Adoption is a Sales Metric, not a Value Metric

I was at a Microsoft event a few weeks ago. Their take on "any-device" collaborative technology is interesting and could yield huge benefits to organizations (if they are really ready for it!). But I found one thing frustrating about much of the discussion.

It was the focus on adoption as the key measure of success.  

I hear the same metric bandied about in IT, comms and HR (LMS "adoption" anyone?). To me, it's a useless measure. It's a metric for salespeople to measure their success, not for users getting value. Indeed, Microsoft even rewards their salespeople based on client adoption numbers (or at least they did in 2012). 

I've been working with social collaboration technology for years, in IT, HR and Comms departments. Often, I've had my dislike of adoption as a useful metric questioned. But I'd rather have 20% of the organization using new digital technology and getting deep value (i.e. it's completely embedded in work processes) than 80% just turning it on every day.

Yes, there's the argument that you push towards a tipping point in numbers of people using a technology. But really, how do you know that people are getting value: e.g. engagement in their work, reduction in technology-related stress, improvement in business processes, greater sharing or learning? These are outcomes. Adoption is not an outcome. These things take time and a focus on deep integration into work. Adoption focuses on IT as the outcome, not the desired changes in systems, processes, behaviours and culture.

This is why the latest buzz term "digital transformation"  means different things to different types of organisation. Old terms stick and new terms get appropriated to mean old things. And metrics like adoption stick around far too long.