Adoption is a phase, not a state

It seems that many in the Enterprise 2.0/Social Business vendors have identified that the way to make a project successful is to not just focus on deploying a solution, but focusing on adoption. After all, who hasn’t been handed the keys of your shiny new tool by IT and been told, “Here it is, good luck!” only to be scratching your head wondering where to start? Unfortunately, many of these companies charge extra to help customers adopt their software.

More recently, adoption is gaining traction in the practitioner realm as a Best Practice.  Susan Scrupski (founder of the 2.0 Adoption Council) recently wrote Focusing on Adoption (exclusively) is a Dead-End finally challenging adoption being the holy grail of social in the enterprise. I agree with Susan that too much emphasis is placed on the technology and tools and not enough on the organizational dynamics (my post from 2010, The Yin and Yang of Enterprise 2.0), I tend to see adoption as another term that has outlived it’s usefulness, much like everything 2.0 (Web 2.0, Enterprise 2.0, Greg2dot0?). What we are really talking about is helping people realize both personal and business value. For many people the personal value is by making their jobs simpler and/or giving them back minutes in their day, which in turn provides business value.

Social Business companies seems to be trying to use adoption as the way to stand up and be noticed. It’s sort of like your kid brother who wants to play ball with your friends trying to prove that he’s worthy. At some point, we’re not going to need to prove to anyone that social networking in the enterprise provides value. I remember when e-mail was first introduced (yes, I’ that old). Many executives would have their assistants print out their e-mail and place it in their physical inbox. Today, in general, there is not an executive in the world that doesn’t depend on e-mail to get his job done. The best part is he doesn’t ever question the value of e-mail except to perhaps wonder why they gets so much of it.

Bill Gates said, “Social networking-type applications will become as ubiquitous in the workplace as Microsoft Office tools and will likely replace e-mail as the dominant form of corporate communications.” When this happens, it will no longer be about adoption, but about focusing on the conversation, not the tool. At that time, you can be sure there will be another hot technology trying to prove its value through adoption.

What do you think about adoption? I’m interested to hear.