A survey of UK senior decision makers found that 77% believe COVID-19 is driving their organization’s shift to a digital-first mindset.

That’s not because they weren’t already planning a path to digitalization, that is, finding ways to use new digital technologies to modernize business models and operations. Rather, COVID-19 has forced companies to implement digital tools and processes much faster than they ever expected.

This could be a silver lining for businesses in an otherwise grim moment in history—but only if you have a digital adoption strategy that maximizes the impact of your organization’s new tools, systems, and processes.

Digital adoption has to be a strategic focus if you want to see the benefits of digitalization beyond your company’s COVID-19 recovery.

The Pandemic Sped Up Digitalization Roadmaps by 3+ Years

COVID-19 challenges forced businesses to digitalize products, services, and processes in weeks instead of the months or years it was expected to take, according to McKinsey.

Customer interactions have gone digital three to four years faster than expected due to COVID-19, and companies had to adapt their offerings to stabilize at the start of the pandemic.

But it’s not just customer-facing products and processes that are going digital faster. So many operational digitalization plans have happened on tighter timelines because of COVID. According to the same McKinsey study:

  • Executives expected to increase support for remote work and improve collaboration in 454 days. It took 10.5—43x faster than anticipated.
  • Executives expected to increase the use of advanced technology in operations in 672 days. It took 26.5—25x faster than anticipated.
  • Executives expected to increase the use of advanced technology in decision-making in 635 days. It took 25.4—25x faster than anticipated.

Changing tools and processes so fast was necessary for survival right as the pandemic hit. McKinsey’s survey found that “companies have stood up at least temporary solutions to meet many of the new demands on them,” and that they’re “already making the kinds of investments that all but ensure they will stick.”

Making these changes stick requires more than continued investments in digital technologies. During your company’s COVID recovery, rapid digitalization will put pressure on your long-term digital adoption strategy. You have to be ready to take on the challenges.

With Rapid Digital Adoption Comes Challenges

There’s a reason pre-pandemic digitalization roadmaps stretched so far out into the future—the challenges of digital adoption. It’s not easy to get employee buy-in, train and onboard the workforce, and support knowledge retention.

The McKinsey survey found that one reason executives didn’t want to speed up digitalization before the pandemic was that “the required changes represented too big a shock to established ways of working.”

But now, rapid digital adoption at scale is a necessity, and it’s already underway. The usual digital adoption challenges have intensified as a result.

  • Employee Buy-In: Rapid digital adoption eliminates many of the strategies you could use to help employees cope with changes in their status quo. Under normal circumstances, you could communicate upcoming changes to systems and processes weeks and months ahead of time to prepare them. And you could give them opportunities to test out new tools before making an all-out transition. Accelerated timelines force employees to dive in headfirst.
  • Initial Onboarding: Rapid digital adoption forces you to limit your onboarding processes. Traditional onboarding gives users too many new features to learn all at once. You need something more nuanced. You need to craft more efficient programs that give employees only the most essential knowledge to start using new digital tools.
  • Ongoing Training: Rapid digital adoption limits your time to create training materials. With so many systems and processes to learn, employees are bound to have more ongoing questions beyond initial onboarding than under normal training circumstances. It’s harder to support employee challenges on demand when you have less time to create the necessary content.
  • Knowledge Retention: Rapid digital adoption makes it even more difficult for employees to retain knowledge about new tools. The Forgetting Curve shows that memory retention drops as low as 40% within a few days of someone learning a new piece of information. When you ask them to learn multiple new tools and processes at the same time, it gets even harder for them to retain knowledge long-term.

There’s no going back to the way things were before the pandemic. All your new digital tools and processes are here to stay—and more are on the way.

Now, your digital adoption strategy has to keep up and address these challenges.

Your Digital Adoption Strategy Is Key to Unlocking Digitalization Benefits

Effective digital adoption strategies unlock the efficiency, productivity, and agility benefits of digitalization. These benefits are critical for maintaining competitive advantages during your company’s COVID recovery.

According to McKinsey, “the companies that have executed successful responses to the crisis report a range of technology capabilities that others don’t—most notably, filling gaps for technology talent during the crisis, the use of more advanced technologies, and speed in experimenting and innovating.”

The gap between these high-performers and companies that struggle with digital adoption will only get wider as COVID recovery continues. That’s why every organization needs a digital adoption strategy that can match the speed and scale of their digitalization. There are four elements of a strong strategy:

  • Learning in the Flow of Work: The most efficient way to onboard and train users on new digital tools is to support learning by doing. Inserting training materials in the flow of work gives employees immediate answers and guidance on their specific challenges. This is a far more efficient way to drive digital adoption compared to traditional training models that dump an overwhelming amount of information and instruction on employees all at once.
  • Customization for the Tech Adoption Curve: Customize training and onboarding for everyone, from the early adopters and risk-takers to your tech laggards. Providing in-app guidance that helps employees learn new tools at their own pace maximizes the impact of new tools and processes.
  • Microlearning for Just-in-Time Support: Microlearning content ensures that employees can get immediate answers to their questions as they learn in the flow of work. Just-in-time support for digital adoption challenges won’t help much if you’re constantly giving employees training content that takes hours to work through. Splitting that content into quick bites gives employees help when they need it and in a way that maximizes knowledge retention.
  • Deep Analytics to Track Progress: A Digital Adoption Platform (DAP) like Whatfix gives you access to deep analytics, so you can track the training progress for each individual user, as well as engagement metrics for your content. Real-time insight into the progress of digital adoption helps proactively address training issues to keep your strategy on track.

These four components are the foundation of your digital adoption strategy. With them, you get the flexibility and scalability necessary to keep pace with rapid digitalization.

There’s No Room for Error in Digital Adoption

There’s no time for slow rollouts or experimentation when it comes to digitalization during your COVID-19 recovery. You need to implement digital tools and processes as fast as possible to meet customer expectations and stay ahead of competitors—and so much of that comes down to your ability to drive digital adoption among your employees.

A DAP like Whatfix gives you the features and capabilities to check all the boxes of an effective digital transformation strategy. It helps you create bite-sized training content that fits into the flow of work and helps employees retain what they learn. And it gives you the data to make informed decisions when updating your strategy.

Want to see how it works? Start your free trial of Whatfix and see how you can meet the need for rapid digital adoption.

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