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Companies are investing billions of dollars in modernization efforts, but rather than getting a big bang for their megabucks, they may be drowning employees in technology.
Ironically, technology may help companies with their technological overload. A set of tools, often referred to as digital adoption platforms, is designed to help employees learn how to use digital tools and help them complete tasks.
Digital adoption platforms sit on top of an organization's apps and use AI and analytics to follow what employees are doing as they work on applications. Companies can use digital adoption platforms to provide automated training, or give tips and guidance on how to work with various tools.
Companies such as WalkMe, Whatfix, SAP Enable Now and Apty compete in the digital adoption platform market. Many are geared toward the sales staff, but, increasingly, use cases are growing for digital adoption tools in most enterprise applications, such as ERP, CRM, HR, procurement and customer service.
A "Franken-stack" of applications
A new survey report from Harvard Business Review Analytic Services pointed to some of the reasons why modernization efforts are failing, and how digital adoption platforms can address the problems.
In "The State of Digital Adoption 2021" report, HBR Analytic Services conducted a survey of just over 500 business executives about the objectives of digital transformation initiatives in their companies, the use of digital touchpoints like enterprise applications, and how they manage and govern digital adoption.
In the survey, 81% of the executives said that their typical employees interact with four or more digital touchpoints in their day-to-day activities, while 56% said that their employees are expected to master at least three new digital touchpoints every year.
Companies are piling these applications onto their employees without properly preparing them for the complexity the applications introduce, said Alex Clemente, managing director at HBR Analytic Services, a research arm of Harvard Business Review.
"Companies are investing in various enterprise applications, and they've created the 'Franken-stack' model of all of these things pieced together, but with no real overarching strategy," he said.
The enterprise application "Franken-stacks" are created by "fiefdoms" within companies that choose applications that best suit their functions, such as an ERP system for back office operations or CRM for sales and marketing, "but there's not enough on training and behavioral change," he said.
Alex ClementeManaging director, Harvard Business Review Analytic Services
While the number of applications used in the enterprise continues to increase, particularly as more employees have gone remote due to COVID-19, the ability of employees to effectively use the applications lags. According to the survey, only 16% of executives said that their employees consistently demonstrate a high digital aptitude, but for the vast majority, the digital aptitude is either moderate (41%) or varies throughout the organization (28%). Further, 14% reported that employees have consistently low digital aptitude.
One of the challenges companies experience with digital adoption is getting employees to adapt from a former way of doing things to a new way of doing things, Clemente said.
"That's the critical stage that companies face with transformation, but once you get through it, people say, 'Why didn't we do this much sooner?'" he said. "So, the critical part is measuring and knowing if people as individuals are succeeding or failing."
Digital adoption platforms are one method that companies can use to help employees become more productive on enterprise applications and improve digital transformation results.
"One of the things about a digital adoption platform is that it's not only about monitoring, but it's also about user experience and usage," Clemente said. "The biggest challenge that a lot of people have is that you've got all these applications and they always have to go in and out of those applications. Whereas if you have a digital platform, you can stay on the same screen and keep all of these applications together and stay connected with all the various tools."
GPS for the enterprise application landscape
One provider of digital adoption platforms is WalkMe, which sponsored the Harvard Business Review Analytic Services survey and has its corporate headquarters in Tel Aviv, Israel. WalkMe's SaaS platform provides a way for employees to understand and better use enterprise applications. It also collects data on usage so that companies can find out if users are struggling with application adoption, said Ofir Bloch, research vice president of strategic positioning at WalkMe.
"WalkMe overlays on top of any application and guides you through usage the minute you start using an application, so it's like a GPS for your software that gets you from Point A to Point Z without having to use a map," Bloch said.
For companies, WalkMe, which was founded in 2011, acts like Google Analytics for the enterprise application landscape, he said.
"The second WalkMe is installed on a user's desktop it starts gathering information," Bloch said. "This provides visibility immediately and allows you to understand how users are interacting with the underlying technology, where they're struggling, and the processes that they're not able to complete."
Last month, WalkMe completed its acquisition of Zest, an AI-based search tool for information retrieval from the cloud. In a press release, Dan Adika, WalkMe's CEO and co-founder, said Zest "will bring new levels of functionality and efficiency to the WalkMe product suite, making it easier for customers to achieve their digital transformation goals."
Enterprise application usage assistance
CrossCountry Mortgage LLC, a mortgage services firm in Cleveland, has used the WalkMe digital adoption platform to help manage rapid growth, according to Joe Poyma, CrossCountry Mortgage digital adoption leader.
Poyma was tasked with training employees on enterprise applications such as Salesforce CRM and SAP Concur for expense reporting. Training was done first by visiting branches and then through a video series when the company began to add more branches, making personal visits impractical, Poyma said.
The videos worked well until a couple years ago when CrossCountry went through a rebrand, which changed the colors and visual elements of the applications, making the content look different to users.
"They wanted me to redo these videos that had taken months to make, and I thought that by the time I reedited these videos, they would have to be changed again," Poyma said.
CrossCountry Mortgage implemented WalkMe primarily for training purposes but because the training takes place within the application while employees are using it, the company found that it has helped users navigate its array of nine enterprise applications, he explained.
"We brought in WalkMe because Salesforce was new, and employees don't have the time to become a Salesforce or Concur expert. They're here to sell mortgages or to sell loans to potential borrowers," Poyma said. "With WalkMe, it's not just 'click here,' it actually tells people when and where to click, as opposed to them just looking at the screen and watching a video, and having to pause that video every second to figure out what they have to do."
Poyma has tracked metrics on how applications are being used and has seen a significant reduction in support tickets since implementing WalkMe.
"When we first launched WalkMe, the amount of utilization for Salesforce increased and tickets decreased by about 40%," he said. "This meant that we all got time back in our day to actually build things, rather than just spending it training people."
Jim O'Donnell is a TechTarget news writer who covers ERP and other enterprise applications for SearchSAP and SearchERP.