Ah, the age old question. How do you make sure when you spend money on a new tool for your organization that people actually use it? Just what is it about internal adoption that can be such a challenge?
According to Forbes, part of the problem may be substandard user interface design, a confusing user experience, or badly crafted processes. But as companies become smarter and smarter about designing UX that users will actually like, how can you ensure your investment will benefit your organization?
To answer these questions I sat down with Edan Golomb, Enterprise Customer Success Manager, here at Sisense. As part of Edan’s role, he works hand in hand with customers to ensure they are getting value from our software – including how to make sure adoption is at an all time high.
Q: Can you give me an overview of what your day to day looks like when speaking with customers?
“On a day to day basis I’m working with our customers to make sure they are getting value from Sisense. This can include making sure that their dashboards are being used and well adopted within the organization, helping to understand what their needs are and what kind of product requirements or feature requests they might have and then funneling those to the product team, and looking after all of the tickets or support issues they may have.”
Q: What are some of the common conversations you’re having with customers?
“I meet with my customers on a weekly basis and typically we talk about the kinds of insights they’re getting from the dashboards. We’ll do a holistic review of the dashboards and go over what story the dashboards are trying to tell, who is using the dashboards, and what kind of impact they’re having.
Often, the conversations I’m having consist of the customer saying ‘Hey, we built this dashboard and it looks great but I’m not seeing the adoption I want from the end users.’ So from there, we’ll strategize together about how to get more end users involved, how to maybe make adjustments the dashboards so they’re more impactful for the end users, and so on. The main focus of these calls is to work with each customer to work on value and adoption. How can we change the strategy to get people using Sisense and finding insights they couldn’t find without it?”
Q: When it comes to adoption, what do you think the underlying challenge is?
“Behavior shifts, for sure. A behavior change when adopting a new technology can sometimes be a difficult hurdle to overcome, depending on an organization’s end users. Many of the end users are used to receiving a paper report in their inbox at the end of the week that’s tabular, static, and has tons of pages. So, when you move to something that is web based and interactive, it’s a different mindset.
You have to sometimes coach people through how to approach the new tool and help them learn that they can do way more than they were used to doing with paper reports.
More broadly though, I’d actually break down the underlying challenges into three general areas: culture, ownership, and process.”
Q: Let’s start with culture. Walk me through the ‘why’ and how you approach fixing it.
“Culture really ties directly in with the behavior shift I just mentioned. Using business intelligence, or becoming a data driven culture, can be something new to an organization. Before implementation, it could be that they’re not all playing with data or that there may only be a few people at the top who own the data. The idea with BI though, and specifically what we focus on, is democratizing the data and making it available for anyone to look at the numbers and make better decisions.
Part of the way we solve for this is trying to get the end users who we want to be more data-driven more involved in the process so that we can understand their day to day pain points. We do this by identifying a champion within the customer’s organization and speaking to them about their needs.
For example, someone in operations may want to know some number around service level agreement or their productivity and they say to me ‘Well, the way it works today is that I have to wait for a report at the end of the week,’ or ‘I have to go to John and he gives me the numbers.’ Following that, the idea is to teach them that they no longer have to wait around and empower them to go look for the numbers on their own.
We basically introduce the concept of data and why it’s important to the champion and then he or she expresses that down to everyone else. So he or she will then give a ‘Lunch and Learn’ or workshop around Sisense and discuss how it helps individual people do their job better. It’s super important in these workshops and sessions that the champion gives real life examples to help people understand and make the mind-shift to become more data driven.”
Q: Moving on to ownership, which seems a little less obvious. How does ownership challenge adoption?
“We start to work with IT or with a small group initially but sometimes it’s not really clear who the owner of Sisense is within an organization from an executive level. Sometimes it’s not even clear who the owner is after the project is launched.
Obviously, when you’re implementing BI it makes sense that IT is the owner but as soon as the product is out internally and people start to use it the questions are: Who is responsible for maintaining Sisense? Who is responsible for expanding the scope and driving users to actually adopting the software?
We have a model that we use for ownership. Really, the way we see it is that we find a power user – someone who is analytics oriented and knows the business very well – and empower them to become the owner. So they then become responsible for making sure new dashboards are added, ensuring that their teammates are using it, a shopping dashboards around and getting other areas of the business interested.
On top of that, though, it’s just as equally important to have management sponsorship. Otherwise, if you don’t have that budget owner or somebody that has a seat at the executive’s table then it’s more difficult to get buy-in from new departments or new users to log in.”
Q: How then does process, the third challenge, come into play?
“With process, a lot of times organizations get a BI project going, they build something, but they don’t know how to create a consistent machine around producing new dashboards, getting new users on the system, and making sure everything is working right.
So, we have a BI methodology that we share with all of our customers. In the methodology, we make sure it’s key that business users, IT, and management are involved in every step of the cycle.
The beginning of the cycle is the planning stage with the business user and the Sisense owner, where they plan out the requirements for the project together. Following that they get the everybody involved, including the customer’s internal data person to make sure we can build out the requirements that were gathered. In this step, we actually map out the dashboards and data to see how everything will flow together and scale. We then do even more detailed planning around the dashboards, build out the Elasticubes and dashboards, release them the user group, gather feedback, and then repeat.”
Q: Why this methodology? Why do you think it works?
“The key for a solid implementation is really iteration. Something we’ve seen with adoption is that people want to wait until they have a dashboard that’s fully baked, and has everything the end user could possibly want, before sending it out. The beauty of this cycle is that you can put even a basic dashboard out, get feedback, and iterate so it gives you a faster time to market, get people using the software much quicker, and ultimately get better adoption.
It’s so much easier to do when you have something up quickly. This way also allows all of the end users to feel like their needs are being met and taken into account upon iterations of the dashboards.”
Q: So if you were on the other side of the table trying to implement BI in your organization, where would you focus your energy?
I think the biggest piece of advice is to get your end users involved as soon as possible and try to understand how you can provide some value added to them. So, you’re not just trying to replicate what they have today but instead, give them something new.
I’d also try to understand what type of other applications they interact with today and how they think about interacting with software. This way I can try and keep that same user flow or workflow in mind when I’m designing for my Sisense implementation. So, for example, if someone is used to going to a lot of different tabs maybe you want to enable something similar. Or, if they want one place for everything, you want to do something similar where you consolidate and make the experience easily digestible for them.
It’s also important to make sure to have one of these end users involved in the process every step of the way. This way they can critique and say if what is being done is actually relevant to the business.
Finally, I’d be sure that I communicate to the BI provider what my vision is. So, not just where I’m going with this in the short term but also what the big picture is and what the goals are for the next 12 to 18 months. This allows the provider to help the customer much more if they understand where they’re ultimately going. In the same vein, it’s important to have a clear project plan and timeline that you communicate to the provider to make sure that everyone stays on task and makes sure they reach the dates initially agreed upon. Having these dates allows the customer to push us and allows us to push them so that they get the most out of their BI implementation.”