Last month, I shared that 80% of product features are rarely or never used. (Don’t believe it? You can read the study yourself here.)

One way I curb this trend in my company is talking openly about product adoption, where we’re at, and why it’s hard.

You see, we tend to assume product adoption should be automatic.

It’s part creative confidence. We invest a lot of time, energy, and thought into the products we build; we assume that will translate into quick adoption.

It’s also partly because, we don’t watch feature adoption metrics very closely. For all the strengths of modern product analytics, it still labor intensive to monitor feature adoption. It’s tempting to stay in a “ship it and move on” mentality.

That’s why I try to talk openly about the hard truths of adoption.

“Only 10% of our users used this feature in the last 90 days.”

Saying this out loud, is startling and a bit humbling. But it’s the clarifying ground-truth that allows us to make real progress. It leads us to questions like, “Well, why might that be the case?” “Is that acceptable for this feature?”  “What should adoption be within 90 days?” “Which users are adopting?”  “Do people not care about the problem, or is our solution hard to use?”  

Also sound bites like “Great features have double goal posts. Production release and user adoption. Both take real work.”

Or “Products require software engineering and behavior change. Generally, behavior change is harder to predict.”

Or “Features aren’t done until they’re being used”.

Or “Adoption precedes impact and ROI” (so we better make sure we figure adoption out.)

These phrases shift the mindset from “Adoption as Automatic” to “Adoption as Real Work”.  

As that mindset takes root in our teams and companies, it gives us breathing room to start making long-term commitments to core features. It starts to curb the impulse to release and move on to the next new feature.  

And lest we feel demoralized by just how hard product adoption can be. We’re not alone. The best product teams have batting averages similar to baseball. If you’re hitting adoption goals for 30% of features, then you’re at the top of your game.  Strikeouts aren’t personal, they’re just part of the game.

Product adoption = changing user’s behavior.

And human behavior rarely changes easily.


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