Michael Sampson, Collaboration Strategist and author of ‘Collaboration Roadmap’ and ‘User Adoption Strategies’; http://www.michaelsampson.net
There are challenges to the broad adoption of any new technology – when cars first appeared, they were the scourge of those without a car, yet they have become ubiquitous. There are plenty of horror stories about collaboration tools too not being adopted in organisations too, but with a sound strategy, they can become an equally normal and useful part of your business day. Here are three key watchouts from my experience with larger enterprises; and how to avoid them in your business.
Collaboration is not an end in itself. It’s great to be collaborative, but businesses exist to make money. Collaboration technologies allow us to do many common work activities in better ways, such as sharing documents, managing meetings and engaging with outside clients, suppliers and experts. However, if those functions do not generate market advantage or help your people work effectively, you have wasted your money. Put these tools to work with clear objectives.
Technology alone won’t make an organisation collaborative. If you have people who just can’t get along, don’t think that technology alone will solve the problem. Similarly, these tools are an adjunct, not a substitute, for human contact. If, for example, you bring a group of people together for the first time on a project, nothing will be more effective in helping them to gel as a team than putting them together in a room (followed by some good old-fashioned socialising).
Indeed, face-to-face contact (or a phone call) is probably the best way to ensure that the technologies you then implement will work in the long run. Let people build real relationships first, and then cement them with technology after. The relationship gives a context for the technology; not the other way around.
Your tools must work how you work. Failing to integrate new collaborative approaches into the everyday workflow of your business will just create resentment and stymie adoption. If the ‘new way of doing things’ is perceived as yet another burden on already busy people, and they cannot see how it will contribute to their work, then it should be no surprise that they dig their heels in, and refuse to play ball. In smaller companies, this can be a particular challenge, because often nobody has ever actually written down ‘how we do things’ before.
It takes strong leadership, but this can be the ideal opportunity to start to formalise processes in a growing business. Stop operations for a day and work out what can be done more efficiently; and particularly whether any lessons can be learned from past experience. This is, frankly, a worthwhile exercise in good management whether you’re implementing new tools or not.
Do be aware that implementing new approaches to and systems for work will reduce efficiency at first. There are always hiccups, and it takes time for users to acclimatise to new ways of working. It’s essential that your team sees how your new tools will positively impact their own work in very simple terms, in order to get engagement and adoption.