Change champion: how to grow into your technology faster with adoption maturity

Who wants to grow up anyway? Way back when Google and Facebook were just getting started, their rebellion against the status quo seemed positively juvenile. But these days, a culture and practice that’s all about embracing change, disruption and innovation is the ultimate competitive advantage. Ironically, the term that now defines best practice in embedding new technology is adoption maturity. And if yours is an organisation that wants to develop the capacity, governance and culture it takes to succeed with your tech, it’s time to start paying attention to just how grown up you are.

No matter what sector you’re in or the size of your organisation, change can be downright painful. Yet, for any team that expects to succeed in meeting goals – and enjoy the journey –  ditching old technologies and the habits that go with them will ease their path to progress. This readiness to change goes well beyond a cultural mindset or a strategic plan. It’s called adoption maturity and there are many conditions in your organisation that indicate whether you’re stuck in the confusing and troubled adolescent phase, or are shifting gradually up through the levels to become a veritable chameleon adopting and adapting at will to the possibilities of the new cloud-powered business landscape.

Our previous survey showed that across key areas of the business model, companies’ overall adoption of digital technologies had sped up by three to seven years in a span of months. The newest results show that this acceleration is also happening at the level of core business practices: what was considered best-in-class speed for most business practices in 2018 is now slower than average.

McKinsey Digital, Global Survey on Digital Strategy, 26 May 2021

Know where you are on the spectrum

So just how much capacity is there for change in your organisation? Can you can take transformation without stalling on business as usual?  In our experience partnering with organisations wrangling with transitions to the cloud, citizen developers, modular apps and more, the answer is that most are trying to do too many things too quickly and limiting their success as a result. More often than not they’re overestimating their capacity for change, making bold moves informed by agile principles only to find they’re simply not ready for it.

The stumbles might start with governance. Once these are overcome, other missteps can come from the appetite teams actually have for the change in working practices that will bring them on the cloud journey. Or the reverse can happen, and things come unstuck when internal teams can’t keep up with demand for cloud services.

Whether you’re an organisation that’s falling at the first hurdle or even further along the track, there’s absolutely no shame in it. Pretty much everyone in Australia – and the world in fact – is trying to do this at the same time and everyone is learning at a different pace. But it’s far easier to come up the adoption maturity curve if you can actually have an awareness of where you are compared with best practice and admit just how great or small the gap really is. Without this insight, you’ll be making a whole lot of decisions that won’t be supported by all parts of the business. This can play out in reputational damage for decision makers. In spite of the best efforts of experts, transformations that have ambitions beyond the current maturity level are likely to miss their mark by some distance.

Maturity means learning from mistakes

Unfortunately, just as with growing up into adult humans, awareness of immaturity usually comes from failure. You see this all the time when new recruits from a different sector or organisation, make a decision to drive transformation with more momentum and vigour than the current team and frameworks can actually deal with. On paper it all looks so simple and achievable. But when you bring people into it, things get complex. Knowing what people are capable of at any point in time is one of the key maturity factors to be aware of when getting a tech transition to stick. For example, your DevOps team may be completely in the dark about the app functions frontline workers will find most useful. Designing something with all the bells and whistles could see them completely confused and avoiding their new tech altogether. While there may be potential to have them adopt a more fully-featured app down the track, but expecting them to do so from day one is usually an overshoot. Solve one problem for them now and you’ll get their buy-in for more complex troubleshooting with new technology in the future. You can’t get them there overnight.

Start with the big steps

To minimise the chances of transformations being derailed by assumptions, a smarter approach is one where you’re strategic about picking your bets and experimenting to test both capacity and cadence. And keeping track of which part of your effort is delivering the greatest success – the 80/20 rule that inspired our business name – is essential in order to maximise impact as you travel this incremental path to adoption.

But this isn’t to say that a series of small steps is the only way to get you where you need to go. When so many organisations accelerated their transition to Teams due to COVID, it was a pretty massive undertaking. Getting people onto the platform, giving them secure and appropriate access to data and tools and gathering the right groups and communities – none of this could have happened without a big push to sort out issues with cloud services, data architecture and more.

At digitally maturing entities, small “i” innovations or experiments typically lead to more big “I” innovations than at other organizations. Digitally maturing organizations are more than twice as likely as companies at the early stages of digital development to drive both small, iterative experiments and enterprise-wide initiatives rather than mainly experiments.

MIT Sloan Report, Achieving Digital Maturity, 2017

With these major steps under their belt, organisations can now experience a big uplift in value from their investment and their adoption maturity too. As they embed more and more applications – both standard and custom, thanks to Power Apps capability – the constraints on productivity of people and teams fall away. This is where organisations can see the steps in their digital evolution get smaller. As you create more capacity in your systems to handle change and adoption, the many elements that drive that change are more easily aligned. The cadence increases, introducing greater potential for organisations to respond to shifts in customer demand faster and position for greater market share as well as efficiency and profitability.

Frameworks can take you only so far

Knowing what’s at stake, Microsoft are stepping in to offer support with the inevitable struggles of growing into their technologies. They’ve created adoption frameworks – like this one for the Power Platform – that organisations, and consultants like Eighty20 can use to help assess current maturity and unlock capacity for more streamlined enterprise wide adoption. A Teams adoption hub has also sprung up as a self-service resource to guide organisations through a best-practice approach to unlocking the power of this versatile app. And if you want to really get stuck into a more detailed analysis of your maturity, the Enterprise Management Maturity Model has plenty of levels and pillars to sink your teeth into.

As this detailed wiki on Power Platform adoption points out, consultancies like us are expected to have a ‘playbook’ based on a framework like this. But we believe there’s a lot of time and budget that can be spent for little return when these playbooks become the bibles of transformation. They can certainly guide your analysis of gaps between current and best practice and provide ideas for where to get started in boosting your capacity for adoption. But as organisations mature, they adapt more readily and each problem to be solved is arising from a new context. Each element, pillar or level of a framework is only useful when looked at through the lens of where you are right now and what your people and processes need to make fast changes stick. 

Leave no one behind

Something that’s harder for frameworks to take into account is the different rates of adoption readiness across business units and teams. Some will have more tolerance and capacity for change than others, depending on the nature of their roles, demographic make-up and working habits. One team may need a greater number of stepping stones to make their way through a transition, others can leapfrog ahead. Knowledge workers may struggle more with some technologies, front line workers with others. They will have diverse needs to cater for, and an approach bound to frameworks can overlook this very human element in maturity and progress.

This is one reason why Eighty20 will often engage with organisations by forming a hybrid team, with our members and yours working together on gap analysis and plans for expanding change capacity. It takes on the ground insights to keep the cadence and capacity for adoption rising at a comfortable rate across teams and with leaders and decision makers. This one team mindset enables us to lift capability and maturity across the board without pushing anyone too far and too fast. It also helps us seize opportunities for small improvements that can turn into big windfalls for learning and cultural evolution. As people at every level get excited about the possibilities, they become willing to sacrifice comfort for doing things better and faster.

And this is, ultimately, the growing up that needs to happen for organisations that aspire to become more digitally mature and responsive. They need leaders and a workforce that really want to grow into the potential technology brings and will put conscious effort into a strategy that chases improvement instead of accepting where they are.   

Get in touch to start finding the gaps in your adoption maturity and reduce the pain of growing into your technology.