The 7 habits of highly effective digital adoption programs

Leah Hegyi
By Leah Hegyi
Updated May 2, 2023

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People has been a bookshelf staple for nearly three decades, and for good reason – it’s timeless. I myself enjoyed reading it, and found it inspiring, both professionally and personally.

So I figured it would make for an interesting exercise to take this framework of 7 principles and apply it to digital adoption programming.

Here are 7 habits you need to help you on your digital transformation journey:

1. Define what “highly effective” means to your business

Let’s get something out of the way first: Efficient vs. effective. I’ve come to understand (more recently than I care to admit) these are not interchangeable, though they are related. 

Efficient is more focused on inputs – containing costs and eliminating waste – while effective is focused on outputs – valuable and precise outcomes. And so, as net value ultimately considers cost, high effectiveness by nature must incorporate efficient processes. 

But these are just standard definitions. The goal here is to take these terms (especially “effective”) and define them specific to your business

I recently read Brené Brown’s Dare to Lead. She has a whole chapter discussing values, followed by an exercise in which you define your primary values. We can talk about “living in alignment with our values/living with integrity”, but unless we’ve done the work to add context, this discussion dies in the buzzwords. 

TL;DR: Regurgitating the line “create a highly effective digital adoption program” in your annual big room planning meeting, checking the room for nods and smiles, and moving on – won’t get you anywhere. 

What you need to do: 

Start by talking to your executive stakeholders. Define what “effective” means to them. If your digital adoption program got an award for the “most effective program in [X] company,” what does that look like? If your stakeholders respond with “maximized ROI,” push on them to tell you more. Maximized ROI is an output, or a lagging indicator. What leading indicators can your organization measure, to show the program is on a positive trajectory for excellence? 

2. “Know thyself” – commit to self-awareness

Knowing thyself as a business is tough. Tough in the same way an HR initiative to survey employees on company culture is tough. Finding a cross-section of individuals whose voices can be liaisons for a huge spectrum of ideas and experiences, is a challenge. But, if you want to stand up a successful program, you have to commit to a research-minded, analytical approach on what makes your business tick. 

What you need to do: 

No matter where you are in your digital adoption journey, conduct a standard SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats) initiative and analysis for your organization. Hold multiple meetings with different stakeholders.

Some conversations (i.e. with your current Center of Excellence team) will focus more on the current state of digital adoption. Bring in other stakeholders (i.e. highly tenured employees) to discuss the company’s broader ecosystem, and other cross-functional (even non-digital) initiatives.

What was the biggest recent initiative that impacted a large group at the company and who was involved? How are software purchasing decisions made at your organization?

One of the best questions I’ve heard a Digital Adoption Program Manager ask, as she led a SWOT discussion – Is there a department at your organization that has cross-functional leadership (even implicit) where if a directive comes from that department, employees will comply? Can you give an example of why you might believe this to be true?

Notice this isn’t asking anything explicit about digital adoption. However, when asked, it teased out helpful information about the presence and power of authority. It also helped us identify critical detractors we needed to build relationships with, to continue augmenting digital adoption evangelism at their company. 

Which brings me to habit #3 – 

3. Cultivate “SuperChampions” (and convert detractors in the process) 

Gallup’s StrengthsFinder is built on the principle that we have natural talent in specific areas. It states that identifying and focusing on growing this talent more than improving our weaknesses will create a disproportionately multiplying effect. If you’re naturally great at shooting a basketball (a 5 on the scale of 1-5), then focusing a level 5 effort on growing this talent, can get you to a 25 (5×5). Whereas if you’re only a 2 at basketball, focusing a level 5 effort will only ever get you to a 10 (2×5). 

Your “talents” are your internal Digital Adoption Champions – those who already share the broader vision, understand how digital adoption fits into transformational strategy, and/or engage the Center of Excellence with strategic and well-defined projects. Focusing a level 5 effort on your level 5 talents, will make them SuperChampions (25s). SuperChampions are digital adoption thought leaders. 

SuperChampions radiate energy through the organization. They share their case studies in internal “roadshows.” They consistently use data to tell their value stories. They lead by example by complying with the CoE’s policies and procedures. And – drumroll – they engage in tough conversations with those at the organization that aren’t “all in” on digital adoption just yet. They surface potential risks and detractors to the CoE with an innate desire to help.

At this point, “Digital Adoption” might be in that SuperChampion’s job title. So not only is it ingrained as somewhat of a passion project, it’s an act of job security to make sure the vision of digital adoption is a lasting one.

What you need to do:

Make a list of potential SuperChampions and why they’d be a good fit. Create an Advocacy plan with activities and rewards for continued growth as a digital adoption ambassador. These folks need to feel seen, respected, and elevated in order to help spread the digital adoption love.

4. Treat your stakeholder map as a living document

You probably already have a “map” of all primary contacts from all major business units. Perhaps you’ve even identified where the gaps are and an outreach action plan. But challenge yourself to go one step further.

What you need to do:

Building off of #3 – be honest with yourself on the strength of the relationships in each business unit. Keep this as an internal document for your core Program/Governance leads. Revisit this document at least quarterly to make updates.

Consider adding the following information to it: What is important to this person? How long has the CoE had a relationship with this person? What are this person’s primary concerns (if any) with our digital adoption program or solution, and what specific instances led to these concerns? Does digital adoption have any documented “wins” for this person? (If not, can we create an action plan to get one?)

Bonus: If any of them have the possibility of becoming SuperChampions (see #3), star/bold/underline/highlight them… and if any are in a key decision-making seat, strategize how you can leverage the SuperChampions to help convert. Prioritize your time accordingly on the relationships who could positively influence those Detractors in important seats. 

5. Commit to clear stakeholder expectations

Note: I know, we’ve been talking a lot about the people in your program. But even if you have killer SOPs and a beautifully documented knowledge base, if your people aren’t bought in, you’ve got nothing. So we’ve got one more principle specifically focused on people. 

If you’re in a workout class and the instructor yells “okay class, do burpees! Go go GO!!!” vs “ok class, 10 burpees! Go go GO!!!” – which are you more likely to push yourself and do? For me, that first one would give me a strong urge to pick up my things and bail. Are you kidding? How many of these are we supposed to do? Ugh. At least the second one, I know I can gear up, grit my teeth and do 10. 

Expectation-setting is powerful. Psychologically, it’s associated with feelings of respect and trust. This person is taking the time to clearly outline what they need from me. Enough information allows me to prioritize accordingly and put my best foot forward. 

Best-in-class digital adoption programs are excellent at stakeholder expectation-setting. They focus on answering the following questions and ensuring there is easily-digestible collateral (visuals, one-pagers, etc) to display the answers: 

  • What kinds of skills do I need to be successful?
  • What does my “customer journey” look like when engaging with the CoE? z
  • How much time can I expect to spend, and on what tasks? 
  • Who else at the company is embracing digital adoption, and what does their success look like? 

What you need to do:

Interview a couple current stakeholders who have already benefited from the CoE services. How did they feel the up-front expectation setting was, as they started an implementation project? What about the aftercare/ongoing relationship after their first phase was live? What areas of confusion did they have? How could they have felt more supported through the process? Did the CoE send clear and concise materials that answer the questions above? 

Alright, enough on the people. This next one’s on program governance. 

6. Create a prioritization framework

If you’re emerging in maturity as a digital adoption program, you may not feel this is relevant. But if your backlog isn’t overloaded, you haven’t expanded beyond 1-2 departments, this is exactly the time you should be putting a prioritization approach together. This is committing to those regular dental appointments to avoid getting a cavity. Preventative care, folks.

Challenge yourselves to think about prioritization along initiative lines versus application lines. Limiting yourself to “Which is more important, Salesforce or ServiceNow?” glazes over the innate interconnectivity of these applications and the user journey. Your users think of their day in terms of tasks, which more often than not, span multiple applications.

If the fundamental goal of digital adoption is to improve the user experience, look at your prioritization in the plane of user workflows, not applications.

What you need to do:

Make your first goal to create a qualitative framework (i.e. Urgency vs Importance) and gradually work up to a quantified framework (i.e. a calculator). Use the time in between to identify what inputs are most important to your business and would have a place in a calculator. 

7. Be iterative and stay curious

Best-in-class programs are always looking for ways to improve. Treat every Standard Operating Procedure, piece of collateral, policy and procedure as a living document. Commit to revisiting key documents on an annual or bi-annual basis to assess viability and make changes.

What you need to do:

Here are a few examples of how to turn static documents into living documents – 

  • Any time you make a sizable change to a Standard Operating Procedure, look at the “T” (Threats) of your SWOT analysis and ensure your rollout plan for these changes is cognizant of potential risks
  • Track the amount of time you spend on each implementation project and use data points to update forecasting tools accordingly 
  • Update your Stakeholder Map every time you turn a Champion into a SuperChampion

Commit to adopting these habits. Commit to making your program timeless. 

Learn the fundamentals of digital adoption and the integral role it plays in achieving effective digital transformation.

Leah Hegyi
By Leah Hegyi
Customer Success Manager at WalkMe. Proven leader and consultant in Digital Adoption Strategy for enterprise organizations. Passionate about making technology easier to use and elevating the field of Digital Adoption as a career opportunity for aspiring professionals.