A Roadmap for Organizations Using IBM Connections Who Are Facing User Adoption Problems: Two Pathways

I was talking to a colleague last week about how customers who are using IBM Connections were going from an adoption perspective. Since I have written books on this, and run workshops with organizations to help with approaching the user adoption challenge, I have an interest in spreading great practices to solve this problem. He replied:

The biggest problem is having people acknowledge they need help (and isn’t that a constant in life!) Just about every Connections account I am aware of is having user adoption problems – or have they adopted the product as far as they want to go? There is such richness within the product it is frustrating not to see it used. But then again if they are happy to use 50% of the features and love the product for that should you be upset/pushing them? A complex question. I gave my Mother a fancy food processor last Mother’s day and she uses 2 of its 16 features & loves it. Should I be annoyed? – it is her processor after all!

I asked if I could respond to this publicly on my blog, and with the approval to do so, here’s my answer.

John,
Thanks for your response to my question about user adoption among customers using IBM Connections. User adoption is a common problem for new collaboration and social tools, and is not just limited to Connections. As you know from reading my book, User Adoption Strategies 2nd Ed. (2012), user adoption is a challenge faced by organizations using IBM Connections, Microsoft SharePoint, Socialtext, and many other offerings. There are a set of principles and practices I outline in the book to increase the success rate of adoption efforts, but context plays a big role. Your question posits two groups among Connections customers, and I’ll answer both separately.

For those organizations that are having user adoption problems, I’d recommend that the next step is to step back from the immediate adoption problems, and re-define / re-establish why IBM Connections was introduced into the organization in the first place, and how. In the language of Collaboration Roadmap (2011), what was the vision? Improved organizational efficiency? Better organizational or process effectiveness? Improved communication? Something else? With the vision firmly re-established, by what means what IBM Connections introduced to the organization? Was it a “build it and throw it out there” approach by the IT department (which rarely ends well), or was there deep business involvement / engagement in the selection process? If there wasn’t deep engagement from the business, you need to re-start there. What’s going on in the various business groups / teams / departments now, and where could IBM Connections make a difference? If there was deep engagement by the business, what has mis-fired between the “yes” and the reality? In other words, you need to start by re-contextualizing the what / why / where / how of IBM Connections for the organization.

For the second group, my recommendation is different. These organizations have, to use your words, “adopted the product as far as they want to go,” despite IBM Connections having many additional capabilities that could confer many additional benefits. I take the view that the product and its features are subservient to the needs of the organization, and if the organization only needs three of the overall capabilities offered by IBM Connections (or whatever tool is being used), then that’s fine. In the approach I lay out in Collaboration Roadmap (2011), this means the organization has been through the complete ROADMAP process up to the second A. They still have the last stage available to them – the P being “Pursue Increasing Value.” I’d recommend that the organization in such a situation go back and review why they installed IBM Connections, analyze the benefits they have gained in reality, and have a celebration if that’s called for. Good job. But having done that and recognized the benefits gained, before calling quits on further use of IBM Connections, someone needs to take another good look at the organization and see if there are other areas that would benefit from IBM Connections. For some ideas on possibilities, see Doing Business with IBM Connections (2013). There may not be (and that’s fine), or there may be (and that’s fine too). But at least the organization then knows which way to go – to keep on which current things that are working, or to build on the current foundation and reach to the next level.

In terms of your mother and her food processor, tell her that I only use two functions on my food processor too. I’m glad to be in such grand company.

What’s the right path for you?

(By the way, I’m going to be presenting three workshops in Australia at the end of August on user adoption (Sydney and Melbourne; both are tool agnostic), and one on doing business with IBM Connections (Sydney). See Upcoming Events for details.)

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