In the here-and-now of application software development, there's no longer any distinction between user adoption and company strategy. The two have become synonymous.
When we build a digital product, the product itself must deliver the vision and the value of the business directly to the customer. If the users do not adopt the software, then the strategy is moot. Certainly people can help to fill the gaps—for example, with valiant efforts by Customer Success teams—but without user adoption, the product will eventually fail.
These days, there are often many product options that users can choose from. They have the freedom to switch from one platform to another if they're not getting what they need. There's always some pain associated with switching from one platform to another. But the amount of switching-pain in the cloud-based era is nothing close to what it used to be in the traditional application software paradigm. These days, dissatisfied users are much more ready and willing to jump ship.
In a digital business, the Design team shapes the user experience that drives user adoption and thus company strategy. But not all Design teams are set up for success. When the Design team is mostly tactical, they show up after all the hard decisions have already been made. These tactical Design teams focus on the look and feel of the product after the “hard decisions” have been handed to them. In these situations, there’s only so much Design teams can do to drive adoption.
In the most forward-looking—and successful—companies, the role of Design, the discipline of Design, has changed. In these companies, Design shifts from a purely tactical aspect of product development into a strategic driver of user adoption.
In the design-led business, the Design team shows up at the very beginning to make sure that the business understands the market, the customer, and the user. Armed with this knowledge, the team can design the product experience so that it will manifest the business strategy. And in this way, the user experience translates into user adoption. Without a firm understanding of the strategic imperatives, the Design team will struggle to achieve user adoption.
In some cases, there's too much back-and-forth chatter about design methods like “user journey mapping” and “empathy interviews” and “mood boards.” These sausage-making discussions are often distracting. Design teams need to orient their thinking around business needs, and at the end of the day it all comes down to user adoption. There's no getting around this new world order.