption Challenge to see what specific user adoption issues you face on your IT project.

  • Read our free eBook on avoiding implementation failure (specifically CRM), and steps to achieve success.

  • Read about a new way to define IT success.
Or, contact us to learn more.