My Reactions to an Article on "Effective Enterprise Collaboration Strategy"

A few months ago Pamela wrote that Effective enterprise collaboration strategy needs everyone on the bus. I’m confused by some of the advice in the article – there’s an underlying ethos throughout that rings off to me. Here’s the reactions I’m having as I’m reading it through.

Paragraph 2

Analysts who focus on collaboration and social networking say that project managers in charge of deploying an enterprise collaboration system should take a number of steps before launching any technology. The key is to make sure employees fully embrace the new collaboration strategy and the technology platform behind it. Analysts say that by carefully preparing for a deployment in this way, you’ll be better positioned to confirm that all levels of the enterprise understand the importance, expected benefits, and business outcomes of the collaboration system; doing so, in turn, can help ensure that the organization derives optimum benefit from its investment.

I agree in principle that some steps are required before launching any technology, but disagree about the advocated key. In my view, what is advocated in the article is impossible to achieve in advance of having technology available and being actively used. There does need to be a clear strategy and a group of employees who have the advocated understanding (to some degree), but the reality of that will only hit home once that group starts using it.

Paragraphs 3-5, on Culture

Agree. But, equally, if collaboration between teams / departments is not part of the collaboration strategy, it is still okay to start with improved collaboration within teams and departments. The technology used by teams / departments for collaboration can often be improved.

Paragraphs 6-8, on Purpose

Having a purpose is important – I talk about it as Outlining the Vision in Collaboration Roadmap (2011). But I feel that paragraph 8 doesn’t capture the heart of the matter:

First, establish your organization’s business objectives, then find the type of system that will support those goals, Keitt said. For example, an organization that is interested in simply establishing internal blogs for employees would likely consider different products than, say, a company that wants to enable customers to communicate with employees.

Establishing internal blogs for employees is not a business objective. It may be a way of contributing to a business objective, but it’s not an objective as such.

Paragraphs 9-11, on Adoption

Some good and valid adoption strategies are noted in these paragraphs. I would add as an essential emphasis, though, that even if people see how collaboration tools can “save steps, time and effort” and if “[they] understand why they should adopt the new technology and workflow processes,” they may still not do so. Social pressure from other people in the teams / groups they work in is often a much bigger contributor to adoption than being educated about possible features / capabilities.

Paragraphs 12-14, on Measurement

Charlene gets it right – adoption isn’t the point, increased value is. I was okay with these three paragraphs. For more on how I recommend approaching the measurement question, see Chapter 11 in User Adoption Strategies 2nd Ed. (2012).

Paragraphs 15-16, on Keeping Going

Even if employees see the benefits of a collaboration system, it is all too easy to slip back into old habits. Continue to offer incentives for using the system and make improvements to collaboration processes, Li said. Business users will begin to see positive changes as collaboration becomes embedded in the organizational workflow and their work becomes more streamlined, she added.

Agree on the second approach of “making improvements to collaboration processes,” but less sure of the incentives approach. If both are done it can work out. If it’s tilted to much towards incentives, then employees may play along only as long as incentives are on offer – and then cease their participation when the incentives are removed. The real key, in my view, is improving the way work gets done.

But hey …
YMMV.

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