Last week, I joined other business leaders in CMSWire’s #DIGWorkChat Tweet Jam to discuss real-time collaboration case studies and insights. The topic? How business and technology leaders stay on the forefront of collaboration without falling into some of the common pitfalls.
As collaboration tools are entering the enterprise space at an unprecedented pace, so are inherent challenges with the technology adoption. But, that doesn’t mean collaboration is something to shy away from.
These are some of the key highlights we discussed to help ensure a successful adoption of real-time collaboration at your organization.
1. Cultivate a culture that supports healthy online (and offline) collaboration.
Introducing a collaboration tool is a great step forward in shaping a modern digital workplace, however, it is not the magic ticket to fixing a broken culture.
Real-time collaboration, and its success in the workplace, is intertwined with that of the organizational dynamic. Look at how employees currently collaborate within the organization and introduce solutions that help support those efforts.
One common critique of collaboration tools is, “Won’t this create a toxic expectation of always being available for employees and teams?’
A3: I'm Jon Moran, Marketing Director at @Earnix_Inc I think organizations need to enforce policies around downtime, but people have to police themselves - esp when working remotely. For example, as a remote employee, email on the phone gets shut off on weekends. #digworkchat— Jonathan Moran (@jmmoran12) March 28, 2018
While collaboration tools make it possible to be accessible 24/7, it’s up to leaders and employees to implement expectations of work-life balance and boundaries.
Think about when somebody in the office puts on a pair of headphones cues an uninterrupted time to focus. In a healthy team scenario, teammates will take that as a cue to leave that team member alone unless absolutely necessary. The same is true for online etiquette.
One way to do this is to encourage employees to communicate their status (e.g. online, away) and reinforce etiquette – make sure key leaders are on board to help drive this.
A3 Use the presence-awareness features within your tools/platforms. If you're heads-down working on a deliverable and don't wan to be disturbed, mark yourself as Do Not Disturb, or log off #digworkchat— Christian Buckley (@buckleyplanet) March 28, 2018
2. When Possible, Allow Business Units to Choose Their Own Collaboration Tools.
Teams that collaborate well will serve the business better as a whole, which is why it makes sense to allow those teams to select the tools that work best for their members and workflow. Often, business units use multiple tools that serve a variety of needs.
Q5 - team-centered culture, focus on open communication...identify team #collaboration needs, how members prefer to work & identify gaps between team vs. business needs. Identify preferred technology, channels & SLA's #digworkchat where necessary allow for secondary outlets— Bill Kennedy (@billkennedyjr) March 28, 2018
Slack and Teams work well for project-oriented work, while Workplace and Yammer serve communication benefits. Every person has their own fingerprint in the way they work. So, it stands to reason, that every team functions completely uniquely from one another.
That’s why the best thing to do is provide choice. Let teams have a personality based on the work they do. In my experience, with collaboration, one size fits none.
3. Don’t Forget, Collaboration Success Depends on Sponsorship.
Let’s jump in Q1 Why does the success rate for collaboration fluctuate so much? #digworkchat— CMSWire.com (@cmswire) March 28, 2018
A1 Collaboration fails when you treat it as just another technology solution. "Set it and forget it" does not work. It requires proactive management. #digworkchat— Christian Buckley (@buckleyplanet) March 28, 2018
Sponsorship of real-time collaboration has a huge impact on adoption and staying power. Using corporate initiatives, such as internal marketing campaigns to raise awareness or gamification to acclimate users to new platforms, as well as sponsoring internal ‘jams’ (planned digital conversations, similar to a tweetchat) are great tactics to drive engagement.
Workflow collaboration is different than other technology solutions. Because of the universal human adoption component, enterprise collaboration platforms require love and care. This generally takes the form of intentional community management, and often that person is a senior leader.
Community managers are critical. Doesn't have to be by job title, but must be by role.— Matt Varney (@thevarnish) March 28, 2018
On the lower levels of an organization, identify employees who are internal influencers to champion collaboration. Leverage their enthusiasm and knowledge to motivate and encourage less confident users.
4. Manage Your Tools and Community Thoughtfully to Avoid ‘Slack Creep’
‘Slack Creep’ is a challenge for a lot of enterprises, but it can be mitigated. This happens when there are unclear expectations of what conversations go in what ‘channel’ or ‘group’. Participants create their own channel or group to collaborate with coworkers, resulting in a large web of conversations with no clear organization. This can decrease real-time collaboration participation and hinder workplace efficiency.
Usually, too many channels and groups indicate either:
- the wrong tool for the right job or,
- an opportunity for more effective community management.
Take the time to evaluate tools for their intended purpose. Slack has a different functionality from Workplace, Teams has a different functionality from Yammer, and so on. Make sure you understand and deploy your collaboration tools thoughtfully.
Once deployed, manage your community online as much you do offline. No one runs an un-moderated meeting or town hall, so don’t do so online. Actively audit channels and information flow to encourage effective collaboration practices among teams.
5. Define and Measure Success of Real-Time Collaboration Adoption
With real-time collaboration, success is dependent on productive employee participation. You want people to contribute to online discussions, and in a positive manner.
You’ll have to define those unique measurements based on your organization’s needs, but here are a few metrics to keep an eye on:
- Look for the ratio of lurkers versus active users and seek to balance it with senior leader involvement.
- Measure company sentiment and manage it. No one wants a toxic network, which is why it is important to manage your community and moderate conversations.
When it comes to overall success, I liked Matt’s (@thevarnish) take on this conversation. Enterprise collaboration should support overall business goals. Investigate how your current digital workspace supports this and build from what is working well.
A6 Well, how do measure how you've reached the core business goals? Then ask how collaboration played a part (or not) in that. #digworkchat— Matt Varney (@thevarnish) March 28, 2018
Effectively Implemented, Enterprise Collaboration is Worth the Effort
Successful adoption of an enterprise collaboration platform is dependent on leadership sponsorship, the right tools, healthy team dynamics, and employee engagement. And remember, with collaboration, one size fits none.
Once implemented -- your organization can enjoy the increased efficiency, cross-functional innovation, and effective collaboration across a wide geographic spread. From my experience, those benefits, and many others, make the effort of managing organizational change pay off.
Need more adoption resources? Check out our Field Guide to Collaboration Adoption: The Six E’s of Success.