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Change Management is the Key to Enterprise Collaboration Tools

Aspi Havewala, Director of Workplace Technologies and Collaboration, Motorola Solutions
Aspi Havewala, Director of Workplace Technologies and Collaboration, Motorola Solutions

Aspi Havewala, Director of Workplace Technologies and Collaboration, Motorola Solutions

The diverse ecosystem of apps has changed the collaboration space forever. In our personal lives, we use phone calls, texts, Facebook, Viber, Whatsapp and Twitter to collaborate with family, friends and acquaintances. Increasingly enterprise users feel that they are more productive at home than they are at work.

The good news is that enterprise collaboration tools are adopting features that make consumer tools so valuable. They are becoming as easy to use as consumer apps. What used to be some of the features of collaboration apps (Yammer, G+, Jive) are replicated in other tools. It's important to understand the collaboration features of any tool that is being evaluated and create a well thought out plan of how it impacts the user experience.

IT departments tend to be skilled at technical implementations. What they lack are essential skills in change management and communication. These skills are critical to drive adoption of tools. Change management allows you to drive adoption and overcome this conundrum effectively.

“By making Change Management a separate track, you'll put users first and force yourself to focus on an area that is often neglected”

Ground yourself in why Employees feel less Productive

Enterprise implementations should be superior to consumer grade tools. Enterprise PCs last longer and have fewer defects. But buying them takes much longer than walking into PC retail store. Enterprise Email clients tend to be feature rich (like Outlook), but they don't offer the same flexibility of a cloud based client like Gmail. Employees value freedom and flexibility as much abundant features.

Align with Business Strategy

Collaboration impacts how employees work, and directly impacts a company’s culture. Any company either has a strong culture it values or a culture it wants to transform. Your choice of collaboration tools must be driven by the company's goals. In the mid-70s, Fred Brooks outlined the concept of the superstar programmer in his influential book The Mythical Man Month. The digitization of all major forms of communication and its subsequent consumerization has resulted in the rise of high performance teams. You need to ask this fundamental question when evaluating a tool qualitatively: will this make teamwork easy? There might be a tool with numerous bells and whistles that makes it easy for individuals to crank out great presentations. But if it doesn't facilitate collaboration, its value is limited beyond the individual.

Many IT evaluations result in pages of checklists of technical capabilities. It’s important to have items in the checklist that look for a fit with business strategy and culture. When made early, this alignment will create a strong basis for adoption.

Accelerate your Learning

Traditional long deployment cycles that involve betas and test groups are a bit outdated in today's world if all you are doing is deploying a SaaS solution. There are certainly technical challenges when it comes to deploying a SaaS solution, but you won't uncover them with long drawn out pilots. The way to accelerate your learning is to talk to companies that have used the tools you are evaluating. I'm not talking about just reference calls. Find customers using Google and LinkedIn, so you can have authentic conversations with them about the tools you are considering. Ask your friends what tools are used at their workplace. Then ask them for IT contacts. Ask everyone about their experiences and what they love and hate about the tools.

Change Management First

Walk into any IT project review - you'll see scores of great slides on technology, resources and schedule. But very few of them are about managing user perception and experience. When it comes to collaboration -and any IT project -focus on Change Management. Outline how you will communicate with, train and help users adopt the new tool. By making Change Management a separate track, you'll put users first and force yourself to focus on an area that is often neglected.

With any Change Management plan, you have to decide how to provide information to users. It starts with how you announce your decision. Assume that if you are picking a workplace tool, you'll upset a number of people. Once the selection is made, your job is not to try and change how people feel about the choice. It's to explain the decision objectively and help with the transition. If you avoid feeling defensive you can em­brace a robust commu­nication plan.

I've seen a lot of people in IT shy away from direct conversa­tions with users es­pecially on their social forums because it ‘could go down a rabbit hole’. All conversations can go down a rabbit hole, you just won't know it if you are not engaged. You'll hear about it months later with no control over the perception of the tool or your team or IT. Instead trust in the self-regulating power of the community and be direct, authentic and gracious. Your users will appreciate your engagement even when they hate the tool.

Brand your Program

Communication with employees has to be constant. You can't make an announcement and disappear. Take every opportunity to discuss the upcoming deployment. You can use company meetings, leadership staff calls and newsletters. Then go bottoms up and talk to as many employees as possible. Branding your program -giving it a relevant name, a color, a snappy catch line -will boost its visibility and ‘stickiness’. Don't underestimate the value of marketing.

Go Fast

Rolling out collaboration tools slowly is painful and hurts adoption. Imagine having two different email systems and all the calendar coexistence issues.

It’s best to make the change quickly. If you can, deploy to everyone at once. If you take this approach, it's best to deploy to IT first. You will have a great set of trained users that will help you train the rest. If your user base is too large to make a flash cut, carefully segment users by collaboration with each other.

Drive Adoption

Often, after deploying a tool, we tend to move on to the next big project with no sustenance strategy around adoption and renewal. No project should be declared successful until adoption has reached levels that provide benefit to the company. One of the mechanisms for developing an adoption strategy is to poll employees at intervals. Analyzing feedback from surveys will help zero in on areas like awareness, best practices, training, and enhancements.

A change management first approach lays the bedrock on which you can deploy collaboration tools successfully and drive adoption. It builds a community of engaged employees that understand the change and why it's important for the success of the organization. It's the ramp from which you can launch your adoption efforts and give everyone powerful tools for teamwork.

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