Differentiating Training vs Adoption

Training vs Adoption is a common confusion. This article is about driving Office 365 adoption. These concepts are valid for any technology adoption which involves business users. Training is a subset of Adoption. But often, the only thing customers do for adoption is a few training programs. Adoption means effective and full utilization of the right features and tools in the right business context – across the organization.  Learn more (7 min).

Training vs. Adoption poster - showing key differences in objectives, methodology, impact, longevity and benefits

Training vs Adoption : Objectives

Training is typically hands-on and the focus is to teach the product usage. The assumption is that the participants already know WHY to use the product and they just want to know HOW to use it.

In comparison, adoption is first about the WHY and then the HOW. If you are not convinced that you want to use the tool, why would you attend the training?

Adoption is all about changing the mindset. We are used to getting our work done using some method or the other. Nobody is waiting for a new, amazing application to be introduced. Work has to be done – so we do it. Simple.

Therefore, when a new tool does appear, we already have a method which works without the tool. Convincing people to change their established behavior is not easy. That is why adoption is more about changing the mind rather than imparting skills.

The problem is that when a new tool is created, the creators KNOW that users are already getting the work done using some other method – which is essentially inefficient. If the currently used process was already efficient, why would the vendor create a tool for it?

Therefore, the key to adoption is to highlight the existing inefficiency and highlight the benefits of moving to the new tool. If you do this in a compelling manner, people will change. Else they will continue with their older method – even if it is inefficient.

Top Management must drive adoption

Top management is also referred to as SLT, CxOs, Leadership, Boss, Management Team, Business Leaders or Execs.

Why? Because the CxOs are the biggest beneficiaries of adopting the new tool and the resulting efficiency boost.

Typically, Office 365 is purchased by the organization for all users. It consists of at least 12 different tools – many of which are new.

It is practically impossible to get everyone to attend a training for every product. That is why the ONLY way possible is to drive the new and improve methods of working through the Management team.

The only thing people notice and respond to for sure is a mail from the boss!

Training vs Adoption = Reactive vs Proactive

Training is conducted either as a part of a training calendar or when users / business demands it.

In case of Office 365, the tools are new. So they are usually not a part of training calendar. Users are not aware of the tools – therefore they don’t demand the training. That is why the reactive training approach does not do justice to Office 365 platform. Furthermore, the L&D team usually does not have budget allocated for the newly procured Office 365 tools. That is why the training approach either fails completely or delivers partial results for effective usage of Office 365.

Training vs Adoption = Product specific vs. Platform

Training is essentially product specific – usually because trainers specialize in specific products. Office 365 is not a single product. It contains many tools which are designed to work in a beautifully integrated manner. If a user has to learn the entire Office 365 platform fully, they will have to undergo 12 different training programs. This is impossible in practice.

That is why, for effective adoption, the entire platform must be covered in a cohesive manner. Even if we cannot cover every feature of every product, which features to choose and how to position them is the key to effective adoption. Adoption is about an integrated story rather than compartmentalized and fragmented knowledge.

Duration and Benefits

Typical training falls short on both aspects. Training does increase the usage for a short while. But if there is no sustenance planned for, the increase in usage will decline very quickly. Furthermore, training benefits only those people who got trained.

Adoption, on the other hand, is a longer term process which assumes that everyone will NOT get trained. Still we have to plan for creating the desired level of awareness and impart the correct set of skills using top management help and by standardizing new and improved processes.

For example, a monthly review meeting typically takes a lot of time. But if the boss says that from now onwards we will do it using Teams – everyone fall in line. Initially people may do it just because boss is asking them to. But soon they realize the benefits and then they will try it at their own level as well. This is how, adoption – done the right way, spreads top-down.

Adoption must have a plan and budget for long-term sustenance – which is typically done by creating and nurturing an internal team of champions. If you do not have this in place, it is a false sense of adoption!

Training vs Adoption – Outcome

Adoption leads to changed behaviour, improved efficiency, operational excellence, reduction in errors, elimination of wasted manual effort and improved motivation. Training just increases skill levels in a specific context. Of course, training must be a part of Adoption. But there is much more to be done for adoption to succeed.

Adoption basically means internalizing or institutionalizing a feature set or products into business processes. Once this is done, there is dramatic improvement in the effectiveness of work people perform. It also liberates a lot of time which was otherwise wasted in mundane and manual activities – which were completely non-value-adding. Now, that time can be invested in value-adding activities – driving personal as well as organizational growth.

If you are not noticing such an impact, it simply means you have purchased Office 365 but the adoption has been ineffective.

Training vs Adoption: Few beneficiaries vs Everyone Benefits

Adoption involves everyone. Training is imparted to a selected subset of people on a subset of products.

Every user must use the tools you have procured for them. Otherwise, it guarantees poor or zero ROI. It does not make sense to purchase a product and do nothing to make sure it is used fully. Although this sounds like common sense, most customers I see DO NOT invest time, energy or money into adoption. Purchase does not automatically lead to effective utilization.

In general, 30% of procurement amount is needed as the budget for adoption. If you don’t have the budget, don’t purchase the products / tools. It is a total waste of money.

Adoption in 5 steps

Here are the 5 steps. I will discuss details in another article.

Training vs. Adoption - adoption process - CXO engagement, awareness, standardization, process optimization and sustenance

1. As mentioned earlier, CXOs must drive adoption.

2. After that, we can create excitement and desire to change by conducting large sessions for users.

3. Effective usage can only be achieved by standardizing the new, efficient and desirable processes.

4. Deeper transformation can also be achieved by performing something like Business Process Re-engineering for Office. Here I look at existing processes and dramatically improve them using the right tool and feature set.

5. Finally, long-term benefits can only be achieved by creating a CXO led champions team and nurturing them to provide sustained improvements.

Here are other articles I have written about Office 365 Adoption.
Do let me know your feedback and comments. Cheers.

Training vs Adoption end logo - Office icon

4 Responses

  1. Great insight. Many cases we focus just on buying the product and adoption is overlooked. Spending 30% to make it happen sizes up the issue. Thank you .

    1. Thanks Prasanna. Adoption cannot happen automatically. Underutilization is automatic!

  2. Insightful as always! Only point I would add is training is measured on merely on audience feedback whereas adoption has solid quantitative business outcomes.

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