Collaboration Platforms: Users Don't Just Show Up

For enterprise social networks to flourish, organizations must address apathetic employees, deployment challenges, and institutional disincentives to collaboration.

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Overcoming Behavioral and Organizational Barriers

These barriers can be conquered if an organization has the drive, commitment and dedicated executive champions to make sure their new collaboration project prevails. Also, using change management tools can help overcome these barriers.

Technique 1: Empower an executive champion.

In organizations where the culture is already well-aligned toward collaboration, an organic, grassroots, "build it and they will come" approach can work. But in many organizations, especially those that rely on top-down leadership, it is critical to have an executive champion as a role model for the adoption of the collaboration platform to succeed. The executive must be a master of the tools, able to evangelize about their benefits and set an example for others to follow.

Technique 2: Build on early successes.

While support from top management is often a critical element of success, having a group of early adopters across the organization achieve early success and actively evangelize this is also a highly effective strategy.

In particular, when fear is one of the barriers to user adoption, then grassroots evangelists can be real catalysts to inspiring others to try the new collaboration system.

Technique 3: Revisit the incentives.

Because barriers to user adoption include organizational disincentives to collaboration ("That’s not my job") and cultural ones ("My manager might not like it"), changing incentives are critical to driving employee adoption. An organization can look at the typical appraisal process and move the metrics from being employee-centric to being team-centric. The success of a team will automatically mean better collaboration. 

Another important aspect to look for is how to incentivize managers to encourage their subordinates to share. Many times these changes to the incentives strategy can actually precede the deployment of the ESN where it then becomes the platform to bring about the sharing already being encouraged by the overall ecosystem.

Encourage Sharing, Support Your Executive Champion and Early Adopters

The ease or difficulty associated with enterprise social network adoption depends heavily on both institutionalized incentives and a culture of collaboration. In enterprises where sharing is discouraged, adoption of collaboration tools can be extremely difficult because it involves changing the organization’s culture.

From assigning an executive champion and picking a set of early adopters to evangelize success, to changing organizational incentives and even mandating adoption, there are a number of change management techniques that can be used to overcome barriers to user adoption. But always remember: user adoption is the critical determinant of success in ESN deployments. 

About the Author

Ajay Deshpande is chief architect, collaboration solutions, at Persistent Systems, a global software product development and technology services company.

This article was originally published on 12-02-2013
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