This article was originally published on Digital-Adoption.com

The digital adoption platform (DAP) is an innovative software training solution that can vastly improve employee productivity, performance, and engagement.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore the DAP inside and out, covering:

  • The definition of the DAP
  • How organizations use DAPs to improve workforce metrics
  • Why software training inevitably leads to digital adoption
  • A step-by-step process for implementing DAPs 

And much more.

We’ll start by looking at the basics of the digital adoption platform – what it does and how it is used.

The Digital Adoption Platform (DAP) Defined

In short, a digital adoption platform is a cutting-edge software training solution that can transform the way that users learn a software program.

Unlike traditional training methods, DAPs train users automatically and without any human intervention.

And, unlike other training software, DAPs deliver greater levels of personalization and interactivity – which can completely revolutionize training approaches, as well as results.

DAPs get results such as these through a set of key features that include:

  • In-app walkthroughs. In-app walkthroughs take users step-by-step through a series of actions. In essence, this is like having a tutor walking someone through a workflow … without the need for human assistance. 
  • Product tours. A product tour takes users through a product’s key features. Tours are like walkthroughs, except they are designed to introduce a product and help users become familiar with the interface. Tours such as these can improve conversion rates during trials, streamline onboarding, and more.
  • Contextualized guidance. DAPs deliver their training directly inside an application, which reduces the time lag between learning and application. This increases knowledge retention dramatically, which, in turn, improves time-to-competency and time-to-productivity.
  • Task automation. Some platforms, such as WalkMe’s DAP, can automatically perform tedious, repetitive tasks. This frees up employees’ time for more valuable activities, which increases engagement and results in massive productivity gains for the organization. 
  • Software analytics. Software analytics are used to track software usage, which presents insight into user behavior, training needs, and much more. This enables an unprecedented ability to analyze training programs at a granular level, then make detailed adjustments to training walkthroughs – which, again, are all delivered automatically.

To sum up: DAPs are cutting-edge platforms that open up new possibilities when it comes to user onboarding, training, and adoption.

However, to make full use of these training platforms, it pays to gain a deeper understanding of digital adoption and other related concepts.

Key Concepts and Terms

DAPs are built upon digital adoption, a comprehensive business strategy aimed at improving software utilization, productivity, and ROI.

Unlike training, which focuses mostly on skills development, adoption takes a holistic view of software’s role within its users’ digital environment – whether those users are customers or employees.

Let’s look at some important concepts that can help us better understand DAPs:

Onboarding

Onboarding is an important stage within the adoption process, and, depending on the marketplace or industry, goes by different names.

These include:

  • Product onboarding
  • User onboarding
  • Software onboarding
  • Employee onboarding

The first three terms in this list are often used to describe the same process.

Namely, onboarding revolves around:

  • Introducing a product to users. Before people can begin using a product, they must be introduced to its core features. Product tours are designed to do just that. These interactive tours show the key features of an application briefly and quickly, in order to demonstrate its functionality and potential value.
  • Providing initial training. The faster a user can become productive with a product, the more quickly they will engage with it and stay on board for the long term.
  • Simplifying the initial software experience. Complex software can be daunting to new users, which can increase frustration and confusion. These, in turn, can depress engagement and retention rates – the remedy is to simplify the software experience, ideally by providing interactive assistance as soon as users log in for the first time.
  • Ensuring that users have access to adequate support. Readily available support is another key to successful onboarding. That is, users should be able to contact technical support or customer support quickly and easily. 

Employee onboarding refers to the integration of an employee into a new working environment.

Though this includes other connotations and meanings, it also involves software onboarding. After all, today’s new hire must inevitably learn new digital software as they enter the workplace.

Training

Training is another critical element of the adoption process.

Depending on the circumstances, training can be referred to as:

  • Employee training
  • User training
  • Software training
  • Product training

When discussed in the context of digital training, these terms almost always refer to the same process.

Training, that is, involves:

  • Improving skills and proficiency. Training’s primary aim is increasing user skill levels, which is, in turn, necessary in order to realize the full value of a product. However, as we will soon discover, organizations should expand their aims to include digital adoption, customer growth, and other strategic goals.
  • Ensuring that end users can become productive. User productivity is an important aim of training. Although that productivity depends on proficiency and skills, it also depends on engagement, motivation, the user experience, and other variables. Training programs, therefore, should also be designed to keep users engaged.
  • Maximizing knowledge retention, while minimizing costs. Training costs depend a great deal on the training method being employed. In the digital age, automated training solutions are ideal, because they are efficient, scalable, and interactive – in short, they maximize knowledge retention at a minimal cost.

Whether the end users are customers or employees, the end goals are nearly the same: improving proficiency, productivity, and performance.

However, this purpose is rarely the true end goal – user performance always serves the greater aim of adoption.

Adoption

Adoption is the ultimate purpose that drives training and, like the other concepts covered above, can go by different terms.

These can include:

  • Digital adoption
  • Product adoption
  • Software adoption
  • User adoption

Despite an overlap in their meanings, each term does have its own specific definition.

Product adoption, for instance, focuses on the product itself.

Digital adoption, however, takes a higher-level perspective and also includes the context of which that product is a part.

Digital adoption is defined as:

Achieving a state in which digital tools are being used as intended, and to their fullest extent.

The semantic differences between these terms may seem small at first glance.

However, those differences can have a large impact on how an organization structures its adoption efforts, which tools it uses, and the results it can achieve.

Frequently Asked Questions About DAPs

By answering some of the most commonly asked questions about digital adoption solutions, we can gain a better understanding of their uses and benefits.

What are the advantages of using DAPs vs. other training approaches?

There are plenty of training methods to choose from, including:

  • In-person training
  • Online teaching
  • Other training software

Each of these approaches has its benefits, but DAPs have a number of advantages over other approaches.

DAPs are:

  • Interactive – Users can simultaneously interact with the training software and the software they are trying to learn. DAPs guide users interactively, which provides hands-on experiential learning.
  • Scalable – Businesses of any size can use DAPs to train their employees or customers. The same cannot be said of other training methods, which often become cumbersome and costly as the number of users increases.
  • Personalized – Because training is delivered in context, at the moment of need, users received an unprecedented level of personalization. This ensures that training is relevant, useful, and beneficial, which increases user engagement and productivity.
  • Automated – DAPs’ in-product training is fully automated, giving trainers more time to focus on designing walkthroughs and training programs. 

Certain training methods have some of these advantages.

Live in-person teaching, for example, can be interactive and it offers a certain amount of personalization.

However, it is not scalable and becomes very impractical as class sizes grow.

What are the most common use cases for DAPs?

DAPs are useful for:

  • Employee training and productivity
  • Enterprise software implementation
  • Promoting software features or additional products
  • Customer adoption, growth, and retention

Generally, these use cases cover two groups – enterprises that want to train employees and product creators that want to onboard and train customers.

In both cases, DAPs can vastly improve the user experience and generate big boosts in software ROI.

Who managers DAPs within an organization?

The answer varies from organization to organization, but typically digital adoption is handled by a number of team members, including:

  • Digital adoption managers. As the title suggests, digital adoption managers are tasked with managing an organization’s digital adoption function. In many organizations, this job role focuses on in-house digital adoption – ensuring that employees effectively adopt and use new software. In other organizations, they may focus on customer acquisition and adoption, though the job title may differ.
  • Digital engagement managers. The duties associated with this job should also be self-evident from the title. Digital engagement managers are concerned with how users engage with their products. 
  • Training managers. Training managers solely focus on improving users’ proficiency with a tool or a set of tools. In the digital workplace, training must, of course, extend its focus beyond a single tool or platform. Instead, trainers must maximize cross-platform skill sets and focus on the efficiency of the entire digital workplace.
  • Employee experience managers. The employee experience covers every aspect of an employee’s interaction with a brand. That experience begins from the first time a company initiates contact with a company, then ends after departure. Digital onboarding, training, and adoption are all included within this process.

Typically, those in charge of digital adoption should:

  • Have strong communication skills
  • Deal with people on a regular basis
  • Be ready to train users using data-driven technology and techniques
  • Be in HR, training, experience management, or a similar role

In short, since digital adoption involves onboarding and training, a business’s digital adoption function should be delegated to team members with the appropriate skills and authority.

What is digital adoption?

Digital adoption means using technology to its fullest extent and for its intended purpose.

It is a process that aims to:

  • Support digital transformation efforts. Today, all organizations are undergoing digital transformation to a certain extent. That is, due to the disruptive effects of technology, businesses must adapt their operations in order to survive and stay competitive. 
  • Maintain a proficient, productive workforce. Proficiency and productivity go hand-in-hand, which is why these are a major focus of adoption and training programs. Digital adoption, however, extends its focus to include many of the other points discussed here.
  • Integrate digital workflows. Proficiency in a single platform is usually not sufficient to guarantee productivity in today’s digital work environment. Employees will often be required to use multiple platforms in order to complete their day-to-day tasks, which requires competency in each of those tools. 
  • Help businesses become digital-first enterprises. Many businesses realize that a digital-first business strategy is necessary to survival in the digital economy. This entails the adoption of new technology, customer-centric business strategies, data-driven business processes, and so forth.
  • Provide a permanent, effective training function. Perpetual learning is becoming a permanent part of the modern organization, which means that employees must continually train, upskill, and reskill. Having a digital adoption function ensures that employees are always skilled and productive.

Among other things.

Modern businesses understand that “software deployment” and “software training” is just not enough.

Ultimately, software implementation and training support other business endeavors, such as digital transformation or customer growth.

For reasons such as these, it is critical that businesses focus on the larger strategic picture and create digital adoption programs.

What is a digital adoption strategy?

Digital adoption strategies are, as just mentioned, designed to support larger imperatives, including:

  • Digital transformation. As mentioned, organizations are continually transforming in order to keep up with the changing economy. Effective transformation depends on, among other things, the ability to integrate software into the workplace, quickly and efficiently.
  • Organizational change. Many changes involve – or even stem from – the adoption of new technology. Such organizational changes are not guaranteed to succeed and depend on employee support, effective user training, a structured change management approach, and so forth.
  • Maintaining and improving employee proficiency and productivity. An organization’s performance depends on its employees’ performance – and that performance depends on how well they can adopt and use digital technology, among other things. 
  • Maximizing software ROI. A product is only valuable to the extent that it is used. If, for instance, employees at an organization only sporadically use a software program, then that platform will only deliver a fraction of its potential ROI.

To support these aims, digital adoption efforts revolve around issues such as:

  • Improving software users’ experiences
  • Streamlining the onboarding process
  • Increasing user retention
  • Making products more usable and useful
  • Training users as quickly and efficiently as possible

These strategies can then be hard-coded into an action plan, or a roadmap, that defines how businesses will adopt new software, onboard new users, and so forth.

Which businesses can make use of DAPs?

Typically, there are two types of businesses that can make use of DAPs – product creators and businesses that implement software internally.

Product creators use DAPs to, for instance:

  • Improve the customer onboarding experience. Good customer onboarding funnels help new users learn a product quickly, efficiently, and without friction. A good experience will increase the chances that users make it to the next stage of the customer life cycle. The ultimate goal is that they become loyal for the long term.
  • Increase conversion rates during software trials. First impressions matter, which is why most product developers incorporate some form of training into their software trials. Product tours and basic walkthroughs can improve users’ experience during software trials, which can increase conversion rates and customer growth.
  • Teach users how to use a software program. Simple apps may not need any user training functions. However, the more complex the app, the more necessary it is to include interactive training. Games and enterprise-grade SaaS platforms, for example, can benefit from the inclusion of in-app training.

Enterprises, who adopt software for in-house use, focus more on:

  • Employee proficiency, productivity, and performance. Employee performance improves organizational performance, as mentioned above. DAPs outperform other training software, accelerating training timelines, cutting technical support costs, and more.
  • Maintaining an efficient, streamlined work environment. For the digital workplace to operate effectively, organizations need to close the gap between workers and their tools. Digital adoption platforms eliminate a great deal of wasted time and effort in the training process, helping to minimize that gap.
  • Increasing the returns on their software investments. Since digital transformation efforts depend on realizing software value, it is critical to make full use of software. Otherwise, productivity will stagnate, software investments won’t deliver as expected, and digital transformation efforts will falter.
  • Staying competitive in the fast-paced digital ecosystem. Ultimately, organizations must adopt and adapt in order to compete. Those that cannot will become obsolete and quickly fall behind in the race for digital maturity.

Today, the digital economy is continually evolving, which means that organizations must continually adapt.

Employees, likewise, must continually learn new skills in order to stay relevant.

Closing the digital skills gap is therefore a matter of survival, both for organizations as well as employees.

Best Practices, Strategies, Tactics, and Tips

Implementing DAPs in the workplace can, as we have seen, have a significant impact on organizational performance.

Though implementing these platforms is, in practice, not very challenging, it does require planning and effort.

Here are a few tips to help businesses successfully deploy and use their DAPs:

To get tangible results, fully commit to digital adoption, even if that commitment requires organizational change.

Digital adoption is a structured, systematic business process.

And, like any other business function, it requires dedication and effort.

Before embarking on any adoption initiative, therefore, organizations should:

  • Ensure that they are fully committed 
  • Have obtained buy-in and support from all stakeholders
  • Make organizational changes when necessary

In short, to get results, an organization must be fully aligned and engaged. 

The best way to obtain that commitment is through a strong communication effort.

Earn support by:

  • Selling organizations on the strategic benefits of digital adoption
  • Communicating the personal benefits of adoption to employees
  • Ensuring that all parties stay in sync throughout any organizational changes and adoption efforts

Change management can offer valuable insights and tools for those looking to obtain executive buy-in or employee support.

This discipline, after all, focuses heavily on organizational communication, individual change, and motivating employees.

Expand the focus beyond onboarding and training, to include digital adoption.

Earlier, we saw why organizations should look beyond onboarding and training.

The focus should instead be on the entire adoption process.

That process includes both onboarding and training.

It also, according to some experts, includes other business functions that can impact adoption efforts.

When viewed this way, the adoption process includes:

  • Marketing and sales
  • Support functions, such as technical support and customer support
  • Back-office functions that impact the end user’s experience

As well as any other business area that can ultimately affect how users adopt a software product.

Focusing on digital adoption ensures that:

  • Training managers and onboarding specialists don’t get “lost in the details” or lose focus of overarching strategic aims
  • Different functions that support the adoption process work together and stay in sync
  • The adoption process stays centered around the user experience

Training, in and of itself, tends to stay focused exclusively on training goals, such as user proficiency. 

And onboarding tends to emphasize the onboarding process.

In both instances, it can be easy to overlook the larger picture – the user’s journey.

For that reason, it is important to look not just at the immediate goals of training and onboarding, but at the complete user journey.

There is one effective tool that can help in this regard: the journey map.

Implement user journey maps, customer journey maps, or employee journey maps.

A journey map is a tool that maps out an individual’s experience as they progress along a pathway.

For instance:

  • A user journey map follows a software user throughout the adoption process, including onboarding, training, ongoing use, and even departure
  • A customer journey map, such as one that tracks the pathway to purchase, follows a customer through their evaluation of a problem, potential solutions, and through the point of purchase
  • An employee journey map would follow employees through their entire experience with a company, from pre-hire activities, through recruitment, onboarding, training, and so forth

These maps, when used in conjunction with a DAP and a digital adoption strategy, can help businesses measure, improve, and stay focused on performance – which is usually the end goal of every training effort.

Link digital adoption efforts to organizational performance goals.

Digital adoption is becoming more and more influential each year in terms of how it affects organizational performance.

For enterprises, organizational performance is affected by:

  • Employee skills
  • Workforce productivity and performance levels
  • The efficiency of the digital workplace

And for product developers, adoption affects organizational performance through:

  • Customer acquisition metrics
  • Users’ onboarding, training, and software experiences
  • User engagement and retention

To name a few examples.

Because today’s workplace is continually evolving, digital adoption is taking center stage in many digital transformation efforts:

  • Research firms such as Deloitte, for instance, have pointed out that digital adoption is a crucial stage in the digital transformation journey.
  • Gartner has specifically highlighted the importance of DAPs – which it dubbed Digital Adoption Solutions – in accelerating employee performance.
  • The World Economic Forum predicts that we are entering an era of “perpetual learning,” where continuous employee learning will become the norm

All of these factors make it clear that digital adoption should not be treated as an afterthought.

In fact, digital adoption can grant a competitive edge and fuel business growth … when DAPs are applied correctly.

Understand and optimize the user experience.

The user experience – whether those users are customers or employees – can have a dramatic impact on the outcomes of an adoption program.

Positive experiences can, for example:

  • Improve users’ perception of a software platform
  • Increase their motivation and engagement levels
  • Lower frustration
  • Boost output

And more.

To construct a good experience, it pays to look to the field of design.

User experience design, user-centered design, interaction design, and similar design disciplines all offer excellent insight into this arena.

Here are a few tips for optimizing the user experience with DAPs:

  • Use DAPs to simplify the onboarding experience by offering product tours and walkthroughs.
  • Analyze user behavior with software analytics, uncover sticking points, then use that information to enhance training efforts.
  • Focus on making the target software platform even more usable and useful

Naturally, a DAP cannot make changes to the software that it is trying to teach. It cannot necessarily make that software more usable or useful, per se.

It can, however, transform the user experience by making a product more learnable.

When users have access to immediate, contextualized guidance, for example, their experience will improve dramatically.

They will:

  • Learn more quickly
  • Remember more easily
  • Make fewer mistakes
  • Better understand how to use a product
  • Use more of that software’s functions

And so on.

For that reason, businesses should do all they can to optimize the users’ adoption experience … whether those users are in-house employees or customers.

Use DAPs to their fullest extent: explore different use cases.

DAPs can assist in a great many areas, including:

  • Employee onboarding. Each time a new employee is hired, they must learn new software, rules, and procedures. DAPs can streamline this process by automating the digital training experience, helping them become productive from day one.
  • Employee training and productivity. Over the life of their career, most employees will need to learn a wide variety of digital tools. This perpetual learning curve can result in many wasted hours … unless an organization trains employees effectively. DAPs are designed to minimize productivity losses while maximizing training efficiency.
  • Customer onboarding. Customers who can’t understand a product will abandon it. With in-product walkthroughs and in-app tours, DAPs can decrease abandonment and boost longevity. 
  • Employee self-service. Self-service functions ensures that they can access information on demand. As a result, they will be less likely to call on technical support. And they will also become more confident and more self-sufficient, which can increase their overall efficiency in the workplace.
  • Customer self-support. Customers who call on technical support too often can quickly become frustrated. DAPs can reduce that frustration by acting as an automated technical support advisor.
  • Promoting targeted features. DAPs can also promote targeted features. Whenever a program is upgraded and new features are added, for instance, users can be notified quickly and automatically. 
  • Promoting other products or services. A DAP can also double up as a marketing tool, steering customers toward in-app offers. When combined with the other features covered above, this can add even more value to the product.

For more information on how DAPs work, it is a good idea to research these platforms in depth.

Our digital adoption blog contains a great many articles that cover DAPs, digital adoption, and how to use them.

Interested professionals can also visit the websites of industry-leading DAP providers, such as WalkMe.

Don’t set and forget – continually measure, learn, and improve.

Finally, it is important to remember an important lesson that holds true across every business process – manage, monitor, and improve.

This means:

  • Regularly collecting data
  • Learning from that data
  • Changing adoption efforts as needed

Adaptation is the key to survival in business … especially in today’s dynamic and constantly-changing economy.

To keep up, businesses should not only implement digital adoption strategies and DAPs, they should also be ready to adapt their training efforts to the changing demands of the workforce and the marketplace.