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Learning & Adoption Strategy – A Prerequisite for every Successful Implementation Project

5-Regular Member

Learning & Adoption Strategy – A Prerequisite for every Successful Implementation Project

In practice it´s often seen that project plans, governance structures and even ROI calculations (Return on Investment) focus on hard facts, such as software cost, process benefits, implementation and customization efforts and rather neglect the “soft” topic of user adoption. So many projects initially do not consider the full efforts required for getting the users up to speed, and – likewise important – to get their buy-in for the new solution in order to avoid unnecessary downtime before and after the go-live which heavily impacts  the expected value.


Adding additional budget in the late project phases usually forces project managers to save effort and budget in other ways or limit adoption budgets to the minimum which heavily adds risks to the project success. In addition, important project milestones need to be moved out if the needs for user training are not considered early enough. This could even result in a delay of the  go-live.


Here are some reasons why you should build your Learning & Adoption Strategy early:


  1. Budget needs for end-user information, motivation and ramp-up
    An estimated 20 % of the budget is required to realize a basic but effective Learning & Adoption program. This budget will support general project decisions around internal information flows and end-user motivation and education. A Learning&Adoption Strategy defines the information and ramp-up needs, milestones, effort and with this the budget needs for this upcoming important project task.

  2. Defined project milestones considering end-user needs
    General project milestones should be defined and reviewed with project stakeholders for accurate project controlling. The milestones of the Learning & Adoption work stream such as  milestone “Training Server” should be  aligned to technical milestones, e.g. “Code Freeze”.

  3. Risk Management for Go-Live
    Considering the Learning & Adoption needs, and having all internal team ready to support the implementation, the risk of project failure is minimized. Only with well prepared and motivated end-users the intended major project goals can be achieved, including process changes, and ultimately, financial goals.

  4. Saving time and money
    A well planned training process results in minimized user downtime and keeps the business projects on plan. The early knowledge of costs and needed man-power to be spent in end-user training activities or supporting ramp-up tasks allow managers to consider and influence the company results.


If a long-term implementation project is planned, the Learning & Adoption Strategy should be part of the initial project planning and general mobilization phase. This may be even 1-2 years before a go-live. The average preliminary lead time for a Learning & Adoption Strategy for typical PLM software implementation projects is 7-9 months.



In a Learning & Adoption Strategy, some important questions for end-user enablement shall be considered:


  • WHO to be informed and trained (user-roles, number of users)
  • WHERE to train and inform (user sites and training sites)
  • WHEN to inform and train (training and information milestones)
  • WHAT to train (training curriculum)
  • HOW to inform and train (training and information format and didactical methods)
  • WHY to train (consideration of corporate goals in the Learning & Adoption Strategy)


Based on these questions the Learning & Adoption Strategy will define general decisions regarding end-user enablement. These decisions will guide later project steps being part of the overall picture, such as the communication plan, the training plan, the user support plan, the training curriculum definition or the early management information and training team staffing.


Here are 3 general rules of thumb for a successful Learning & Adoption Strategy:


  1. Establish and plan a Learning & Adoption Strategy early enough
    Only if a Learning & Adoption Strategy has been defined, the full project output can be considered i.e. only then an overall project budget calculation, ROI consideration or project milestones will be meaningful.

  2. Ask experienced specialists for executing the  Learning & Adoption Strategy
    The execution of a Learning & Adoption Strategy requires specialists in planning and execution of a go-live event. This includes practical knowledge of information and motivation of managers and end-users as well as training planning, mentoring estimation or definition of didactical methods. This requires more than just asking an instructor from previous implementations estimating the training costs or copying budget estimations from other projects. Every project is unique and only a tailored approach may lead to results.

  3. Discuss the Learning & Adoption Strategy
    As a project sponsor or a project ead, ask the Learning & Adoption Strategy leader to explain the decisions and suggestions. In an open discussion the major influencing factors can be modified, e.g. for following a design-to-cost solution. If you have the lead in creating the Learning & Adoption Strategy, you should plan for a kick-off meeting to  define  the key-performance-indicators (KPI) influencing the end-user ramp-up and performance  to shape the expectations of your management.


To avoid issues with end-user enablement, reducing the overall project and implementation risks and finally ensure the expected project goals, the Learning & Adoption Strategy is a vital part of the project set-up. Experience shows that most of the successful implementation projects contained a well-planned and executed end-user training and motivation work stream.

In Part 2 of this article, we will discuss more details of a Learning & Adoption Strategy in respect to end user profiles and number of users (WHO).