MWD Advisors: Fanning the fire – using evangelists to fuel your adoption strategy

InsightaaS: Over the years, research has shown that one of the keys to driving end-user adoption of new technology - and especially, of new collaboration technology - is the creation of a team of "champions" drawn from across the end-user community. Some users will be more eager to explore new technologies, and faster to embrace new capabilities - and these users can in turn become a "shadow support team" helping their colleagues to use new features, and advocating for the business benefits that can be gained from new systems.

In this post, MWD Advisors analyst Angela Ashenden updates this theory, using the (more contemporary) term "evangelists" to describe these new system champions. As Ashendon notes, a group  "who can talk on a peer-to-peer basis with their colleagues" can be of great help in "show[ing] people the advantages of using social collaboration practices and technologies in their specific roles or context," and can also provide a valuable feedback loop to IT as it looks to "to adapt and refocus strategy on an on-going basis."

I’ve blogged before about the need to take a structured, organised approach to driving adoption of social collaboration technologies and practices, rather than relying on a viral adoption strategy (see If you build it, will they really come?). In this post, I want to highlight one of the most effective tools in driving adoption based on my conversations with early adopters of these technologies — the evangelist network.

Getting people to change their behaviour is hard; we take the path of least resistance, and unless we see undisputable reasons to veer off that path, we tend to ignore any suggestions to do so. It’s not surprising, then, that it’s not enough to send an email out to employees about the need to be more collaborative (or even to send multiple emails). People need to understand what’s in it for them, and what is meant by "being more collaborative" in their own day-to-day situations. The problem is that most social collaboration initiatives only have (at most) a handful of people to spread the message and drive adoption, and they are simply unable to reach the vast majority of employees in a face-to-face way.

A network of evangelists — or "advocates", "ambassadors" or "champions" if you prefer — can have a hugely positive impact not only on your chances of success with your social collaboration initiative, but also on the speed with which you can drive adoption and change...

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