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User Adoption

The introduction of multi-user IT systems into organisations has a mixed track record. Multi-user systems are usually specified by a project team and often contain a number of compromises and assumptions about the way people work. High level business objectives can therefore be put in jeopardy if users do not successfully adopt the new system. However, most case studies on electronic laboratory notebook implementations indicate a positive user take-up. This may be attributed to the growing understanding and application of aspects of technology adoption, originally reported by Everett Rogers in his book ‘The Diffusion of Innovations’ (1), and developed further by G.Moore in ‘Crossing the Chasm’ (2).

Moore’s ‘Chasm’ (see diagram above) is the gap between the early adopters and the mainstream market. The early adopters are a relatively easy market. Targeting them initially is important, but the next phase of the marketing strategy must target the conservative and pragmatic majority. The early adopters can play a central role in this. Since the electronic laboratory notebook project team is likely to be formed from the early adopters, they can play a pivotal role not only in specifying and selecting a solution, but in articulating the rationale for the electronic laboratory notebook, provide training and on-going support to the conservative and pragmatic majority.

User adoption is often considered one of the most critical success factors of an IT project, and paying appropriate attention to user requirements will enhance the likelihood of success. Key to this is the recognition that people are more likely to comply with a request when:

A reason is provided
There is give and take
They see others complying
The request comes from someone they respect or like
The request comes from a legitimate source of authority
Concerns about user adoption can be reduced by carefully choosing a project team that is capable of addressing these criteria. Typically, this approach tends to brand the implementation as a ‘laboratory’ project, rather than an ‘IT’ project, and this can often make it easier for scientists to accept the proposed change.

Rogers, Everett M., Diffusion of Innovations. The Free Press. New York, 1962.
Moore, G.A., Crossing The Chasm, Capstone Publishing, 1998.