Five product management strategies to encourage feature adoption for enterprise application software
As a product manager building enterprise software, you’re often caught between the business requirements, the technology stack and the user experience. Enterprise software, such as CRMs, ERP products and content management software, is used by organizations to perform core business functions. But if teams can’t engage with the software, productivity dwindles, turnover increases, and ultimately, the business suffers.
Feature adoption should be a top priority for enterprise product managers. Yet according to ServiceRocket, adoption rates of enterprise applications software are surprisingly low considering organizational investments.
Successful feature adoption relies on enterprise application software that not only satisfies business requirements, but also adapts to the end user’s needs. In order to capture user needs at the product level, you must get it right at the feature level first. Here are 5 ways to guarantee customer success in enterprise feature adoption.
1— Iterate on the user experience
Rolling out a new feature doesn’t mean it’s perfect. Making sure that your features respond and adapt to users’ needs involves continuous improvements to your designs. After all, user experience is an iterative process.
Gathering feedback through UX research and user testing at each stage of the software development process – that is definition, design and development – will help you to evaluate the progress of your features during production. But gathering feedback and making improvements post-software deployment will help ensure that your features continue to serve the user in a long-term direction.
Introducing an iterative approach to enterprise software development starts with defining your workflow. The iterative process involves phases, repetitions and increments that include major and minor milestones, according to IBM – whose Iterations Methodology helps organizations create a foundation for rapid design, development and deployment for IT projects.
Iterating on the UX of your features requires constant testing and measuring of its effectiveness. At its simplest, an iterative project will assess the efforts of the team against the project’s requirements at each iteration with a retrospective, as well as measure the impact of the iteration’s results on the project as a whole through KPI assessment.
If you’re new to the iterative approach, consider starting out with a release train which doesn’t require the same thrust and speed as the agile iterative life cycle. And remember, although iterations can be useful, change for change’s sake is costly and disruptive. Iterative planning and feedback loops will help you to ensure that the iterations on your features are always beneficial to the user.
2— Make speed a top priority in software development
Poor user engagement with enterprise applications is a leading reason enterprise software fails to deliver the desired business results for organizations. Deloitte
Optimizing enterprise application software performance and responsiveness is key to user engagement of features. The faster new users can familiarize themselves with your software, the happier they’ll be. Remember, first impressions are often the only impressions.
Enterprises often need software to perform tasks across numerous servers, storage and OS platforms, so speed is key. Slow loading pages, unintuitive user interfaces and multiple overlays can add hours to a worker’s day, according to Cronforce.
Going responsive, optimizing images and compressing front-end code are popular methods for increasing page speed and improving performance in software and apps. Many organizations also adopt cloud-based ERP solutions to help speed up operations.
But the most important step in optimizing software responsiveness is to usability test everything. Usability testing from as early on as the prototyping stage of the software design process will help you identify problem areas quickly and find solutions more easily than scrutinizing development’s code.
Performing improper user testing will help you find any complications in the software from the user’s perspective. And engaging small groups of early adopters in the user testing phase will help you create fast feedback loops that you can then iterate on.
3— Know your user persona, not just your buyer persona
Defining your target customers will give you better insight into how well your software is responding to your users when you start to iterate on the user experience. But, as Zendesk’s Senior Product Manager, John Cutler, puts it: “You can’t assume the user and the customer are the same person.”
The customer, or buyer, makes the purchasing decisions, whereas the user will actively be using your software. Making this distinction is key to successful feature adoption.
In order to create features that respond to your users’ problems, you first need to identify who will be engaging with your software. UX research will help you define the characteristics, behavior and goals of your target user. You can then create a series of user personas (there is usually more than one) with a user persona template.
4— Improve feature discoverability with a sound onboarding education
Good onboarding increases customer adoption, retention, and referrals. Daniel Elizalde, Founder of TechProductManagement
The onboarding experience is an important part of the software customer life cycle. Done right, it can boost feature adoption, generate conversions and decrease support, sales and marketing costs. In fact, according to an enterprise software customer success study by Successfull, during the onboarding process is often when users decide whether or not to endorse the software.
No matter how solid your product is, users need to be shown its value. Gamify on-screen guidance for new features with in-app tutorials, wizards and product tours or walkthroughs to promote feature discoverability and increase your chances of feature adoption. IBM has a guide on preparing a communications and training plan to help users get on board with new features.
A common strategy for a successful onboarding experience is to include it in the feature definition phase. When setting product vision, defining features, creating a roadmap, product managers should including onboarding in these responsibilities.
5— Promote services evangelism post-deployment
Enterprise features can provide immediate value for workers, if they are able to use them. Thus, integrating your Support team into the feature adoption strategy is non-negotiable. By offering support through live chat, help-desk software or on social media platforms, you are not only building relationships with your customers but creating an environment where customer satisfaction can thrive.
Consider your approach to Support: is it reactive or proactive? Traditional tech support is reactive – the ‘break-fix’ approach when Support responds to a customer’s problem. But proactive support – when Support prevents problems from occurring through regular maintenance and constant monitoring of processes and bugs – is becoming more common in enterprise software.
IT Solutions Manager David Eichkorn relays that with IT enterprise infrastructure becoming more complex and hacking more sophisticated, more enterprise software companies are opting for the proactive approach to IT Support to improve uptime and productivity, and helps reduce risks and errors.
A quick primer for pro-proactive tech support: scheduling pending upgrades over the weekend and sending email notifications in advance of maintenance will do wonders for your customer satisfaction rates.
Capturing user needs alongside business goals is vital for driving user engagement and feature adoption. User testing and KPI analysis will ensure continuous evaluation of your features’ performance and usability. Finally, building a strong onboarding experience and engaging the Support team in preventing errors will make the user adoption phase less dicey and help you rev the growth engine.