Driving Adoption of Social Collaboration Tools

June 17, 2011
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I was having a discussion yesterday with a vendor client on adoption of its activity stream product and wanted to share some of our thoughts. Adoption for social collaboration tools is extremely important, it’s a network effect issue, the more people that use the tool, the more people will want to use the tool.

I was having a discussion yesterday with a vendor client on adoption of its activity stream product and wanted to share some of our thoughts. Adoption for social collaboration tools is extremely important, it’s a network effect issue, the more people that use the tool, the more people will want to use the tool.

I have some concerns, which I’ve talked about frequently, that not everyone in the enterprise will find it acceptable to (or want to) use a tool that adds a social layer across the business. Some roles are very focused in one enterprise tool and it would be difficult for them to step out of that tool to use a social tool to connect…or in fact it isn’t much different than just doing what they do today, use email to get the answers they need.

Some roles will like the new place to work and some will want the new place to be embedded into what they do every day. This is an important point because I believe that there has to be a clear answer to “what’s in it for me” or adoption will suffer. Beyond the embedded versus social layer issue though, there are some clear change management tactics that can help drive adoption of social collaboration tools. Here are a few:

  • Executive sponsorship and visible use. Sponsorship is important but I think even more important is the obvious use by key executives. This will in itself ensure that many people in the company will feel compelled to use the tool, or be left out on important information and conversations. The more relevant the information that flows on the tool, the more people will find that there’s something in it for them.
  • Identify champions or power users. Use champions as mentors to help drive adoption. Early adopters often can be turned into these champions. There are always very influential employees that are not necessarily showing on the org chart, employees that others like and tend to mimic. Identify those and work to get them using the tool, if you can get one or more of them as champions you will be much ahead of the game.
  • Change incentives to encourage cross-silo collaboration and knowledge sharing. Misaligned incentives, rewarding the behavior you’re trying to eliminate is a common problem and one that will kill your efforts quickly. Work with HR to align compensation, incentives and rewards to incent the behavior you want. Building a knowledge sharing culture starts here.
  • Hands on activities at launch are very important to help familiarize employees with the tool. Brown bag lunch sessions with champions, road shows, live reporting on the tool for company all hands…anything to get people using the tool is good. Also make the exposure to the tool a part of your new employee orientation program to get new employees on board as they are added.  
  • Define as many use cases as possible for the tool, and be very specific. The more employees see the relevant activities that the tools helps address the better. For example show the customer support reps that they can use the activity stream to get real time assistance from across the organization for help in answering customer inquiry’s. Show sales reps how they can get real time direct access to product specialists to answer prospects questions or prep for an upcoming meeting. The more use cases you identify the more likely the tool will be used.
  • Share company wide important announcements only on the tool so that employees will feel compelled to use the tool and an important breaking news channel. Things like key sales wins, new product releases, new hire profiles, executive’s analysis of earnings, anything that will draw employee attention.
  • The more you can tie the new social system to existing systems of record the more likely employees will fine reasons to use the system. Beyond embedding the tool, tie in things like company directories to make a company social network, integrate with document management systems, integrate to any system possible that ties the new tool into established workflow’s.
  • Ask employees for feedback on the tool and on how they are using it, and make those conversations public. Crowdsourcing use cases leverages the power of the tool and will uncover unique ways to use the tool for added value.

These are a few ideas that would help drive adoption, what else should I add to the list?