Defining the Workflow Adoption Curve

August 10, 2016 Yoseph West

Great practitioners continually look to add technology that will make their workflow more efficient. The challenge is, every time they decide to improve their workflow, they begin a new adoption curve. They have to graduate through each step in that curve to gain mastery of their new processes.

Understanding each stage of the workflow adoption curve helps you move through it quicker. And with better results.

The Six-Stage Workflow Adoption Curve

 

Stage One: Awareness

Sometimes great workflow solutions come from outside the firm. Often advisors hear from people in their network about technology that improved their workflow. To evaluate if the app would streamline their own workflow, advisors re-examine their processes. They look for bottlenecks. And if they find them, they consider if they could build a better workflow by using the app in question.

 

Stage Two: Research

If it appears the app would improve workflow, the next step is to check out the features of the product. To do this, advisors check out online reviews and ratings. They read what industry experts have to say. They browse the vendor’s website to understand costs and vendor expertise. Most importantly, they talk to others in their network who have experience with the app. They ask how the app created efficiencies. Did it save time and money? Did it create awesome client experiences? What issues arose?
 

Stage Three: Trial

Often vendors provide a free account for accountants and bookkeepers. So, if the app seems solid, the next step is to take advantage of that free trial offer. The advisor activates their account and starts using the app to see how it performs. At this point, they don’t typically involve their clients. They want to understand how the app works. They seek to understand the strengths and weaknesses of the app. As issues arise, the advisor works through them with the vendor's customer success team. The trial is a period in which they try to get comfortable with it. 

During the trial, they pay close attention to how the app might improve the workflow. Does it look like it will save time? Will it reduce frustration?
 

Stage Four: Initial Adoption

If the chosen app passes the in-house trial test, the next step is to give it a test run with a group of clients.

The number of clients you include in your test set depends on the size of your practice. You want to work with a group large enough to reveal how the app works with many users. But not so large that their support needs overwhelm your staff. Generally a group that is 5% to 10% of your client base is about the right size.

Choosing the right mix of clients for your initial test is important. You want the clients you select to represent the variety in your client base. Great practitioners mix large and small clients in their test group. Many advisors also choose their test group according to two key criteria. They seek to test the new workflow with the clients who are having the most problems. Those who show the highest level of pain around the issue. An advisor testing a document collection app might try it with a bar owner. Someone who struggles to manage lots of paper receipts.  If all goes well, these types of clients should provide the easiest case for finding value.

The other type of good test client is the tech savvy client. The ones open to new technology and processes. The ones who are eager to try new things that promise increased efficiency. 

This is when the advisor sees how the app works as part of the entire workflow. For the first time, they begin to grapple with clients' different issues. It’s when they start documenting their new workflow process. They begin to create training materials and processes. They learn how to coach both staff and clients.  
 

Stage Five: Client Migration

Once all the test issues are ironed out, it’s time to introduce the new workflow and app to the rest of the client base. Depending on the size of their firm, advisors may decide to do the roll-out to all clients at the same time. Or they may choose to do it in more manageable chunks—say 25% of their clients at a time.

Prior to the roll-out, proactive advisors review what they learned from the test group. They make sure all staff are aware of the problems that may crop up and how to handle them. They confirm all staff are trained on the product and confident providing support. They seek to leverage vendor training and certifications.

Great practitioners make time to speak with each client before the roll-out. They set clear expectations. And they highlight the value the client will see in the new workflow.

To give the roll-out the best chance of success, they assign ownership of the whole process to one person. The migration leader has support from the entire team. But they are the ones charged with making sure each client is successfully on-boarded. Having a point person for the process is key because in all almost all cases, something will break. It’s hard to predict where in the process the break will occur. Perhaps training is not good enough, or an unforeseen product issue crops up. The key to successfully dealing with those breaks is to have someone ready to take action. And great practitioners make sure the entire team is primed to over-communicate. That way any issues that arise are floated to the point person as soon as possible.
 

Stage Six: Workflow Mastery

Following client migration, advisors focus on mastering the nuances of the product and workflow. They revise and improve the documentation that supports the workflow process. They continually improve the training required to use the app effectively. They spend time and resources on sending staff to vendor training initiatives. They attend conferences and talk with peers. They become experts on their new workflow. Refining it to find new efficiencies.
 

Link the Workflow Adoption Curves

Reaching the end of the workflow adoption curve is not the end of the journey. Great practitioners maintain momentum by starting another curve before the old curve plateaus. Before they finish the adoption stage they start looking for the next problem to solve. This serial adoption of new tech means their workflow is always improving. It continues driving costs down and keeps them ahead of their competitors.

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