Is Adoption the New ROI of Collaboration?


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This was the message that Yammer’s CTO and Co-Founder Adam Pisoni delivered at the Info360 Conference in NYC this morning. While I’m not sure that the title of the presentation translated into the actual content, the presentation itself was great; filled with useful stats, telling visuals, and relevant analogies. It’s actually a good thing that Adam wasn’t drilling across the “Adoption is the new ROI” message during all of his slides because that’s a tough pill to swallow. The assumption is that by employees adopting and actively using collaborative tools that business value will present itself. Now while this certainly might be true, “adoption” is (at least in my experience) never a driving force for companies to invest in these emergent tools or strategies.

The reality is that adoption is neither a use case nor is it a business problem. Leaders at organizations don’t make the decision to deploy these tools just so that they can get a lot of people using them. No, leaders see real business problems within their enterprise such as:

  • multiple devices being used within enterprises that need to talk to each other
  • difficulty in organizational alignment and insight into the ground floor of the company
  • duplication of content and inefficient ways of working
  • work-life balance issues
  • poor employee engagement
  • stagnant innovation
  • and many others

Adoption doesn’t necessarily mean that any of these problems are solved or that any objectives are met. Adoption is a constant challenge for many organizations today. I speak with many companies who are typically saying something along the lines of, “we deployed something and nobody is using it, what do we do?” But getting that adoption needs to have some reasoning behind it, let’s say you had 100% active adoption of employees using whatever it is you deployed 10x a day, then what? What is the point of the activity and of that usage?

It’s interesting because many organizations have no KPIs for their collaboration efforts and those that do set up KPIs rarely check in on them. So it seems as though adoption and activity metrics have become the default metric(s) of choice to manage success. As I’ve stated in the past this is focusing too much on the affect rather than the cause. Perhaps this is because many companies don’t understand why they are deploying these tools to begin with. This works for some companies but not for others.

What do you think? Is adoption the new ROI as Adam suggests or should be looking beyond that? What does your organization look at?

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Jacob Morgan
I'm a best-selling author, keynote speaker, and futurist who explores what the future of work is going to look like and how to create great experiences so that employees actually want to show up to work. I've written three best-selling books which are: The Employee Experience Advantage (2017), The Future of Work (2014), and The Collaborative Organization (2012).


  1. Jacob, great point about adoption not equal to ROI.

    But I remember from the good old days of SFA that one of the big problems was reps wouldn’t use the tools. Without usage, there’s no chance to get an ROI.

    Of course, at some point business executives may ask what did they get from all that adoption. By then, the vendors will have moved on. ROI is not the vendor’s problem, but adoption is because otherwise subscriptions will not be continued.

    If a business leader buys into the adoption=ROI argument, they get exactly what they deserve.

  2. With SFA, there’s a direct one-to-one relationship between the user and the data. If the user doesn’t log in, he or she doesn’t get access to the data. It’s pretty straightforward.

    With social networks, it’s always a one-to-many relationship. If the user doesn’t log in, they still have access to certain people with other channels. And if the user logs in and doesn’t follow the right people or communities, the user still won’t achieve value.

    Adoption is a first step to ROI, but it needs to be followed with appropriate network topology designed to achieve specific goals. After all that is established, social software starts creating ROI.

  3. I know a lot of reps who keep two sets of “books” — one in he SFA system which is mandated by management, and other in their Outlook, phone and excel spreadsheets.

    New tools always compete with something else already being used. With the new social networking tools, you’re right that people have other options. But just like SFA, unless the tool is adopted, there is no possibility for ROI to be associated with that tool.

    It’s interesting to watch the software industry change as a result of the shift to cloud-based solutions sold on a subscription basis. figured out early on that adoption was critical, and built it into their approach. Yammer and other vendors do the same.

    Do the (adopted) tools generate an ROI? That’s a very different question that’s entirely dependent on the buying organization, not the vendor. But at least this is a giant step forward from the old days of “sell it and run” enterprise software reps, because nobody really cared how many seats were not installed or used.

  4. For business software, adoption is not about using the tool, but using it efficiently. You can use your CRM daily and still hate it because it doesn’t do what you need.

    So true adoption does generate ROI, and vendors are also responsible for it, because they charge a lot for implementation, training and professional services and customers end up realizing that they use only part of the system and not very efficiently.

    I’m not sure how adoption is different for cloud computing, since the idea is the same: you buy access to a solution or some of its modules – how much of it you use actually depends on how well you know the solution and how well it works with your business processes.

  5. I’m not sure what you mean by “true” adoption. And I don’t think SaaS vendors can measure whether a cloud-based tool is being used “efficiently” must less effectively.

    What they can measure is usage — are reps logging in, posting data, viewing reports, etc. And that’s the key difference between the cloud and installed solutions.

    At least cloud-based vendors have some clue about whether users are using. With installed software, they have no idea until their customer tells them. That’s progress, but comes far short of using effectively.

    So you may be right that true adoption drives ROI. I just don’t see how vendors can impact this, unless they or some third party provide consulting services.


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