Building a leading DAP operation
Picture this: You’re a (really good) project manager – maybe in L&D, communications, HR, or IT. You are so good, in fact, that your boss just asked you to help lead an exciting new initiative called “digital adoption” that will help the organization improve efficiency, finally make your users self-sufficient, reduce training and operational costs, AND give users the modern experience they’ve been begging for.
Sounds like a good career opportunity – and it is! But, in order to do it right, you’re going to need some pointers on how to build an effective digital adoption platform (DAP) program. As someone with experience building digital adoption programs and teams, often as a team of one, I’ll share with you some things I wish I knew before getting started.
This article will provide you with five tips and a bundle of resources that you can use starting right now to help grow your program’s demand and reputation, regardless of headcount, location, or experience. If this sounds good, read on!
Seeing is believing
Did you know that around 65% of the population are visual-based learners or that it takes our brain less than 13 milliseconds to process an image (Trafton, 2014)? Our time is valuable and attention spans are short. So, by making your DAP discussions visual, you’ll be doing everyone a favor.
A lot of what we do is on-screen in nature, so whenever you can, create a demo or mockup of your concept instead of just explaining how it works. Cutting right to the chase with stakeholders in a visual way gets them involved in the art of the possible. Do this early and do this often!
Pro tip #1: Remember that people are generally afraid of what they don’t understand. Nip that in the bud with visual aids. When they see it, they almost always understand. When they understand it, they’re not afraid. When the fear is gone, they can collaborate–and that is a sure-fire way to build trust and increase the demand for your work.
Listen more than you speak
We all have a voice inside our head that just wants to be heard. It’s natural for most of us to want to speak, especially when we have expertise in something. But when I’m on a call, and information is flying in fast, I often miss something critical. Why? Because I’m hearing, but not truly listening. It is almost impossible for us to simultaneously listen to what someone is saying while our inner monologue is trying to suss out what it wants to say next.
As DAP professionals, the platforms and processes we build on are complicated, and some very important details will inevitably be missed if all you’re doing is thinking of your next words. I promise you that better listening today will improve your outcomes tomorrow, and solidify the trust you work so hard to build with your stakeholders. The more you listen to your stakeholders, the more likely you are to uncover new areas where DAP can help solve problems.
Pro tip #2: This requires practice; but, when you hear that little voice inside your head trying to barge to the front of the line, try this instead: turn the volume up on your device, close your eyes (not recommended while driving), and focus all of your presence on what’s being said. You’ll thank yourself, because if you’re anything like me, you’ll likely start to see how you fall back on talking just for the sake of sounding authoritative.
Don’t be afraid to throw things in the trash
Ever do something nice for someone and it feels good? That feeling is actually easily explained by science (Pell, 2021). When we help others, oxytocin is produced in our brains, which triggers the release of something called nitric oxide which reduces blood pressure. When someone asks me, “Can we solve X using DAP?”, the answer is probably yes, and I’m compelled to help out because I enjoy it. But, should we use it to solve everything?
My experience says no. We all know how powerful the DAP toolset is, and most of us get enjoyment out of helping others, but not everything belongs on your or your team’s plate. Some of the scenarios where I’ve seen this come up are:
- A vendor or development team is unwilling or unable to prioritize a new feature, so they ask you to do something unreasonable or overly complicated
- A sensitive or high value monetary transaction requires creative process routing, automation, or risk-controls that are too critical of an operation for your team to be responsible
- A bug causes immediate negative downstream impact in other systems that really requires a long-term code fix
Pro tip #3: Be as helpful as you can, but trust your instinct. If something doesn’t feel like a good fit, or if it’s going to require significant maintenance or oversight, don’t be afraid to politely decline the use case.
People need a master generalist
Digital adoption means achieving a state in which users gain the ability to use digital tools as they are intended and to their fullest extent. If our goal is to influence behavior to this degree, I’ve found that the experience that got most of us here may not be enough to get the job done effectively – especially if you’re a team of one. As a homeowner, you may fix some things yourself, but generally you know who to call when you’re out of your depth or have a big home improvement project to complete.
In a professional sense, ask yourself if you have the necessary know-how to employ the principles of user experience (UX), change management, business analysis, compliance, product management, IT architecture, customer success, value management, and cost benefit analysis, etc. You may know some bits and bobs, but it’s highly unlikely you’re an expert in all.
We’re trying to build a good strong house here, and these examples of adoption-adjacent disciplines are areas that we, as DAP professionals, need to know a thing or two about to be successful.
Pro tip #4: Nobody expects you to be an expert in all domains. Still, to achieve such an ambitious adoption outcome, you’re going to need to at least speak the language for the sake of credibility. So, today, right after you’re done reading this, set up a friendly info sharing call with a domain expert in an area where you’re lacking. You’ll both appreciate it. Not only do people enjoy sharing their wisdom, but you’ll be instilling confidence in them by showing how you value their best practices and how they play into your final product. Learn the basics so you can keep up in the conversation, fairly represent your stakeholders’ best interests, and keep your well-deserved seat at the table.
Hire for power skills and experience, not just job titles
It’s estimated that the average person will have 12 jobs in their lifetime (BLS, 2021). Even if they are a part of the way through their journey, that’s a lot of unique skills they’ve obtained so far. Every individual can bring a unique skill set to your DAP program and you can’t always tell from their title alone what that will be. If you do have the luxury of growing your team’s headcount, my advice is to not get too hung up on an applicant’s current job title. Did yours say digital adoption?
With constant change and a distracting smartphone on everyone’s desk, you need people who can roll with the punches and cut through the noise. For this, seek out people who show adaptability, persuasiveness, and persistence as core personality traits. Identify their power skills (Runyon, 2022) first, and then find out what unique expertise they can bring to the table that can complement your own.
Pro tip #5: Look for a combination of these 10 areas of expertise to help you and your team round out your offering (and check out the linked resources to grow your skills in these areas too!):
- Business Analysis – to help vet projects through a data-backed, and outcomes-based lens (Harvard, 2021)
- Cost Benefit Analysis/ROI – to assess business benefit and justify your work in dollar terms (Shacklett, 2017)
- Data Analytics – to learn the vast array of leading and lagging indicators of success
- User Experience Design – to incorporate a professional aesthetic and engage users effectively (Laws of UX, 2022)
- Journey Design – to fold your journey touchpoint into the broader user journey/experience (YouTube, 2022)
- Human-Computer Interaction – to reinforce Shneiderman’s 8 Golden Rules (Wong, 2020)
- Change Management – to overcome the biggest hurdle in adult behavior: willingness to change (EPM, 2021)
- Customer Service or Employee Help Desk – to teach us the role of empathy in customer centricity (Lingels, 2022)
- Copywriting/Proofreading – to ensure our written content is tight, logical, and easy to consume (Henneke)
This field is burgeoning, and we’re glad you’re here to join us! With some strategic upskilling and some common-sense psychology, you can keep the DAP demand rolling in and maintain the hard-earned trust of your stakeholders! Soak in as much as you can from vendors, peers, SMEs, and thought leaders. As with anything, it’s easy when you know what you’re doin’ (Ted Lucas, 2011)!
Note: This blog post is based on a breakout speaker session I presented at WalkMe’s Elevate 2022. Watch the session on-demand.
- Building a Leading DAP Operation presentation – My full breakdown from Elevate 2022
- Design for the Mind – A must-read for UI/UX design best practices
- Questions are the Answer – Framing ideas and getting to the kernel of truth with stakeholders
- What is Enterprise Architecture? The foundational concepts of Enterprise Architecture
- Basics of Information Architecture – Information architecture and its impact on UX/UI design
This blog article is not intended to address or provide advice concerning the specific circumstances of any particular individual or entity and does not constitute an endorsement of any entity or its products or services.
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