Unified Communications

08:06 AM
Jason Parry
Jason Parry
Commentary
Connect Directly
Twitter
LinkedIn
RSS
E-Mail
50%
50%

Collaboration Wanted; Employee Buy-In Required

Lured by tales of compounded productivity with lowered costs, businesses are trying out collaboration tools. But getting users on board can be challenging.

Collaboration technology promises many benefits. Today's advanced solutions remove traditional communication barriers and make it easier to conduct business and speed decision making. Users are able to connect and communicate with others seamlessly, wherever they are.

In addition to improved communication, today's collaborative technologies offer tangible savings. Business trips replaced by videoconferencing can significantly reduce a company's travel expense. Teleworking can reduce the amount of office space needed, resulting in considerable savings. 

In an effort to take advantage of these savings and benefits, companies are deploying collaborative solutions. But despite all the benefits, investment, and availability, we continue to see a lack of employee adoption of collaborative tools. Instead, many end-users continue to rely on traditional methods of communication, including phone, email, and face-to-face meetings. 

Nothing can replace every in-person conversation we have in our daily work. But without end-user adoption, organizations will struggle to realize the big-picture benefits of collaboration and a return on their investment.

End-user buy-in is critical
There are many reasons why end-users have been slow to adopt collaboration technologies. One of the main factors is a simple lack of experience. Some users may experiment with collaborative technologies on their own; but without training, experience or an understanding, it's easy to become frustrated and simply revert back to the traditional collaboration tools they have always used.

Most companies train their users only once and only at the time of deployment. This leaves out any new employees, and is often too much for users to consume in a single session. It is not usually specific to individual job roles, more often consisting of an overview of the technology through generic scenarios. Periodic follow-up trainings would help users learn the ins and outs for their specific job function or department.

[Learn why technology planning should not come first in Why Culture Eats UC Strategies For Lunch.] 

Collaboration technology is designed to improve the way that people interact with one another, and so by nature, it's very personal. Users must have an understanding of how the solution will meet their own unique needs. If they do not know specifically how the technology can better solve an issue that they are dealing with, they will not be motivated to adopt it.

We also need to move away from the old-fashioned idea of moving to the boardroom for a videoconference. What users really want and need is personal access to collaboration technology. It needs to be available at their desks, any time they want to use it. And that's not unrealistic; there are many very good and low-cost options to do just that. It falls on the solution provider to offer customers the technology, tools, and training they need to realize the full benefits of collaboration.

Increasing adoption
From an IT perspective, the focus is on making collaboration easy to use. To do so, it's critical that the IT team have a solid understanding of the core of the technology. Without that understanding, you run the risk of ending up with a solution that is poorly deployed, difficult to use, and won't be easily adopted. If a company does not have this level of expertise on staff, they can work with a solutions integrator to support the deployment and adoption. 

For adoption to take place on a large scale, it is critical for companies to have specific policies in place that support the overall goal. If you deploy a video infrastructure in an effort to reduce the amount of money spent on business travel, but don't have a policy in place to support that goal, guess what? People are still going to get on that plane. However, if they need executive-level clearance to travel, they will think twice about flying to a one-day meeting that could easily be replaced by videoconferencing.

Finally, one of the most important things companies can do when making an investment in collaboration technology is to develop internal champions. These are people within the organization who possess a deep understanding of the value and power of the technology, as well as its impact on the business. Internal champions will become the advocates for collaboration, leading training sessions and driving adoption to help individuals and the company as a whole to realize the benefits that today's collaboration technology promises.

Jason Parry is the Vice President of client solutions at Force 3, where he focuses on the management of the company's engineers and the strategy, vision, and intellectual assets to meet the objectives of its customers. 

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
Kristin Burnham
50%
50%
Kristin Burnham,
User Rank: Apprentice
1/7/2014 | 9:53:21 PM
Re: Why Collaboration Fails
Great points, Rob. The "what's in it for me" piece is especially important. If employees don't understand why they're given this tool and what they're supposed to use it for, adoption will undoubtedly suffer.
rdrasin
100%
0%
rdrasin,
User Rank: Apprentice
1/7/2014 | 10:37:57 AM
Why Collaboration Fails
Companies have yet to learn that you can't legislate behavior. When (yet another) new initiative or collaborative technology is announced, you are asking people to change behavior and habits. Without their personal buy-in, they will nod their heads yes - and do nothing. They'll simply wait it out.  Here are just a few of the reason why:

-Habits eat policy for lunch (to borrow your phase). Changing behavior takes time. Breaking habits and patterns is difficult.

-Employees have higher workloads and shorter attention spans (8 seconds on average). They are not going to volunteer for change unless they can clearly see the personal benefit

-What's in it for me? Between 65-80% of all inititaves fail. Companies need to understand that employees are consumers who make choices about what they are willing to buy into.  They've been educated and trained by the internet and advertisers to make choices about things that benefit them. They need to know what's in it for them in a tangible way right from the start. This is especially true when it comes to corporate initiatives. 

-Lack of management engagement with the initiative. A memo won't suffice. If management isn't going to publicly support and actively engage with the initiative, employees will immediately get the message and simply wait for the inititative to fail.

-You need metrics. Without metrics, you can't measure progress, or failure.

-I agree, you need champions (early adopters) who will explain the benefits of an initative in terms that reasonate with their colleagues

-In large companies, different locations have different issues and priorities. Any initiatve must be viewed in context and adjustments made as appropriate or universal adoption will not happen. 

Finally, unless IT actively supports and implements the initiative quickly and universally, its inconsistency will beome a source of frustration by employees and it will become yet another expensive, failed initiative.

Rob Drasin

Trident Communications LLC  
gmtrmt
50%
50%
gmtrmt,
User Rank: Apprentice
1/7/2014 | 10:21:49 AM
Re: Executives, too
Everyones too busy to be collaborative and its worse in larger organisations as everyone strives to fly under the radar. Its hard enough getting an email reply!
Kristin Burnham
50%
50%
Kristin Burnham,
User Rank: Apprentice
1/7/2014 | 8:43:45 AM
Executives, too
I'd add that champions can be -- and should be -- executives, too. They need to lead by example, which also helps to address the adoption problem.
Cartoon
Slideshows
Audio Interviews
Archived Audio Interviews
Jeremy Schulman, founder of Schprockits, a network automation startup operating in stealth mode, joins us to explore whether networking professionals all need to learn programming in order to remain employed.
White Papers
Register for Network Computing Newsletters
Current Issue
2014 State of Unified Communications
2014 State of Unified Communications
If you thought consumerization killed UC, think again: 70% of our 488 respondents have or plan to put systems in place. Of those, 34% will roll UC out to 76% or more of their user base. And there’s some good news for UCaaS providers.
Video
Twitter Feed