Technical Support & User Adoption

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Many organizations are now trying to deliver portals as a means of offering better services, improving collaboration and communication between employees, or even cutting costs. It sounds like a great idea but often these initiatives fail because end users don't see any benefit in using them.

Instead, they go back to what they know best – accessing their applications directly via an internet browser, without logging into the portal first. When you take that into account with all of the potential risks associated with delivering web-based access to critical business information it's no wonder why many companies are reluctant to embrace this technology. But there are plenty of benefits! Let's take a look at some suggestions for how you can encourage your customers to use the portal and start reaping some of those rewards.

What is user adoption?

In a nutshell, user adoption is the process of making sure that your customers use the portal. In some cases, users might have been notified of its existence but not given any reason to use it. Other times they may have been handed a URL and been left to find their way around.

Regardless of how you've introduced your portal to your employees, one thing is clear - if individuals don't start using it then no matter how hard you try it's going to be very difficult for them to collaborate effectively with each other or access information from outside the organization. A user adoption strategy make users adopt through customer lifetime value and attract new users to add your business value.

Do you want your employees to be able to use your intranet or portal without having to contact IT?

Geolance is a documentation and user guide platform that makes it easy for organizations to create, manage and distribute their step-by-step instructions on how end users can complete tasks successfully using the company's portal. This means that end-users will no longer have to contact IT every time they need help with something. Instead, they'll be able to find the information themselves in an intuitive format that is easy for them to understand.

You won't have any more frustrated customers calling up asking why they can't do what they need because we've made it so simple for them! With our documentation solution, you'll finally be able to provide all of your employees with the tools necessary so that everyone can work together seamlessly as one team - without having any issues along the way! All of this comes at a low cost too - so there's no reason not to sign up today!

User adoption is not just an IT problem

When someone takes over responsibility for delivering a new portal environment there can be a tendency for them 'to think IT'. After all, we're the professionals with all of the answers and we can solve any problem. But in this case, we may only be part of the solution and not even the biggest part in some cases!

We need to understand that in most organizations there is a very clear line between IT and end-users. We may feel that it's our job to simply provide portals but from their perspective, they want to be able to use it without having to contact us. That means they need documentation, user guides for example, which offer step-by-step instructions on what tasks they should be able to complete successfully using your portal environment or intranet by themselves.

User adoption: Getting everyone involved

Surely if you've taken responsibility for delivering a portal, whether it's for your organization or as part of a service-level agreement with an external supplier, you should already have processes in place to help users access the information they need. However, this approach has failed in many organizations because their first step is to increase the number of available documents - which can be very difficult if employees aren't even sure what they should be looking for.

One reason why users don't turn to these resources is that they're not relevant and may include out-of-date information and most importantly, there's no personalization involved. For example, we've all come across forms that ask us lots of questions that we don't know (or care) about. results in frustration and no actions being taken.

A better approach is to involve end-users at the beginning of any portal project, ideally before you even start designing it! Find out what your users want from an intranet or intranet portal and base your design on that information. If you communicate with employees early on in the user adoption process they are more likely to use it - not just because it meets their expectations but also because they helped create it.

Internal marketing

Once your organization knows what its target audience wants, you need to make sure that all of the right people know how to access this content, so internal marketing becomes essential. It's important to let everyone know about its existence via email messages with links back to the portal itself. But don't stop there. Making sure that employees understand how to search for and find information in your portal is just as important. If you don't, then they will simply forget about the portal and continue doing things the way they've always done them - which can be a real problem when it comes to collaboration and sharing documents and information!

So what are some of the tools that can help you get user adoption?

Personalization

For example, users might not realize that their organization has an ECM solution or intranet portal because they didn't ask for one. You could tell them all about your enterprise content management system but if they cannot see any benefits from using it, why would they even bother? That means adding personalization features so users can see what they can do with content management and how it might benefit them.

This doesn't mean you need to go overboard with the personalization, but a little goes a long way, especially when applied in moderation at key decision-making points within your portal environment. For example, if they're about to view a page that they've visited many times before or one which is different from their usual search results then think about giving them a 'heads up' message near the top of the page. This could be as simple as displaying your organization's logo on certain pages within your site. This will help remind them that the portal itself is personalized - relevant information for them based on previous visits.

Validation

Think about the different ways you can validate portal content to ensure that it's fit for purpose. For example, if your company is in the process of revamping its website then consider having a link or button on certain web pages which go back to review how much progress was made when compared against what was originally planned. Searching for websites online can also be used within employee personalization tools so they can see how many hits are being received every month - again this will help them feel part of an active community where they're not just sitting back and watching everyone else take action!

Search capabilities

Employees should be able to search out-of-the-box using all of the features available within their portal environment without needing any additional training. Just because you have a search box on the homepage, that doesn't mean it will be used. A quick tip is to make sure your employees know how to do this otherwise they could end up hitting the first link they see via an email message simply by clicking 'Reply' and marking one or two topics of interest.

Knowledge management 

Make sure there are links within your site that take people back to all of the content which has been created over the past month, year, or however long you think is appropriate for your company. This can be achieved using web analytics software so users are kept informed about what's new through personalized dashboards - again making them feel more involved! You've also got to include information that helps people understand why some content has been put together and why it might be important to them.

Integration

Employees often communicate via a range of different channels including email, instant messaging platforms, chat applications, blogs, newsletters, and so on. One way to help ease the transition from old ways of working over to new ways is by integrating all of these into one portal environment utilizing web links embedded within their messages. This will give them a good idea about what's possible because they're already used to clicking links in emails! In addition, this can provide employees with a central place for collaborative content creation which can include information from many popular services such as Facebook and Yammer - making sure that everyone has something interesting to talk about!

Other ideas could be adding a personalized welcome message when you first log into your portal environment or making sure that users get an alert if they're added to a relevant group on a social network. All of this contributes to more engaged employees and increased productivity, which is what it's all about!

As for how much personalization should be done - the answer is as little or as much as you want. This depends on your company culture and also how 'open' you want things to be. Might there be a fear among some employees about getting too deep with their customization? Absolutely! There might even be some personalization capabilities built-in within your site already but they're either turned off or just not well advertised so people don't know about them. Again, communication here is key!

Lastly, don't forget to communicate what personalization is and the potential benefits that can come from it. This could be in the form of a personalized email message which you send out once a month or even something as simple as adding an FAQ entry about this topic for new joiners - they may ask questions when they first log into your portal environment too so provide them with some quick links (perhaps within their welcome message) which take them back to relevant information when needed.

Simplify registration and use

At the end of the day, employees just want to get into your portal environment and start working. This means that if they need to register or input lots of information to use it then you might be losing their interest. Make sure there are as few barriers as possible so people can see what's new on your site quickly and easily - some companies I work with often ask for too much information which shouldn't be necessary at all!

Finally, remember that user adoption is all about helping your employees feel part of something where they're not just sitting back watching everyone else take action. If you've got a community platform within your portal environment then make sure you talk about ways this can help boost collaboration throughout the company. There are loads more ideas about this which I'll save for another time but it all comes back to one key point - your users want to be part of something that's changing the company for the better. If you can make them feel like they are then you're on to a winner!

Use Metrics to Understand Trends

While your users want to be part of something, they're also likely to want the inside scoop on what's happening within their organization. If you've got metrics available then these can provide employees with great insight into the business especially when it comes to how their contribution is impacting overall results.

How about creating a monthly report which highlights key numbers and provides some commentary around why they are what they are? This will allow people to see where things went well (and not so well!) so this type of content could help drive conversations across different social networks. Also, don't forget that staff surveys (such as pulse surveys) should always highlight the importance of performance measurements - if there aren't any then you're doing it wrong!

There are plenty more ideas on how to use metrics to your advantage but for me, it all comes down to making them accessible. If you've got an intranet then there shouldn't be any reason why employees can't view key results whenever they want (and where ever they are) - this will likely inspire mobile users, in particular, to become even more engaged with the portal environment too.

Determine and communicate unique benefits

Here's a little secret - don't assume that everyone knows what your company does! I've worked with employees who have no idea how their contribution is helping the business to grow. If you're sharing this information then maybe it's just not being passed on effectively?

The first port of call here is to ask your existing customers why they chose to work with you over other vendors. You can then look at these responses and determine whether or not any common themes could be shared within your portal environment. This would be something for new joiners so they immediately see where their role fits in nicely!

Finally, remember that staff members will always want more out of their job especially if things are changing around them all the time. Ensure that you're using metrics to tell a story and then promoting your unique benefits at every opportunity. This could be during an interview or when someone is looking for work elsewhere - if you can communicate why they should join you over another company then it'll go a long way!

Educate and train your audience

I've lost count of the number of times I've seen companies post discussions which contain great detail but nothing else. The next day they'll spam everyone's email inboxes with another similar thread which goes on to waste even more time!

Your team members must be educated and trained properly before asking them to participate in online communities. These people will likely be representing your organization so you need to be confident that you're sending out the right messages all the time! This is where an internal comms function comes into its own. Someone needs to stay on top of what's being said, analyze data around these conversations, and then respond accordingly (with some good examples too!) User adoption success depends on a good user adoption strategy in user onboarding. A new system of customer success teams helps you to improve customer journey.

Engage across different platforms

Mobile devices now account for over half of all web traffic and this trend will only continue over the coming years. As a result, you need to ensure that your portal solution is available not just on computers but also across multiple platforms such as smartphones and tablets too.

There's no point investing in an intranet solution if it doesn't work effectively on mobile devices - why should employees use this platform when they could be browsing Facebook or Twitter instead? Also, remember that if you're using an outside service to power your community (such as Lithium) then you'll want to ask yourself whether it's worth the investment money if the majority of visitors don't even have access!

Allow personalization

Strive to allow employees to make their portal experience unique. This could be by allowing them to change the layout of the home page, upload their images, or even post content on another user's behalf. There are plenty of ways to customize an intranet around its members and it's something that should always remain at the forefront of your mind!

The best ideas often come from within so you should encourage everyone in different departments to help out with this process too. It could be brokered through a community leader who helps create opportunities for others to get involved but there are no limits here - anyone could start making changes! Set some ground rules and then give individuals and teams enough freedom and responsibility for them to innovate!

Adopt an open concept

It's time to introduce yet another expression that is currently overused by marketers everywhere… "transparency"! Yes, this is one of those buzzwords which you should embrace within your portal environment.

Often people will say that they want to become more transparent in their company but it's just not possible without the technology to let them do so. Don't wait for this situation to arise though because instead, you can bake transparency into everything that you do with your community platform! Allow moderators and users alike to contribute posts or responses whenever something needs addressing or answering. The main benefit here is that it'll encourage others to chip in too during these difficult moments which means even less work for employees at a later stage!

Improve user experience

If you've read any of the other sections in this guide then it should be quite clear by now that your intranet is not where users go to find information. Your portal solution needs to overcome this problem and help provide employees with quality content and networking opportunities as soon as they log on. User adoption rates show how you improve user adoption strategies and how you can change management of existing users.

Anything which requires a separate action such as clicking through multiple pages must be reconsidered. These journeys might work for desktop computers but you need to remember that many visitors will arrive directly from their mobile devices or corporate connections so simplicity is key!

Remember that this also includes the actual look and feel of your home page too. This is the first thing that everyone sees when they start each day so if yours looks dated, uninspiring, or worse, broken, then it's going to be a struggle to get people motivated.


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