3 steps for cracking the enterprise apps adoption strategy

Enterprise mobile apps have moved from ‘nice to have’ to ‘mission critical’ tools for many organisations in the recent times. A recent study has found that demand for custom apps that allows employees to be more productive is on the rise.

However, the process of deploying a mobile app for an enterprise is not only hard to navigate, but also taxing on the finances.

Organisations spend countless hours and a fortune working on the design, user experience, development, testing, infrastructure and finally training; only to realise that the seeds of the apps have sprouted weeds instead of fruits — and by this, I mean ‘low adoption’.

‘Adoption’ is the word that haunts most of the organisations when it comes to enterprise apps. As a product owner myself, after our product went live; with the roll out plan heavy on internal marketing (right from marketing videos, posters, surveys and town-hall meetings to other engagement activities) and dedicated trainings (pit stops, classroom trainings, refresher trainings and tutorial videos), I waited patiently to see the fruits of the effort the team had put in. I’ll be honest — at first, I was definitely not disappointed. The increasing adoption rate was really satisfying to see. But soon enough I realised that the beautiful graph of adoption was what we can call a ‘Typical Adoption’.

A typical adoption is a spike, followed by a dive after two to three weeks followed by a very long tail.

To give you a background, we had tried to follow almost all the best practices available for creating the good enterprise app. ‘Involve ends users upfront’ — check, ‘quick and multiple feedback loops’ — check, we even worked hard to get our internal marketing and training tactics right. As you get the point — I was pretty puzzled on why the adoption was taking a hit. So with a mind full of questions, I got down to do some industry research on adoption of enterprise apps.

During my research I found that an alarming 78 percent of the homespun apps are abandoned after the first use. Considering the large bets placed on digital and mobile and ‘All things digital’ theme being painted across enterprises, a slip in adoption can quickly turn into a landslide.

So I decided to take charge and chart out a strategy to analyse and fix the ‘typical adoption’ problem for enterprise apps.

Step 1— Analytics — Measuring the results

Everyone needs analytics. When it comes to adoption of mobile apps, analytics should be the basis of every decision taken — right from strategic to tactical.

Trying to improve adoption rate is like changing wheels of a moving car so that the car runs faster, and analytics would help you point out which wheels to change.

The metrics you would want to measure would differ based on the type of app you are dealing with. Holistically, there are two categories of apps — engagement driven and transaction driven. For our case in point, we would consider that the app is transaction driven.

Primarily, we need to look at two main buckets of data — performance and usage (no brainer).

However, getting the data categorised as per metrics is only the start. After we have the data in place, comes the herculean task — making sense of the data! And the best way to do this, as per what I did, is through segmentation approach. The first level is to identify the ‘Repeating customers’ versus the ‘One time customers’. You’ll be able to get this information via the retention and churn data. The reason why it is of utmost importance to get these two segments right is because you’ll have to analyse and handle these two segments in a very different manner. For repeating customers, you want to know why they came back to use your app, and for one time users — why then they didn’t.

The next step is to look for patterns within the segments. In my case, I was able to identify specific personas using the demographic information of the users and team structure.

Step 2 — Asking the Users — Survey & Interviews

In our case, gathering feedback is like killing two birds with one stone. First, it would give us actionable insights which would help us on our quest for higher adoption, and secondly talking to the users and taking their feedback makes them feel that you care enough to consider their views. This will increase the feeling of ownership and could win you with some internal advocates of the app.

We need different sets of information from the personas identified, and hence the best way is to design different short surveys based on the personas. The survey should not be very long and the user should be able to complete in 1 to 3 minutes. Any longer and you might lose their attention.

Surveys should be designed keeping in mind the potential problems users might be facing. This would streamline the thought process of the users and help you gather structured data rather than haphazard feedback with no actionable insights.

Once you have the survey data, analyse the responses to identify the top users who gave clear and useful feedback. These are the users with whom you want to discuss more and pick their brains for insights. Set up interviews (ideal length — 30 minutes) and gather detailed feedback.

Step 3 — Identify the problem

Now that you have all the data you need, it’s time for the moment of truth. This is where you map your findings, look for patterns and deduce potential reasons for the low adoption.

From my experience, there are 4 potential reasons why enterprise mobile apps fail.

1. Users fear disruption of existing processes

Change management is hard. People don’t like changes — unless something is really broken. While this may be one of the hardest issue to solve, it is definitely possible. Here are some suggestions to ease out the transition –

  • Communicate the benefits of the change clearly. This should be the core theme of your internal marketing.
  • Have a robust support initiative. The end users should never feel stranded with a pile of issues with the new system.
  • Use the top-down approach. A subtle push and guidance from management will reinforce the trust of the end users in your product.

2. Users don’t feel confident enough to use new technology for important processes. (Fear of screwing up)

Considering everything you do is related to technology in some way or the other, you would probably not face this problem. But my project has a very specific segment of users who weren’t comfortable using tablet devices. They preferred paper over a tablet, and that was one of the culprits. So here are some of the approaches we took to mitigate the issue –

  • One on one training sessions with the users. Users from this segment don’t usually come out and ask questions in group trainings (due to the fear of feeling stupid), leaving them with unanswered questions and hence leading to low or no adoption. Tip — include role plays during the training.
  • I would be repeating myself, but there is no replacement for a good support initiative. Make sure you are always reachable and in their radar.

3. (The most dreaded one) Priorities of the users versus value proposition

Fun fact — end users do not have spare time. So if your product demands them to spend time which doesn’t result in time saved down the line, it is very unlikely that they would keep using the tool. Thus, leading to the downward spiral in adoption rates.

While your product may still have a strong value proposition, that might not be what your end users are looking for.

In most cases, this issue should not happen if you have done your UX study right. But sometimes the processes are so complex (specially in financial institutions), that a digital clone of a manual process may end up being more taxing for the users.

While there might be way to coax your users to adopt your product even in this situation, I would recommend the hard way — going back to the drawing board.

4. Users aren’t aware of the capabilities of the product.

Alas, while we thought we had a failsafe training plan in place — we realised many of our users weren’t aware of what all they can do with the app. However, this issue is relatively easy to solve. Here are some tips on how you can do it better –

  • Opt for short videos which the users can refer to at their own time.
  • Make a FAQ page for the app on the intranet.
  • If your company has already jumped in the chat bot bandwagon — that is also a good idea.