Dreaded Collaboration

There's an interesting article titled "Why Some People 'Dread' Collaboration" in the September 6th issue of Information Weekly. The author discusses the link between the slow adoption of collaboration technology and the inherent flaws in strategy and governance. The article cites a survey in which over 500 executives were polled on their collaboration strategy. 80% of those executives felt that enterprise-wide collaboration was key to the companies success, and 75% of them planned to increase use of collaboration and communications tools in the coming year. On the flip side, a similar survey showed that the actual adoption of collaboration platforms tends to lag behind the initial deployment by five to eight quarters-pretty staggering given the current emphasis and investment in collaboration technology. Do we really want to have to wait that long to realize the investments of our shiny new collaboration platform?

So what's the reason behind this lag? Enter the mystical uncontrollable beast of governance and strategy. The author runs through a particular example in which the corporate direction to utilize collaboration tools is so downright impractical that the end users develop a sort of hatred for the technology; the "put everything you do  in a wiki" strategy.

If people use wikis-or any other collaboration tool-just because they're compelled to do so, they'll get lost in the white noise of misplaced communications. If users back away, it's not necessarily because they're hidebound or anti-social, or because the technology is inherently flawed (wikis are terrific for many things), but because they're not realizing the value. Information Week, 9/6/2010, "Why Some People 'Dread' Collaboration"

We've all been part of deployments where the goals of the new tools aren't well communicated to the end users. Without that strategic component of a new system deployment, it's often an uphill battle to make your users see the potential and impact of a new tool set. It's not that you have to "sell" the tools to your users, but you have to do more than give everyone access and tell them to use it. Sometimes people in the IT world assume that everyone thinks like people in the IT world, and that's certainly not the case. We look at SharePoint as an example, and immediately start looking at antiquated mainframe systems and countless other business systems and tools that we can integrate into a single platform. That's great, that's system consolidation (and often virtualization), and that's a time and money saver for today's enterprise businesses. That said, it's also scary to the end user who's been trained and educated in the existing tools, and been using them for a good chunk of their career.

A clear governance model, appropriate user training, and appropriate communication are critical to the deployment of any new system (especially those in the collaboration domain). Instead of just pointing your users to a URL, help them understand how the new tools benefit the business, streamline workflow, and manage costs.