One of the things that organizations need to consider when rolling out a social collaboration platform is how various features will impact or affect adoption. Most platforms today have dozens of features but should organizations roll them out all at once? That can certainly be one approach. But another approach which I find to be more effective is to roll out the features gradually based on their value and how they can help improve employee adoption. In fact, looking at adoption from a technology or features perspective is something that is not typically explored, but should be. This framework can help organizations understand how features can impact adoption. This is one of the many topics I explore in my book, The Collaborative Organization.
Stage 1- Initial Features
Implement basic and intuitive features that can help solve problems right out of the gate. Rich profiles and microblogs are a great starting point, along with the ability to share files and search for information. Enabling single sign-on functionality is also crucial to implement early on as it can be a huge factor in ramping up early adoption and solves a very clear and immediate need in most organizations. Depending on the size of your organization, you may be in this stage for one to six months. Instead of basing this on a timeline, look at employee use and feedback as an indicator for when to advance.
Employees will start being able to find and connect with their colleagues at work through the use of rich profiles. They will also be able to share ideas and content and ask and answer questions via the microblogging functionality. Instead of relying on e-mail as the content repository, employees will be able to share files with one another easily. They will no longer have to sign on to multiple platforms to access information; they will only need to log into one system that can authenticate them across all other systems. Executives will start to gain insight into how employees work and how the organization as a whole functions. The organization also will start to see the serendipity effect emerge.
Stage 2- Additional Features
Once employees become more comfortable with and accustomed to the initial set of features, you can begin to turn on additional capabilities. Project and task management features should be added as well as group and workspace creation capabilities, shared calendaring, and collaborative file creation, storage, and sharing (among others). These features will help employees add more context to the way they work while providing them with the additional tools they need to solve business problems. Organizations are typically in this stage for around three months.
Employees will be able to manage more of their day-to-day work lives on the emergent (or social) collaboration platform. Tasks can be created and assigned, and special project groups or department groups can be created to keep everyone on the same page. It also becomes much easier for employees to retrieve and share information with one another. Adoption will increase as employees will need to access the collaboration platform to get the information required to get their jobs done. Employees will also start to see a reduction in duplicate content as well as improved communication. A “single source of truth” for projects and information begins to be formed here. At this stage colleagues also typically begin to influence one another to collaborate. Finally, executives gain greater insight into their organizations.
Stage 3-Systems Integration
Once the set of features and capabilities is rolled out, integration can begin with other legacy and back-end systems such as customer relationship management (CRM), enterprise resource planning (ERP), billing and invoicing, and ticketing systems. All required and relevant integrations are rolled out here as well as any remaining features the organization wishes to roll out. Organizations typically are in this phase for 6 to 18 months or more.
The emergent collaboration platform now becomes the front door for the enterprise, and everything employees need to get their jobs done is found in one place. Adoption increases even further as employees no longer need to access other applications or sites and can instead utilize one platform to get everything done. Process improvement is very noticeable here. Context around collaboration becomes prevalent, and communication becomes increasingly horizontal rather than vertical. Executives now have a very solid understanding of what is happening in their organizations at the ground level.
Stage 4- Best Practices and Ideation
The final stage involves employee ideation and innovation and the creation of best practices. Here we see employees being able to contribute their ideas and feedback to help shape the future of collaboration in the enterprise. New ideas, use cases, and opportunities are identified and pursued. Best practices are developed regularly to address issues or recommendations for how employees can best leverage the emergent collaboration solution. This isn’t to say that best practices and ideation can’t and won’t take shape in earlier stages, but this is when it really starts to become formalized and distributed. Some organizations put a heavy emphasis on developing best practices and including employee ideation concurrently with earlier stages, which of course is another option. Organizations typically remain in this stage once the other three are completed, but they can regress, for example, if a deployed platform is being replaced for another one or if the organization feels that new features were rolled out too quickly.
Through the use of best practices successes can be replicated and failures can be minimized. Employees are now able to share and access a resource base to help educate, train, and guide new and existing employees to make the most of emergent collaboration. Employees are able to contribute their own ideas and provide feedback to help shape the future of collaboration and work at the organization. Emergent collaboration becomes the standard for how work gets done. I also don’t want to suggest that this is the only phase where employee feedback should be considered; that should be ongoing through all the phases of deployment.
Keep in mind that this is one framework you can use but that it can be adapted. For example, instead of having two feature stages, your organization might have three. This needs to be mapped to what works best for your organization.
Finally, getting and sustaining desired adoption levels does take time. Nobody likes to hear that things take time, but that’s the reality, especially in large organizations. Successful emergent collaboration initiatives aren’t looked at as projects or campaigns; they are looked at as an evolution of doing business. Smart organizations understand that this is how things need to be done in the future. Can you imagine your organization not deploying these tools in the next three to five years?