Eight tips on successful adoption of collaboration solutions

Collaboration should be easy. Right? I mean, we talk to each other every day, we share documents, and most of us have more email than we know what to do with. Moving to an online collaboration system should just be a simple step forward. No?

Not always.

Successfully adopting new working paradigms, especially those that have the potential to move employees out of their comfort zone, can be tricky. Luckily, there are some tips that can make the whole process a lot smoother. Here are eight to consider when you’re faced with implementing a collaboration solution into your business.

Tip #1 – Lead from the top

There’s a reason why this is number one. It’s the most important of all the tips. Whenever you’re undertaking a project like this, make sure you have a sponsor from within the senior management team, preferably the CEO. With buy-in from senior management, you’ll be much better equipped from the start. Everyone has to fall in line; if the CEO says jump, the vast majority of staff will jump.

Tip #2 – Set expectations

What is this solution going to do for the business? What isn’t it going to do? Setting expectations early in the process helps people accept change. They’re able to understand how their work is going to be affected; if done the right way, this will quell any fears. Holding familiarization sessions can help. In these sessions you can set out the rationale for the system and show the benefits for the company and for staff. Collaboration solutions can be massive time-savers for teams, so let them see it. If you have the support of your senior management (see Tip #1), get them to participate in these sessions.

Tip #3 – Communicate

The most common issue with big projects is poor communication. No one likes it when something is presented with a fait accompli, so don’t give them one. Introduce the project early and keep updates regular (but not intrusively so). Good communication covers many areas, from general project status updates through to energizers; consider sending out information around collaboration success stories, from inside or outside your industry, to get employees excited about the possibilities and knowledgeable around the subject.

Tip #4 – Make it easy

If you need people to do something for you, make sure they know about it in advance. Employees are your biggest barrier to adoption, so make sure that the process is as easy for them as it can possibly be. It can be the smallest things that make the difference here. For example, you need to create a list of access rights by department. In this case, don’t send them an empty template saying you need something back by Friday; instead, send them a pre-filled template with suggested roles and ask them to okay it. It’s less work for them. The same goes for launch day. Need everyone to register? Why not see if you can pre-register accounts, so that all users have login details waiting for them in their inbox on the first day. It’s all about the details.

Tip #5 – Practice what you preach

If you don’t use it, no one will. Lead by example at every opportunity. The early days of a system’s life are some of the most precarious. Old habits die hard, and employees will need constant reminding to move them in the right direction. You can be the difference here. If you want to set up a meeting and send around an agenda, do it through the collaboration system, not through your email – pull people online with you.

Tip #6 – Don’t stand alone

It’s great to be the evangelist, but you can’t do everything. This is where your champions step in. Your champions are your crack team of super-employees – trained, confident and ready to answer questions. They’ll keep the solution up and running and be your eyes and ears in all the places you can’t be. Champions should be brought into the project early and preferably will be involved in a formal capacity; they should also be from across the company. It’s no good having a set of champions who are all in IT; they won’t have the knowledge to make the system work in Finance or Marketing. So pick wisely, get them involved and then let them loose.

Tip #7 – Stay positive

Every company has its share of laggards, moaners and ‘I know betters’; you can’t avoid them. You can, however, deal with them. If you have laggards in the company, they need to be supported. Don’t chastise them or make them feel stupid for not being able to work the way you want them to work, simply take things a step at a time. Find small tasks that can be made better through collaboration and get them comfortable with those before moving on to more complex ideas – they’ll be onboard before long. Moaners are more difficult and need to be dealt with individually. Try to identify the issue behind the negativity and don’t be afraid to call on management to help you if you need it. Most of the time the negativity is simply down to the employee feeling uncomfortable or out of their depth and can be dealt with through training. Finally, keep ‘I know betters’ close. By giving them ownership, you deflect their energy into something positive. Above all, make sure you stay positive and keep employees enthused.

Tip #8 – Talk, and if no one is listening, shout!

Last of all, if you’ve gone through the launch and come out of the other side, make sure you tell everyone about it. Second-stage adoption, where you move from the ‘new’ into the ‘established’ system, can be driven effectively through success stories. Try to identify teams and departments where collaboration has made a big difference and get them to share their experiences. When employees can see other departments using the system to their advantage, they will soon follow. And as I said, if they’re not listening to you talk, shout! Shout to the CEO and anyone else who will listen until you get heard.

Having the right approach won’t smooth out all the bumps on the road ahead, but it will allow you to navigate them more easily. And best of all, once you’ve done it once, people have the confidence and trust in you to deliver next time around. An effective collaboration system can make a massive difference to an organization, so don’t be put off. Just keep these tips in your back pocket and you’ll be well on your way.

Have you got any tips for the perfect rollout of collaboration solutions? Have you ever had a project backfire on you? If so, how did you turn it around? Let us know in the comments.

Post by James Gardner

is a digital technology strategist. Now working in the pharmaceutical industry, he previously worked at Volume, one of the largest independent B2B digital marketing agencies in the UK. Throughout his career, he has dealt with everything from social media and cloud computing to storage area networks and virtualization, giving him a broad view on the technology issues facing businesses today. In his spare time he can be found making cars out of Legos - with his two kids obviously - or dreaming of a walk-on part in a Romero zombie movie.