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The “Intentional Approach” to Technology Adoption Part 6: Using Technology Adoption Theory

Posted by Trent Parkhill on May 6, 2011

Maximizing adoption requires understanding the motivations of different groups of users and tailoring your deployment messages and materials to address their perspectives. Technology adoption guru Geoffrey Moore suggests that the best way to drive broad adoption is to begin with the group at the top of this table, and as you succeed in achieving adoption within each group, use that group to help engage the next group in the table.

So, what are some of the ways we can use what we know about these groups to encourage them to adopt a new technology? And how do members of each group affect the other groups?

While the recommendations below apply to implementation of all new technologies, let’s use an enterprise search project to illustrate the points.

Innovators

Do not confuse innovators with early adopters. Innovators will hear your message and adopt, but their attention will move on to other things quickly and they will tend to not spread the word.

However, seeing that innovators have adopted a new technology can encourage some early adopters to look at it. So, while not critical to overall adoption, innovators should not be ignored in the early roll out– send them links to search when you roll out search to your pilot group.

Early Adopters

It is likely that you will be able to identify some of your innovators and early adopters from the description in blog post Part 6. Include the early adopters you know in a roll-out pilot group (more on the pilot later). On their own initiative, the early adopters you include in your pilot group will help spread the word and drive adoption by:

  • Creating buzz,
  • Encouraging staff to attend the roll-out presentations,
  • Leveraging teachable moments (many people come to the early adopters for information – early adopters will use search and explain what they did)

Early adopters, without prompting, will be the ones carry on the repetition of the message once the full roll out is complete.

Early Majority & Crossing the Chasm

Early majority users require multiple references to tell them the technology is worth adopting, and they prefer those references to be from the other pragmatists in the early majority group; they are skeptical of technology enthusiasts.

While the early majority prefers references from their group, multiple references and demonstrations from the early adopters will encourage some of the early majority to try out the new technology. If they have great first experiences, these initial early majority converts will help spread adoption in the rest of their group.

It is advisable to augment this approach with Geoffrey Moore’s concept of bridging the gap between the early adopters and the early majority by establishing a niche group within the early majority. While Moore was suggesting targeting market segments, this concept could be extended to include groups within a company. Using this strategy to gain adoption of enterprise search might include:

  • Find a small group of mostly early majority pragmatists. This could be a corporate department (other than IT or Marketing) or a specific business unit.
  • Get buy in from the group’s manager – a confirmation that they will insist that all members of the group learn how to use and start using search on a regular basis.
  • Use group training and personal attention to make this group highly successful users of search.

This group will then help create buzz and act as references to other early majority users. The goal is to use this group, like kindling, to start a small fire in the more skeptical early majority parts of your company. The more of these niche group fires you start, the faster adoption will take off.

Success with the early adopters, a well functioning search deployment, use of niche early majority groups, and good targeted messaging are the keys to adoption by users who have an early majority temperament.

Late Majority

Once innovators, early adopters, and the early majority have embraced search, you should be through about half of your company. A combination of carefully targeted messaging and the fear of being left behind will begin to bring in the late majority users.

Laggards

All energy spent on the laggards group is wasted. They almost never change, and efforts to try and get them to change will be futile.

Most importantly, remember that while you might be interested in exploring all things new, that most of the people in your company are not; adoption of your new technology or approach may be doomed to low adoption if you do not keep this in mind and address the perspectives of these groups!


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