When Adoption Goes Wrong

Former Employee

When Adoption Goes Wrong


This month, we’ve highlighted best practices and resources—but we also understand adoption is a challenging task and not everything goes smoothly. So let’s talk about the not-so-good. We want to hear what adoption tactics don’t work. Share with us some of your adoption “horror” stories.

We’ll start. (And feel free to keep this anonymous—we will too!)


Email is often approached as an easy “win” as everyone uses email, and it can be migrated over, mostly as a forcing function. But in migrating, one company changed the email address formats for all end-users. Specifically in email, maintaining as much consistency as possible across platforms is very important. We don’t recommend changing email addresses, unless you absolutely must.


What have you seen that didn’t work as planned? Any tips on what not  to do when rolling out new product?

13 Replies

One adoption enhancement tactic that never works is end user training. End User Training doesn't work and is a waste of time.



Here's a quick video I recorded explaining my thoughts:

Watched your video, it's thought-provoking! Not sure I completely agree but I can certainly see your point.  


One thing is, you have to cater for different learning styles.  Some might prefer a self-service approach through guides and exercises, for example, just picking it up as they go along, where others may respond much better to a hand-holding approach, with instructor-led training or webinars etc.


Offering a range of resources I think works best, that can be adaptable and flexible.

Training / information on demand can be a really good strategy indeed, Asif. And I agree that it is necessary to provide several resources to inform end users about the change. However, as a (ex) trainer, I think training can be effective as well, as long as you keep their goal (work more efficiently / effective in mind rather than just explaining what every button does.

Back on topic, I think it's really necessary to involve management. I used to work in a project where management wasn't involved enough and while certain end users embraced the new possibilities, a lot just waited for management to tell them to use it. Unfortunately we didn't do enough to involve management.
Also, I think it's important to not really focus on how to use a certain technology, but rather on why to use it. By explaining the why extensively, people will find out how to use the new technology mostly by themselves. Of course certain guidelines and tips should be shared, but focus on the why. Most users who use facebook / whatsapp didn't learn how to use those apps as well, did they?

Just to add a few things hopefully still relevant to the initial question, though I know Maddie has left the community since.


During an extended SharePoint project, to move network drives to SharePoint (amongst other things), over a year into the project there was still some confusion on SharePoint fundamentals (features and capabilities, having a mapped out IA & IG, etc.).  The project got halted when there were concerns about the migration approach, self-service vs fully managed, with what was achievable and how long it would take, after an initial batch had been completed. 


Here are a few tips in light of this sort of experience -


  • Set realistic expectations and timescales
  • Have quick, deliverable wins, reiterating and continuously improving, driving value
  • Fail fast if needed
  • Don't skimp on communication and training, that must be in line with the deliverables
  • Don't get bogged down on side projects or minutiae that distract from the overall goals
  • Have the right roles that can support and drive the project, stakeholders, project managers, subject matter experts, champions etc.


I think you've hit on some key points in regard to training in general. I do agree with you that feature based training doesn't work. End users do not care about all the cool functionality if they can't relate it back to how they work.


As a former trainer, I have to disagree with you when you say "training doesn't work." That's a broad statement. There are so many different considerations for training to be effective. Culture of the organization, learning styles, instructor-led, onsite versus online, self-paced, supporting materials, timing of training to match deployment schedule, power users, champions, train-the-trainer, peer learning, white glove service, hand holding, etc.


Training is an integral part of any O365 transition. The most important thing is to have a good understanding of how people work today so that training can showcase the "what's in it for me?" of Office 365.

Love the tips you shared @Cian Allner, and also agree with @Veronica Skender that 'training doesn't work' is a very broad statement - but I think @Asif Rehmani I think we're all in agreement!  


At the end of the day it's all about understanding the audience. Understanding the use case is critical to end user adoption success.  Define the problem that the technology is solving for from the eyes of the end user and communicate how it will impact their immediate day-to-day job.  Apply the 'so what?' from the perspective on the end user to identify what will motivate breaking of old habits.  

@Maddie_Egan wrote:

When Adoption Goes Wrong


Email is often approached as an easy “win” as everyone uses email, and it can be migrated over, mostly as a forcing function. But in migrating, one company changed the email address formats for all end-users. Specifically in email, maintaining as much consistency as possible across platforms is very important. We don’t recommend changing email addresses, unless you absolutely must.


What have you seen that didn’t work as planned? Any tips on what not  to do when rolling out new product?

Would love to hear more adoption 'horror stories' from this group!  What did you see as a adoption tactic 'fail'? 


Conversely, what unconventional way have you seen working?

I agree with you on many points. Class room training has it's place for certain use cases but I agree that there are better ways. I think there are many different learning styles out there and people are different in their preference.
Even if e.g. class room is ineffective in many ways for some people that's still the best way they learn. If you take that away just offer learning on the job these people will become frustrated.

I think the key is to offer a good mix that reflects roughly your user's preference distribution combined with a factor for effectiveness.

Also I believe that many people still like to talk to and learn from another person instead of just from a computer. Therefore I believe in social learning, peer support and personal coaching.

Thanks for sharing those tips and pitfalls @Cian Allner


I would add to them : Set a clear vision of what we expect the end-users to do with the new product.


As an example, we rolled out OneDrive explaining the potential and use cases of the solution.
But we did not set a clear vision of where OneDrive fits compared to other available file storage / sharing solutions such as personal network drives or USB key etc... We did exclude DropBox and the likes, but did not question the former solutions available in the workplace. This can impact the adoption rate as people will just ignore your change effort.


That relates back to the other interesting post of @David Broussard on 'Burning' solutions users might retreat to as we roll out the solution. You want to make sure you set a clear vision of the application landscape and you enforce it.

If you do take away users older tools, you have to have a strategy for it.  You also need to make sure that leadership is on board and everyone knows that they are in this with the entire org.  We've had success with staggered obsolesence where we take old storage areas like personal drives and let everyone know that when we move to OD4B we will be turning them Read Only and then at some point (months) in the future they will be turned off (but archived for more time, we just take the user's rights away) and then eventually they are deleted.

Facilitating learning sessions for staff can be a highly valuable experience for them - if done at the right time, focussing on relevant topics and combining demonstrations with hands-on activities to reinforce learning.  Scenario-based learning sessions help staff understand how a new feature will benefit them in their job role.  If staff leave a session confident in knowing the 'why', as well as the 'how' they are likely to retain the knowledge - but after training support materials are necessary as a refresher if they don't get the opportuity to put in to practise what they learn soon after.

Unfortunately many "trainers" are simply duds!  It's true!  It is such a shame - as a session done well will be memorable and enjoyable for participants - and they are more likely to embrace the new way of working.  Don't stop providing instructor-led training to the poor end users.  Whether through virtual instructor-led sessions or face-to-face - staff need this as a viable option - just invest in a great trainer!  

best response confirmed by Steve Dalby (Iron Contributor)

Asif,If nothing else your response drew people’s attention in showing the bad side of expecting training to be the Adoption answer, it obviously is not. 


However, it MUST be part of the answer as the expectation that your 'mass' of end users will suddenly understand everything that is being delivered is probably not realistic.  And also, how do you manage new applications as MS release them.


My response is that your view is correct but your statement is wrong. 


Training is crucial, but like everything else in the adoption space it has to be done right with all training plans being based on a training needs analysis exercise.  This then means that the training provided is as a request by the business and motivation to train is because the business see that the project is delivering the training in the formats and subject matter that they have been requesting.

So, training on its own is not the answer, but as a blended adoption solution it is a crucial part of the process.


Steve Dalby

A common mistake is that Office 365 adoption is treated within IT as a project where ONLY the business needs to change and one day the project will finish.


IT management need to understand that old processes of desktop, office apps and storage strategies can be updated every 18 months or even 3 years are now wrong.


The IT department needs to adjust to a model that can support monthly updates of software and a constant release of new or updated cloud applications and services. If they can show the business that they have adjusted themselves then maybe the business can see the importance of driving their own change and adoption.


Steve Dalby