Tips to drive adoption of top-down versus bottom-up deployments

by Staff Writer

When it comes to deploying new software in the enterprise, taking a top-down versus a bottom-up approach is an age-old debate. Top-down refers to software decisions that are made by business leaders based on overall organizational needs and objectives, whereas bottom-up deployments start with employee needs and input, and then bubble up to the corporate level.

Whichever approach your organization takes, the end goal is the same: driving adoption of new software to accelerate process improvements and better business results. But a new report from IDC, Transforming Enterprise Work Execution, found that each approach brings unique challenges that must be overcome in order to drive adoption and accelerate business improvements.

Based on focus groups with nearly 50 line-of-business and IT stakeholders involved in or responsible for purchasing work execution software, as well as CIOs and other high-level IT and business leaders, all from companies worth $100 million or more in revenue, the report explores key challenges and criteria businesses face when employing new software to transform work processes. Here are some important takeaways for dealing with both top-down and bottom-up deployments, so you can successfully deploy technology across your organization.

The top-down approach

Tree diagram with top circle highlighted, with dotted lines and arrows pointing down to bottom circles

When it comes to software deployments that originate at the business leadership level, organizational focus is a chief barrier. IDC found that consensus building – getting leaders to choose a strategy and stick to it – is one of the main obstacles many companies face.

Considering that different departments may have differing goals and have diverse requirements for tools and applications, achieving a focused vision for enterprise software can be a major challenge. The question is, how to mitigate?

For starters, it’s important to look for a work execution platform or other software that offers the flexibility to achieve various stakeholders’ needs. This includes looking for tools that seamlessly integrate with the ones various business units are already using, and that offer flexible access and sharing across teams, business lines, and with both internal and external partners. Research also suggests that business leaders can further accelerate software adoption by emphasizing that high-level business vision and objectives will remain unchanged, even in the face of new tools to aid execution.

The bottom-up approach

Tree diagram with bottom circle highlighted, with dotted line and arrow pointing to top circle

According to a recent study, 20 to 40 percent of businesses’ technology spend occurs outside of the purview of IT. On one hand, so-called shadow IT has its advantages – specifically that users will be more inclined to use tools that they themselves have selected. But the IDC report found that the bottom-up approach also carries some inherent challenges that can stand in the way of business-wide adoption of new technology.

According to IDC, key barriers to the bottom-up process of software deployment include lack of support from IT, lack of centralized budget and resources, fragmented systems, and inconsistent training and adoption. If not mitigated, these barriers can contribute to security risks, redundant spending, siloed data and processes, and other problems. At the same time, there is tremendous business value in selecting software employees like and want to use – and taking steps to involve employees early in the software selection process can reduce the risk of choosing a platform that doesn’t meet user needs, as well as the costs of going back to the drawing board if adoption fails.

While businesses have been trying to answer the question of whether top-down or bottom-up deployments are more effective at driving adoption, the truth is likely somewhere in the middle. To reduce data silos and other fragmentation that can erode business results, it’s important to select software that will work across business lines. At the same time, to find a solution employees will want to use, take steps to ensure that user requirements are part of the selection criteria.

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