Introducing the Six Pillars of Digital Adoption

Through years of experience seeing organizations succeed and fail when implementing new digital technologies, I began to see common trends in adoption problems throughout each implementation.

“I have analyzed hundreds of thousands of support tickets which show that most adoption issues sit outside of the software itself.”

Adoption challenges fall into six clear pillars. Here at AppLearn, we call these The Six Pillars of Digital Adoption. When considering the impact that an investment in digital technology will have on your business and your users, you can use the six pillars to guide your change, communication, training and support strategy.

I believe that if businesses use the six pillars to shape their strategic thinking, they are much more likely to plan for a strategy that leads to high-value digital transformation.

Digital technologies are transforming the business landscape. From autonomous logistic vehicles to new cloud technologies, the world of digital is just beginning. Interestingly, for many organizations, the Achilles heel of digital transformation success relies very much on peoples ability to adopt new technologies.

There is no clearer view of the direct effect that adoption can have on digital transformation ROI than the well-publicized statistic from McKinsey that over 75% of transformation projects fail to deliver their intended ROI. The issue is that often the software is regarded as being the main culprit for poor user adoption and subsequent poor ROI.

“Software adoption is one small part of the digital adoption puzzle. Don’t fall into the same trap others before you have.”

In my experience, many businesses have tried to replace internal technologies with other competitive products only to experience the exact same challenges. This demonstrates that software is not the only item in play and digital adoption extends beyond just software.

Exploring the Six Pillars

For those of you who have or are thinking of investing in new digital technologies then consider the following when evaluating the impact that your new digital technology will have on your organization.


Is your forthcoming digital transformation a change in strategy for the organization and the users that will be interacting with it? Examples of this would be a new recruitment technology that allows you to source candidates through social channels whereas before this was facilitated through job boards. This would represent a change in strategy that will ultimately affect end users.


Does your current or proposed digital transformation represent a change in culture or ‘the way we’ve always done things? The most common example of this is organizations that look to create a self-service culture for day-to-day transactional activities like booking leave or submitting expenses. In the past, this would have been facilitated through HR and as such requires a mindset shift.

“Why am I doing HR’s job for them? A common theme that comes from a self-service cultural change.”


Are you implementing a digital technology that will require people to ‘behave’ in a different way? This is often synonymous with transformations that require people to absorb new responsibility or accountability as part of a transformational change. It is also very common for processes that require human intervention such as recruitment or sales. In these examples, poor behavioral adoption can affect a persons ability to hire the right candidate or sell.


Will your forthcoming transformation require an amendment to existing or the introduction of new processes? In many cases, technology is purely an enabler of a wider business process. It gives us benefits to enact the process better, faster and more accurately. Processes, however, can be complex. They can require multiple sign off steps and human interaction or intervention. As such, a persons ability to adopt a process is equally as important as the technology or the materials that support it.


Does your forthcoming transformation require your users/colleagues to adopt new skills in order to execute tasks to a high degree of quality? This may mean the ability to analyze and identify things in a different way than they have done before or perhaps engage with people or technology in a different way.


Inevitably, your users/colleagues will have to, in some way, interact with a new technology. This will almost certainly mean users will require an element of training in order to be able to navigate through and complete tasks. Remember that ‘intuitive UI and UX’ is in the eye of the beholder.

For more information on this topic check out this article.

By understanding the impact of your forthcoming or existing organizational transformation, you are better equipped to deal with it. I speak to some organizations that are right at the beginning of a transformational journey and some that are unfortunately one of the 75% that are failing to see high ROI. In each case, these practitioners can use the six pillars to shape their plans or diagnose issues related to an existing transformation implementation.

About the Author: Andrew Barlow is the VP, Innovation and Advocacy at AppLearn, a leading provider of cloud technologies designed to help organizations adopt large technology transformation projects. After years of experience evaluating the relationship between people and technology, Andrew’s brainchild was the Adopt platform, a people-centric support tool designed to help people embrace change and technology. Andrew is a driven innovator that loves to solve problems through technology. You can follow Andrew on LinkedIn.