While SaaS vendors work hard to create excellent, intuitive software, they are not specialists in digital adoption. This is much like car manufacturers, who focus on external appearance and aerodynamics but don’t make the tires which ensure their latest model gets the maximum traction.

This approach works in both instances, as they include different areas of expertise which benefit from separate specialist attention. However, without all the right components in place, it’s far from certain a project will realize its full potential for the end-user—whether that is behind the wheel or in front of a screen.

For Mark Barlow, Founder & CEO of AppLearn, this unfulfilled promise inspired the launch of the company and our digital adoption platform, Adopt. And having helped many businesses to optimize and evidence the value of their enterprise software, Mark notes that a key part of this has been in helping standardized software to connect with unique users.

“I want to share with you some of the learning we’ve had over the last decade of getting our heads around user adoption and software.”

After a decade in the digital adoption field and many more in software integration, he believes the challenge of bespoke needs meeting standardized SaaS surfaces again and again.

The reasons different companies have for implementing a software, as well as the specific processes it supports, mean each project is already unique. However, this can then be multiplied by the different user groups and the way each individual works, as well as any quirks they have.

And while the trade-off of best of breed software vs modular suite solutions is an important factor, and is covered in more detail in Mark’s talk, this is more of a people problem than a product problem.

“We’ve got a clash here, between the customer wanting something really bespoke and businesses buying off-the-shelf, standard SaaS applications.”

Even when UI and UX are key development concerns, these only tend to influence the way a user uses a tool, not how it impacts on their day-to-day or why they should want to use it in the first place. Yet Mark still feels it would be unfair to assume SaaS vendors should bridge this gap.

The way software is laid out is only a small part of the problem, and most vendors’ standardized approaches would be at odds with enabling individual requirements. It would require a major change of strategy and investment for them to own this and have a real impact.

Yet, if it is not supported at product and project level, a one-size-fits-all software solution leaves digital adoption to chance. This can cause a gap that creates user frustration, poor data integrity and, as a result, unsafe reporting. Not exactly the results promised in the business case behind a software investment.

“80% of the problems with adoption are down to processes not being supported, and only 20% is to do with UI.”

SaaS can be a revolutionary solution for enterprise businesses, particularly in terms of fast deployment, global consistency and low total cost of ownership, but adoption challenges often lie with people and processes. As a result, it’s unfair to expect SaaS to reach its full potential and fix process problems by itself.

Whether the gap is between a car and a surface or a standardized software and its unique users, it needs to be closed to enable full performance. Fortunately, digital adoption platforms like Adopt can do this, by not only adding to a UI but, crucially, supporting processes and enabling real business outcomes.


Mark Barlow | The Adoption Track

Insight by

Daniel Gripton

Insight by

Daniel Gripton