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.
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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.
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.