June 16, 2023

SaaS Product Adoption: How to Overcome Common Barriers

SaaS Product Adoption: How to Overcome Common Barriers

SaaS products are becoming increasingly popular, given their convenience, flexibility, and cost-effectiveness. However, getting users to adopt and fully utilize a new SaaS product can be challenging. Many potential barriers stop organizations from embracing new software solutions. Overcoming these hurdles requires understanding the main issues, identifying the source of resistance, and implementing effective strategies to drive adoption.

This comprehensive guide will cover 10 of the most common barriers to SaaS product adoption and how to combat them. By arming yourself with these insights, you can develop an optimized plan to maximize user adoption within your organization. Let’s get started.

Lack of awareness

Many organizations struggle with SaaS adoption because employees are unaware of the product or business benefits it can provide. Users do not know about available features and functions or how they could help improve workflows and productivity.

To combat lack of awareness:

  • communicate the purpose and value proposition of the software to key stakeholders. Explain how it solves specific pain points and drives tangible results.

  • Ensure higher-level executives promote and champion the product internally. Get them to communicate the “why” behind adopting the new solution.

  • Invite product experts and champions to educate users and demonstrate real examples of how others successfully use the software.

  • Send periodic reminder emails showcasing new features and success stories. Highlight how colleagues are already benefiting from the SaaS solution.

  • Create incentive programs to motivate users to try out the software. Rewards can include gift cards, time off, promotional items, etc. Make the first experience a positive one.

Only by raising awareness of what your new SaaS product can do and why it matters can you expect people to embrace the change and properly use the solution. Start by communicating the need, values, and benefits to key stakeholders as clearly as possible.

Complexity and learning curves

New SaaS products often have a steep learning curve that prevents fast adoption. Users struggle to navigate an unfamiliar interface, understand new terminology, and grasp how all the different features work together.

Ways to mitigate complexity issues:

  • Provide personalized and targeted training materials for different user groups. Make tutorials, job aids, and “how-to” guides for each role’s needs.

  • Use webinars and video walkthroughs to demonstrate the software in action. Make them bite-sized (under 10 minutes) and focus on one key task or workflow at a time.

  • Enlist power users and product experts to offer one-on-one coaching and mentoring for other team members. Set up informal forums for peer learning.

  • Adopt a “test drive” approach. Give subsets of users early access to experiment with the software in a low-stakes environment. Allow them to provide feedback and ask questions.

  • Build complexity into the rollout plan. Don’t introduce all features at once. Segment by priority and stage the launch over multiple phases.

Complexity is an inevitable part of any new software. The key is recognizing and acknowledging this upfront while providing extensive guidance, personalized training, and opportunities for hands-on practice. A gradual, clearly communicated rollout strategy will give users the support they need to navigate the learning curve over time.

Integration issues

Product integration challenges are a major roadblock for cross-departmental or enterprise-wide SaaS adoption. Users struggle when data isn’t seamlessly synced between the new software and existing systems.

To overcome integration issues:

  • Conduct a thorough audit of all critical systems the new product must integrate with early in the selection process. Identify gaps and challenges upfront.

  • Choose a SaaS provider with experience integrating your current technology stack and a track record of successful implementations.

  • Set clear expectations for the level of integration required and confirm the provider can meet those needs. Ensure integrations are built using open APIs and reusable code.

  • Invest in data transformation and proper data mapping between systems to standardize key fields. This enables information to sync accurately on an ongoing basis.

  • Consider building custom connectors, scripts, or middleware to facilitate integrations where off-the-shelf options fall short. Enlist internal dev resources or consultant firms who specialize in integration.

  • Take an iterative approach. Pilot initial integrations with a small group of users before rolling out more widely. Optimize processes based on lessons learned.

Many SaaS implementations fail due to poor integration between the new software and other business-critical systems. Addressing this barrier upfront through a comprehensive audit, consultative vendor selection, and highly optimized integrations can catalyze adoption across your entire technology stack.

Lack of IT control

IT departments may resist SaaS products due to concerns about loss of control, visibility, and governance. They worry about the following:

  • Limited configuration options. It has less ability to customize the product to their specific needs.

  • Reliance on an external vendor. IT can’t directly monitor product uptime and performance.

  • Sharing data access. Vendor employees have access to company data stored within the SaaS application.

  • Unclear responsibilities. There’s ambiguity around who is responsible for support, maintenance, and upgrades.

Ways to alleviate IT concerns:

  • Involve IT in the vendor selection process. Ensure the chosen provider meets their standards for security, uptime, and support.

  • Request access to the provider’s trust & compliance reports, ISO certifications, and security questionnaires.

  • Negotiate a detailed SLA with governance terms that assign clear IT and vendor responsibilities.

  • Establish regular communication channels between IT and the vendor to resolve issues quickly.

  • Provide IT administrators access and permission controls within the SaaS product dashboard. Let them set user policies and monitor activity.

  • Train IT staff on how to solve common support issues and troubleshoot problems themselves. Make them part of the solution.

With proper due diligence during vendor selection, well-defined responsibilities in agreements, and appropriate access controls/visibility into the product, IT departments can gain sufficient oversight of SaaS solutions to feel confident in supporting enterprise-wide adoption. Transparency and open communication are key.

Security concerns

Security fears are why IT and business leaders hesitate to adopt cloud-based SaaS products. They worry about the following:

  • Data location - where is my data stored, and who has physical access?

  • Encryption - are data transmissions and files encrypted both in transit and at rest?

  • Identity & access controls - how are user permissions managed to limit access?

  • Backup & recovery - what happens if data is lost due to a system outage?

  • Regulatory compliance - does the vendor meet relevant industry security standards?

To alleviate security concerns:

  • Perform thorough due diligence on the vendor’s security practices, certifications, and track record. Request a full security audit report.

  • Choose a SaaS provider compliant with key industry regulations like HIPAA, GDPR, SOC 2, etc., confirming their security controls.

  • Negotiate a detailed security terms addendum in your contract specifying requirements around data sovereignty, encryption, identity & access controls, backups, audits, and incident response.

  • Set up regular security reviews to monitor threats, get access to compliance questionnaires, and ensure proper auditing of vendor activity within the product.

  • Implement multi-factor authentication, single sign-on (SSO), and encryption of sensitive data fields within the product.

  • Offer security awareness training to educate users about utilizing the product safely and spot potential threats.

With sufficient contractual terms, compliance certifications, implementation of proper identity/access controls, regular security reviews, multi-factor authentication, and user training, organizations can feel comfortable that their critical data is secure within a SaaS application. An ongoing, collaborative approach between IT/infosec and the vendor is key.

Poor change management

A lack of proper change management planning and execution is one of the biggest reasons people resist new technology. Resistance often stems from:

  • Unclear vision - Employees don’t understand the rationale for change or “the why.”

  • Loss of control - People fear losing autonomy and flexibility in their work.

  • Fear of failure - Users worry they won’t be able to adapt to the new system.

  • Extra effort - Adopting a new tool requires additional time and energy.

To successfully manage the people side of SaaS adoption:

  • Explain the need for change and desired outcomes in simple, relatable terms. Link it to organizational strategic goals.

  • Involve future users early and give them a voice in product selection and rollout planning. Co-create the vision.

  • Focus on the positives - increased efficiency, data insights, collaboration capabilities, etc. Highlight specific benefits for each team.

  • Make the change gradual and give people a sense of control over their pace of adoption. Don’t mandate overnight changes in processes.

  • Provide extensive training, coaching, and peer support so people build confidence to adapt to the new system.

  • Recognize and reward early adopters. Create a community of “product champions” to encourage others.

  • Allow for iterative feedback and course correction along the way. Be transparent about challenges and adjustments made.

Proper change management requires more than simply communicating the software upgrade - it means engaging future users to co-create the vision, focusing on benefits over drawbacks, offering training and support, celebrating progress, and bringing people along at a reasonable pace. Connecting the change to organizational goals and giving people a sense of control and confidence in adapting to it will drive user buy-in and readiness for SaaS adoption.

Marketing & communication blindspots

Many organizations fail to generate sufficient buzz and enthusiasm for a new SaaS product due to:

  • Ineffective marketing materials - Uninspired collateral that doesn’t resonate or convey value.

  • Lack of repetition - Key messages aren’t consistently repeated through multiple channels.

  • Narrow reach - Communications target a limited subset of users instead of the entire organization.

  • Technical jargon - Marketing avoids explaining the “how” while only focusing on the “what.”

  • No catalyst for action - Users aren’t given a strong reason or deadline to start using the product.

Steps to improve software marketing & communications:

  • Tell compelling stories that showcase how real people are already benefiting from the product in relatable ways.

  • Make communications highly visual with screenshots, graphics, and video tutorials whenever possible.

  • Involve product champions and success stories to build social proof and urgency in your marketing efforts.

  • Leverage multiple channels - email, intranet, campaigns, all-hands meetings, posters, etc. Repeat top messages.

  • Segment communications by persona and create customized Messaging for different user groups.

  • Explain how specific features and workflows work using plain language. Avoid technical jargon.

  • Set clear expectations for when/how people should start using the software. Provide specific next steps or deadlines.

For your SaaS product marketing and communications to be effective in driving adoption, avoid generic buzzwords and hype. Instead, focus on telling human-centered stories that showcase real value, repeat your key messages across varied and targeted channels, and give people clear next steps and a rationale for action. Provide the “why” while also clearly explaining the “how.”

Old habits and reluctance

Even when users understand the value of a new SaaS solution, reluctance to change established workflows and habits can inhibit adoption. People tend to prefer:

  • Familiarity - People stick with what’s comfortable vs. learning something new.

  • Control - Changing systems may feel like giving up control over one’s work.

  • Minimal effort - People resist if the change requires extra effort upfront.

  • Social norms - People follow what’s “normal” within their teams and organizations.

Overcoming reluctance driven by habit and inertia requires:

  • Communicating an urgent need for change. Explain why the status quo is no longer acceptable.

  • Reframing the software as an opportunity instead of a mandatory shift. Highlight specific benefits.

  • Making the first experience with the product as easy as possible. Automate data migration and provide pre-filled templates/samples.

  • Rewarding and recognizing early adopters visibly. Their success stories will motivate others.

  • Setting reasonable, phased adoption goals. Require employees to use just 20% of the product’s capabilities in the first two months, then expand.

  • Providing ongoing coaching and support from power users and peer buddies. People need guidance integrating the tool into daily workflows.

  • Linking the use of the product to performance reviews, bonuses, and career advancement. Tie it to incentives.

True SaaS adoption requires pushing past habits that can inhibit change and making the new software an integral part of daily workflows. By carefully planning the rollout, providing plenty of guidance and support upfront, reframing the benefits, rewarding early adopters, and linking product use to incentives over time, you can motivate people past their initial reluctance. Communication, coaching, and a phased approach are key.

Lack of incentives

Organizations often struggle to motivate users to invest time and effort in adopting a new SaaS product when direct incentives are lacking. Without proper incentives, people are more likely to:

  • Use the product minimally. They adopt just enough to “get by.”

  • Take a wait-and-see approach. They want to see others make use of it first.

  • Miss out on important features. They operate at a “base level.”

  • Forget to use the software regularly. It falls off their radar.

  • Revert to old habits. They go back to previous tools and workflows.

To foster active SaaS adoption through incentives:

  • Link usage metrics and product KPIs to performance reviews, bonuses, and compensation.

  • Reward top product “champions” publicly and give them a platform to share success stories.

  • Offer achievements, badges, and gamification elements within the product to motivate users.

  • Give early adopters preferential access to new features and product roadmap inputs.

  • Provide additional perks like flexibility in work hours, priority parking, or time off.

  • Recognize power users and top contributors on your company intranet or in internal newsletters.

  • Name a “user of the month” and give them a small gift or certificate of recognition.

While software adoption should ultimately be driven by communicating real business value, extrinsic and intrinsic incentives can motivate users to fully leverage a SaaS solution. From tying product usage metrics to compensation and rewards to offering gamified achievements and recognition, a carefully orchestrated mix of incentives can get people invested in the new technology from day one.

Inadequate training

Insufficient or poorly designed training on a new SaaS product is one of the most common - and easy to fix - barriers to adoption. Issues often include:

  • Lack of personalized training - One-size-fits-all training ignores varied skill levels and needs.

  • No reinforcement - No follow-up support or refresher training after the initial rollout.

  • Overly technical - Training focuses heavily on the “what” instead of the “how to use.”

  • No practice - Users are not allowed to apply their learning immediately.

  • Reliance on the helpdesk - Users expect IT or support to solve issues instead of learning self-sufficiency.

Steps to improve SaaS training and drive adoption:

  • Provide role-based, targeted training paths for different groups - individual contributors, managers, executives, etc.

  • Leverage multiple mediums - video tutorials, step-by-step guides, blogs, FAQs, interactive demos, and in-person and virtual instructor-led courses.

  • Offer training on an ongoing basis - not just as part of the initial launch. Provide refreshers and advanced courses over time.

  • Structure training around common tasks and workflows. Focus on specific “how-to” scenarios, not features.

  • Give users opportunities to practice their learning and ask questions to clarify uncertainties. Consider gamifying practice sessions.

  • Teach users how to become self-sufficient. Focus not just on immediate needs but building long-term capabilities.

  • Survey users about training effectiveness and resource need regularly. Make improvements iteratively based on feedback.

SaaS training is an ongoing process - not a one-and-done initiative. By providing personalized, skill-based training paths, leveraging multiple mediums that go beyond the basics, building opportunities for immediate practice and reinforcement, and regularly surveying users to improve offerings, organizations can maximize the impact of training in driving successful SaaS product adoption over time.

Harness the Power of Product Demo Tools

In addition to the strategies above, organizations should leverage product demo tools to maximize SaaS adoption. Demo tools allow users to:

  • Experience the product firsthand in a safe, self-guided environment. This helps users develop the confidence they can effectively apply the software.

  • Test out different features and workflows in an immersive, interactive demo that feels close to the real thing. Users gain muscle memory before using the live application.

  • Receive tips, hints, and in-product help at every step to clarify “how to” questions on the fly. This reduces support needs by anticipating common points of confusion.

  • Progress at their own pace, replaying demos and practice sessions as needed. Users maintain a feeling of control over their learning.

  • Simulate real use cases and data to see how the software handles typical scenarios. This gives insight into how it may improve workflows in practice.

Interactive marketing product demo tools are an ideal complement to other training resources as they allow users to experience key benefits of the SaaS solution - increased productivity, visibility, insights, etc. - before ever applying it for real. This hands-on, self-guided learning mode creates the authentic desire to adopt that no amount of traditional training can match.

So, in addition to the strategies outlined in previous sections, implementing an interactive product demo tool that gives users a feel for the “real thing” is one of the most powerful drivers of true, long-term SaaS adoption within your organization.


There are many barriers to SaaS product adoption, but they can all be overcome through a thoughtful, multi-pronged strategy that addresses both the human and technical facets of change. From managing awareness and complexity to alleviating security concerns, lack of incentives, and inadequate training, the solutions require a combination of:

  • Clear, targeted internal communications that simplify value propositions and identify specific benefits for key stakeholders

  • Consultative vendor selection and thorough due diligence that puts IT and business leaders’ minds at ease

  • Gradual rollouts that break down complexity provide opportunities for practice and give users a sense of control

  • Interactive product demos and hands-on training that allow users to experience the benefits firsthand before “going live.”

  • Policies, incentives, and rewards that motivate users to fully leverage the software over time

  • Ongoing support from product champions, peer networks, and help resources to reinforce learning and address questions as they arise

While overcoming common barriers to SaaS adoption requires extensive planning, open communication, and tailored solutions for different user groups, the rewards of a fully utilized cloud solution - improved efficiency, data insights, collaboration, and more - make an effort well worth it. By keeping the end goal in mind and adopting an iterative approach that evaluates effectiveness and makes adjustments, even the highest hurdles can be scaled.

Cover Photo by ThisisEngineering RAEng

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