Think “initiative” not “project” for collaboration success

A bigger bowl
COMMENTARY
 

It’s widely recognised now that successfully improving collaboration within an organisation doesn’t happen by itself; while social collaboration technologies might share some common characteristics with public social networking services like Facebook and Twitter, you simply aren’t going to get company-wide levels of adoption purely through “viral” methods. You need to invest in an adoption strategy to make it work, with the understanding that what you are aiming for is not just adoption of the tools, but business change.

So far, so good. I’ve written (and spoken, many times) about all this before, and many others have as well. And yet so often, when putting it into practice, people miss one key point; that changing your business takes time. You can have the most beautiful intranet/ESN/social collaboration platform etc. in the world, customised or branded to meet your business needs perfectly, and you can have a first-class communications and training/awareness campaign around your launch, but if you fail to think beyond this, there is still a HUGE risk that your investment will be completely wasted, and your initiative will fail.

Why? Because this is about BUSINESS CHANGE. It’s not about implementing a new technology, or just getting people to use a new technology, it’s about convincing your organisation’s employees to change the way they work. And this takes time. Serious time. Some people simply won’t adopt your new technology until everyone they work with is already using it. Others might be interested at first, but as soon as the pressure is on in their day job, they revert to the way they’ve always done things (often with email). Your communications campaign, your training program, your adoption strategy – it needs to continue for YEARS, not months.

Education company Pearson is often cited as a great success story for social collaboration (and it is – see my case study). It’s had fantastic levels of adoption of its platform, with 45% of the company’s 40,000 staff logging onto the platform daily, and peak days seeing almost 100% logging in. But to put that into context, Pearson’s initiative has been running now for almost five years, and continues to demand serious investment with 3 full time resources providing training, community management, and ongoing management of the platform strategy.

And I think this is the perspective that is needed, right from the beginning. Your collaboration investment may start out as a project – and clearly there are discrete, project-sized components involved in the pre- and post-launch phases – but you need to approach the whole as an initiative, as an ongoing, long-term investment that will bring about important business change to your organisation. Unless you start with this perspective up front, there is a danger that once you reach the end of that initial launch phase, when many of the initial resources on your team are redeployed to other projects, then your initiative will stall, your early adopters will lose confidence, and ultimately your investment will have been wasted.

What’s more, if you don’t think about your investment in this way, you can’t expect your stakeholders to do so either. And if your budget is axed after six months, it’ll be even harder (if not impossible) to succeed. So remember – don’t think “project”, think “initiative”. And spread the word.

(This post was originally published on the AIIM community blog, where Angela posts as an invited Expert Blogger.)

COMMENTARY

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *