"Focusing on Improving Practices" – Oscar Berg re Collaboration Technology

Writing for CMSWire, Oscar from Sweden advocates focusing on improving practices via collaboration technology:

The key question is not if people have adopted a certain technology, but rather how they are using it and how new and improved practices are being adopted. For an organization that seeks to improve its operations and management, the adoption of a certain technology isn’t really interesting unless it creates value.

The potential value of a new technology lies in the new and improved behaviors and practices that might emerge when the technology is introduced to, and adopted by, staff. It’s when people change the way they behave — for the better — and find better ways do their work. That is when operational performance can be improved, when the organization’s ability to innovate can increase, when people can collaborate more efficiently and effectively, when decision making can improve and so forth.

It might seem like I’m stating the obvious, but the fact is, I haven’t seen many organizations that have put nearly as much effort into understanding and changing practices as they have put into discussing product features when introducing new collaboration products.

Oscar writes:
– That new tools can enable new practices, but sometimes existing tools can be used that way too.
– That email can be used better, via a different approach.
– New technology can be introduced without getting any benefit (and I’m adding – eg., using SharePoint for the new file server – doh!).

My Comments
1. I like Oscar’s emphasis on evaluating whether new tools are necessary, or just new practices with existing tools. See my How to Make the Most of Lotus Notes/Domino blog post, for more on this idea.

2. Oscar’s comments about using email differently, and thus reducing occupational spam, ring true with me. It is possible to re-educate people to do things differently … but it’s a hard road. Sometimes you need to introduce new technology to win sufficient attention and to break long enacted patterns and practices. So yes it’s possible – but we may be too far gone with email.

3. On that point, making more effective use of email often goes hand-in-hand with introducing new tools and approaches for working that offload activity and conversations that were previously locked in email. In some cases, the conversation / activity doesn’t need to happen at all – and can be eliminated. In other cases – the majority I’d say – it’s about lining up better ways of doing previous things – in more appropriate technology. And that introduces adoption challenges, because people have to conceptualize how going from a single tool that’s all singing and dancing to multiple tools that only do one thing, is better for them in the long run. I believe it is … but (a) most tools aren’t good enough yet to bring it back together in a way that makes sense for people, and (b) it takes people time to re-groove the way they work individiually and in teams.

4. Like Oscar, I’m very interested in the user adoption challenge. I like the approach and emphasis that Oscar is writing about here.

5. Back in October last year, I spent a very enjoyable day in Sweden with Oscar, his colleagues from Acando, and 25 people who attended my SharePoint Roadmap for Collaboration public seminar. It was a great day – as part of a very busy week!

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