3 Ways to Turn Early Adopters into Rollout Ambassadors

    Brand ambassador programs are an effective way to market and build a community around an organization’s products and services. But can such a program apply to an internal rollout of new technology as well?

    For the C-suite, there’s quite a bit at stake when a new system premiers. In addition to acquisition and implementation costs, technology projects are often an investment in the future. Success depends upon wide adoption by employees so this can be a monumental challenge.

    According to the Pew Research Center, 52% of adults say they feel more comfortable using familiar brands and products. In its “early adopter index,” Pew organized Americans’ appetites for new technology into three tiers: strong, medium and weak. While 45% of respondents were categorized as medium, 28% percent fell into the strong bucket. The remaining 26% could be called laggards in technology adoption.

    However, while it might be easy for organizations to get a third of their employees to try a new technology, more than 70% would show at least some hesitation. But there’s a silver lining: Pew also found 39% of Americans prefer to wait to try something new until others can share their experience with them.

    This is something the C-suite can work with: Mobilize early adopters as rollout ambassadors. Taking a page from the marketing department’s handbook, CIOs and internal communicators can try the following ideas to get their champions moving.

    Handpick Advocates

    Be selective when choosing your early adopters. Identify key influencers within each workgroup, and look for those both willing to give thoughtful feedback and be vocal champions.

    It’s critical to identify potential rollout ambassadors well before the vetting process for new technology begins. Early adopters are more likely to be enthusiastic and encouraging to other employees if they know they’ll have a say in setting requirements and optimizing for your business’ unique environment. Since these employees are your vocal leaders, they’re just as likely to be vocal with criticism and backlash if you wait to engage them until the new technology is about to be launched.

    Listen and Reward

    Early adopters are natural beta testers, so take their feedback seriously. In fact, putting their recommendations into action not only will save you painful redesigns, but will send a strong signal that you care about their opinions.

    It’s also important to emphasize their special status as early adopters and partners in the project. For example, you could reward them with invitation-only sessions with the CEO, recognition at an all-company meeting or uniquely branded gifts designed to mark the significance of their role. This will help you build further support for the final technology.

    Be Explicit About What You Need

    By the time rollout begins, your early adopters should be ready to support you and your new technology as ambassadors. But don’t assume they know how they should help. Be explicit. Provide each ambassador with a list of actions, responsibilities and deadlines.

    On the CMO Club blog, Gabriel Cohen suggests treating the ambassadorship as a “tour of duty,” with a specific start and end date. Ambassadors graduate every couple of years and become mentors to new ambassadors. This gives them a special status and keeps the program fresh.

    It’s also a good practice to recruit some of your early adopters to train employees in how to use the new technology. Remember, technology laggards often turn to their stronger colleagues for recommendations, which means they are very influential and can drive faster adoption throughout the organization.

    Just as in brand ambassador campaigns, early adopters make a difference. By getting early adopter buy-in to new technologies, the C-suite can mobilize this force to raise awareness and build enthusiasm and support for new technologies in the organization.

    Learn more about ShoreTel’s unified communications solutions.

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