Chief Content Officer,
Techstrong Group


In this Digital CxO Leadership Insights video, Mike Vizard talks with WalkMe president Rafael Sweary about why user adoption has become the biggest hindrance to digital business transformation.



Mike Vizard: Hello, I’m Mike Vizard, and welcome to the latest Digital CxO Insights videocast. I’m your host Mike Vizard. Today we’re talking with Rafael Sweary, who’s president of WalkMe, and we’re going to be talking about adoption of digital platforms. Rafael, welcome to the show.

Rafael Sweary: Thank you, Michael, it’s a great honor to be here with you, and a pleasure to meet you. I’ll just start by a short introduction about myself. Ten years ago one of the co-founders of WalkMe, and today the president, and we got listed last year. So a really exciting journey.

Mike Vizard: One of the things we hear about all the time now is that people are kind of down some sort of digital business transformation path, but a lot of them are getting hung up or strung out or things are not going as quickly as they should be. And much of that has to do with user adoption, so do you think that maybe we launched too many of these projects without actually thinking through how they might be used?

Rafael Sweary: I think that what is happening today is that there is a lot of great technology that can solve many, many problems in the organization. And this is why there are so many projects, and the projects are great. And the technology can do the work, but there is a gap between the speed the technology is moving at and the innovation that’s coming in, to how we cope as humans. How long does it take us to do it and use it? And if we don’t use the technology, if we don’t adopt to the technology, if we don’t change the way we’re working, then we’re not getting the benefits. So I don’t think it’s technology issue, it’s about how do you make digital to work for the user instead of the user being working for digital. I hope it make sense.

Mike Vizard: For so many years, we complained that IT was holding the business back. But it almost sounds like now the technology is moving faster than the business can absorb it.

Rafael Sweary: I don’t think it’s faster than the business can absorb. It’s faster than the human can observe in the current situation. And the current situation is he has nobody next to him to ask a question. And the rate the change is coming in is so forceful, but it keeps on – companies keep on releasing new versions. What version of LinkedIn are you on? You don’t know, but this, the same thing has happened to all the software. So think about like a journey of a salesperson, in the past 20 years ago, 25 years ago, all he had is a list of business cards, a notebook and a phone. Today he has a computer, a mobile phone, a forecasting tool, a deal desk tool, a digital signing tool, a CRM, etc.

Now, all those software that are really there to help him get, do a better job are changing on him all the time with processes, with bugs, with replacing a vendor. There needs to be another way. So he’s spending so much time getting the hang of them that he’s kind of – it kind of misses the point. And a lot of the times this is why there is no adoption. And a lot of companies confuse usage with adoption. So I will, for example, talk to a sales leader, and I would say we can help with adoption on your CRM. And he would say everybody’s using CRM. I said but you don’t have adoption, if you want to check adoption ask your AE’s what are they going to sell this quarter?

If they’re opening the CRM, you have adoption. If they’re opening the Excel sheet or a notebook, you don’t have adoption. Because they’re actually working the same old way, they just have another task which is updating the CRM later. And they’ll do there the minimum that will work. Does it make sense?

Mike Vizard: Sure does, I think we see it all the time. And it’s probably not unique to digital processes, right? We’ve been struggling with that issue for decades.

Rafael Sweary: Yes, but I think it’s getting worse now for a few reasons. We’re highly distracted. You have your phone working, a lot of things buzzing. Like I’m looking at myself every morning. I used to be able to check voicemail. Today, e-mail, Slack, WhatsApp, Telegram, G-Chat, just to name a few, right? Then I have to go like so many places in my Google docs that people mention me, and I need to react to. There’s so much going at us that we’re really – we all suffer from attention disorder. Another thing that happened, Michael, is brain elasticity. So I know my childhood phone number, I don’t know my kid’s phone numbers. And I talk to them every day. And I live, like we moved out when I was like in first grade, but I still remember.

Because there were times that we were memorizing things; today we’re about access. Nobody wants to train anything, nobody wants to learn anything. You want to go in just like a navigation system in a car. I remember driving before navigation. Danger Net came, and it was huge. You wanted to go somewhere; you would go to Yahoo Maps and would print like 20 steps how to get from place to a place, but then you made it much easier than a map. But you would still be driving like looking, reading signs, making sure that you didn’t miss the turn, etc. All the time stressed; today you just put the address in, that’s it. You forget about it.

And you’re there, you don’t need to think, you don’t need to learn ways. All you need to do is how to drive. And that’s what we need to get people to do because the GPS is working for you; it’s navigating for you. You don’t have to work. Same thing, this is the experience that we need to get as users; we do not need to learn and follow instructions, and that’s where things are getting worse. In order to get adoption, for example, nobody needed to convince anyone to use an ATM, a money machine, right? You would come in, you saw it, and it immediately was much better than waiting for the bank to open, waiting in line, identifying yourself, and getting the money out in a envelope, okay? But imagine that when you would go to the ATM for the first time you would try to go to the bank and somebody would say, look, we have a much, much better way to get money.

You wouldn’t have to wait; here in a course of two weeks, we’re going to teach you how to use this new machine. And then you would be able – you wouldn’t get adoption. It’s about how long does it take from introducing a technology until you as a user, as an employee, as a customer, as a partner, are seeing value from it? Let’s go to the GPS. Imagine that to operate a GPS you would need to take a two-week course, and then every time before driving you would need to set up perimeters on your car, find the nearest satellite, and then start driving. We would all be still using maps or Yahoo directions. Make sense?

Mike Vizard: It does indeed. What exactly is a digital adoption platform? It’s not a term that people hear a lot. So what’s different from say what I might call monitoring, observability, or whatever else we’ve been doing in the past?

Rafael Sweary: Fantastic, so this is a great question. And I’ll tell you this through a story of how we evolve. The original idea that we had ten years ago was very basic. My – the mother of one of our co-founders was trying to send a wire in her bank. And she wasn’t successful, so she called him, and asked him, “How do I make a wire?” So what he did is he went into the bank, he was – banking was a thing back then. And said, mom, click on the third button. And she said she clicked, nothing happened. He said, “Mom, you’re probably on the wrong page, log out, log back in, push on the third button.” And so on and so on and he walked her through, she was successful, he was happy, what a great son.

A week later, she called for the same question. And a week later with a similar question, etc. He said to me, there must be a better way. And this is where he went and looked; what is a better way? And when he couldn’t find, he came out with the original idea of a walk through. Which is basically a series of step balloons that really take you like a navigation system in a car: they would give you one set of instructions just like you walk somebody through a process. This is why we’re called WalkMe. Click here, so you tell WalkMe what it is that you want to do. I want to make a wire. And you would get a balloon, click here, and this balloon will wait for you to click.

Once you click, it’s going to take you to the next step. Enter amount, and it will wait for you to enter amount. Once you enter amount, it will take you and so and so on. So this is what we started, and we sold it for customers to put on their website. So it went great for technical companies and anybody that was trying to do customers facing websites. And their employee – their customers were struggling and once we did that, customer came to us and said, look, it’s so impactful on our website. We’re seeing really significant call deflections; our customer experience is improving because people are able to self-task. Can you do the same for our internal system because we’re implementing an HRM, we’re implementing a new CRM, we’re implementing a new CPQ, we’re implementing, etc. etc. And we said, sure, no problem.

And we, because for us, as long as it’s software like a website is a piece of software. So we did that, we built the guidance. But guess what, they had no idea what are the issues that their employees were facing. Because they had no analytics. On their website, data analytics, they have a very sophisticated help desk that had all the FAQs, and everything came this way. And when you’re looking internally, they couldn’t – they didn’t know. They had no idea where people are struggling, they had no idea who’s doing what they’re supposed to be doing. They didn’t know who’s using the CRM all day and who, just before the management meeting, is going and updating the minimum that it could do from his notebook or Excel file. And this is where we added the data piece.

So a digital adoption platform today does a few things. First of all, it gives you the data of how your software stack is being used, how many users you actually have, and you can compare it to your licensing model. Those that are using, are they using the right feature? How often do they use it, do they use in the way, how many error messages that they’re getting, where are they’re struggling, what are the processes that are important to you, and how many people are able and successful of doing them. How many try to, for example, give an employee appraisal, how many are finishing, etc. etc. Now, they, armed with this data, you action this with Walk Me.

And what you create is a very simplified experience like I told you. The one thing that we added on top is best practices. Because a lot of companies, we have today have close to 2,000 customers. And a lot of things repeat, when you’re a salesperson, most probably you, once you need to create a custom quote, you’re going to get into a very hard process. You’re going to have errors, you’re going to make a mistake, okay? Because a lot of processes are non-linear. And what is a non-linear process? If I now apply for health insurance: name, easy. Date of birth? Easy. Address? Easy. Are you allergic to any drugs? No? Easy. Yes, boom. I need to start filing.

Have you been hospitalized in the last five years? No? Easy. Yes. Hard. Now, think about it in the work. It’s not about how to open an opportunity in the CRM. It’s how you open a new opportunity; is that is a cross-sell that came through a partner that you’re trying to co-term. And the customer owes money, the partner has an outstanding debt. That’s the processes that are hard and this is where things get started. Now, so you need to know them, and you need to have the ability to action them with a non-linear guidance. Because if the GPS would take you from wherever you – like sometimes you get when you don’t have a GPS signal like in a parking lot, etc., so it’s not giving you the relevant instructions from where to start.

So it’s the same thing; without data, you can’t start it. Now, without data you can also not measure the adoption. And if you cannot measure something, you cannot manage it and you cannot improve it. Make sense?

Mike Vizard: It does. What distinguishes the organizations that seem to be doing well when it comes to digital transformation and those that are not?

Rafael Sweary: So I think putting the user and the job to be done in the center versus technology and capabilities, right? You need to think about what is this person’s job. He’s a salesman, and as a salesman, he need to – he encounters competition in some of the sales things. So how do I take him from that and instead of teaching him how to use a new system whenever he puts a call – a competition you point the balloon to him and say, look. There is a competition; go to this system it will give you all the data that you need in order to refer to that competition based on this specific customers, based on this specific competitor, right. And the good companies, this is what they do.

Now, what do they gain? Okay, first of all, they’re gaining the benefits of why they bought the software. Why do companies by CRM? Companies don’t buy anything and don’t do any digital transformation because they feel like it. I might buy this shirt because I feel like it. I didn’t buy it because I had nothing to wear, not really, right? I felt like it, so when you think about companies, no matter what software it is, no matter where the transformation is, it’s intended to do a few things: one, increase revenue, two, reduce costs, three, improve experience, four, reduce risk; that’s what any system, no matter what you do, that’s their goal, okay. You put a CRM to increase revenue, to reduce risk, etc.

Now, when there is so much software in the CRM, there are many things that you can do. But what you gain, hang on, is the technology and the processes and the system and you sometimes make processes that don’t make sense to the user. They are just, they’re not relevant to what you’re trying to do; they’re not relevant to the outcome. So good companies know how to focus the outcome. And they don’t, when they buy software they say, “Okay, I’m putting this software into my organization. What are the outcomes if this software has adoption?”

And then once the software goes live, they don’t move into the next project; they actually keep on checking. So what happens; think about the dynamics of implementing a new software, there is a – you identify a need, management comes, there are presentations, they get interested. Then you select a vendor, more interest from the management, then you do an in-depth plan; more interest from the management, etc. Until there is a go live, once there is the go live, where does management attention go? To the next project, and then to the next project and then to the next project. Instead of making sure that as a company you’re getting the value you are getting that was intended.

That’s where you should focus; not on building a new system. Get the ROI from the systems you have. Make sure that they’re doing what they’re supposed to be doing before you’re buying and implementing another system and putting all your attention, all your development, all your resources, into Slack. Make sure that you’re getting the volume, make sure that you have adoption; make sense? I’m sorry that I’m that excited, and I think you are asking excellent questions, they’re really touching me on all the things that make me passionate about our company.

Mike Vizard: No worries. Hey, Rafael, thanks for being on the show.

Rafael Sweary: Yeah, thank you, Michael.

Mike Vizard: All right, folks, you heard it here first, digital business transformation for the sake of transformation may not be the best idea on the world. Thank you for watching this latest episode of the Digital CxO Leadership Insights video. You can find this one and other ones just like it on the website. We invite you to check them out as you can. And once again, thanks for spending some time with us.

Rafael Sweary: Thank you, Michael.