There’s been a lot of talk around collaboration overload lately. As this Harvard Business Review article points out, there is an overlap of only 50% between “the top collaborative contributors in any organisation and those individuals deemed to be the top performers.”
Other studies and posts followed, triggered by users’ lack of engagement with social software tools. In some cases, instead of being helped by these technologies, employees become even more overwhelmed, which leads to a higher risk of burnout and turnover. The exact negative effects that collaboration was supposed to fight.
So what is it that makes collaboration succeed in some companies and fail in others? The common belief is that organizational culture plays a central part. And in most situations it is a valid theory. If the people inside the company were validated by negative behaviors like hoarding knowledge and micromanaging, you can’t expect things to change overnight. Investing in social software means more than just paying for it – time, personal involvement and strategy are crucial for a successful deployment.
Best Practices – Lessons from Our Customers
For the past 3 years I’ve been in touch with many companies that were interested in improving their capacity of collaborating internally and engaging their employees. What I’ve learned is that there’s a series of steps that organizations need to take prior to implementing a solution for its deployment to be successful:
- Understand what you’re trying to achieve. What’s the need you’re trying to cover? With the tools already in use, what’s working and what could be improved? Being social for the sake of social or because business trends say so, spells failure.
- Know your audience. Take into consideration both short and long term. Are you focused on an internal audience only or are you considering sharing information with external ones, like partners and customers? What’s their profile? Are they mostly technical people or does it extend to several other types of expertise like sales and human resources? The type of content they’d like to share is pretty different according to these profiles and you want to make sure everyone will benefit.
- Determine the type of tool you need. Once you have your requirements and audience profile in place, make a research on the available tools on the market in order to figure out what fits your use case best. There are many types of solutions out there that promote collaboration, productivity and employee engagement. They may look pretty similar at a first glance, but specific features can make the whole difference. Do you need an intranet, an ESN, a projects tracker or an Enterprise Q&A?
- Evaluate at least two vendors. When you already know what you’re looking for, who’s you core audience and what’s the type of solution that’s appropriate for these two factors, you can start assessing different vendors. Here’s what you should have in mind at this stage:
- make sure they offer a free trial that will give you enough time to determine whether the tool fits your use case;
- don’t just test the product, but seek to be in direct touch with the providers; a good relationship (assisting with your use case, support response) can make the whole difference;
- name a person responsible with administrating this project and a test group. The dynamics within a product can’t truly be experienced without some real interaction. These early adopters will play as ambassadors once you decide to go with a solution, helping with on-boarding the rest of the users.
I’m a big supporter of direct interactions between providers and beneficiaries. It so happened that by discussing with our customers their use cases, we more than once helped them determine whether Quandora is fit for their organization or not and assisted them with best practices from customers with similar audiences. We have product releases every two weeks or so thanks to this direct communication with our customers, permanently working on meeting their needs and improving their usage experience.
Collaboration is not just a buzzword – it is a natural, productive way of getting things done better, smarter and faster. The power of brainswarming translates into growth, as long as you care enough to make it work.
Happy Knowledge Sharing!