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Collaboration: It’s all about the People, Stupid

“It’s the economy, stupid”. I’m sure you remember President Clinton’s 1992 election slogan. Whether you’re contemplating a new collaboration initiative, or dealing with national political issues – there’s a commonality around confidence that people will work collectively within the process and channels you define for them.

While there are hundreds of excellent collaboration tools in existence today, it is difficult to remember that success or failure depends on people’s decisions: to decide to try new tools out or to stick with one’s habits. Oliver Marks of ZDNet tries to help us out a bit by offering up some advice to keep in mind when trying to foster collaboration adoption.

The Staged House Syndrome

When realtors are trying to sell a house they call in professional stages. Why? A Professional house stagger is brought in to make the interiors of homes look its best. The goal is to have potential homeowners to see how large and light the hose is in the hopes that it will tip the scale in the realtor’s favor. The same phenomenon can be seen in software. You’re shown a great demo highlighting all the positives of a tool however, it’s important to remember that it is an open house and you’re seeing it professional staged. Marks reminds us to stay objective during the process, “don’t move processes into a space that’s not fit for purpose”. If you fail to really think through how the software fits with your processes prospective users will only “see a busy, noisy environment.” The goal with collaboration is “to make life simpler and more pleasurable for people so they can be more efficient.”

Overreliance on Evangelists

Marks points out that for successful adoption to occur at some point your collaboration community must grow organically. Having only a few enthusiastic individuals to push the adoption is a great way to kick-off an initiative but eventually can have a detrimental impact if it isn’t allowed to grow organically. He points out that when creating a collaborative environment, it’s important to watch out for an overreliance on these enthusiastic collaboration evangelists. Overreliance may annoy or alienate others (particularly shy peers) into reengaging adoption. Lastly, Marks highlights that when creating a collaboration community watch out for an overreliance of individuals running the space who leave with no succession plan. The goal is to think of it as “enabling concierge[s] not Master of Ceremonies”.

Product Updates

SaaS can be a great thing. One of the many advantages of SaaS tools is the fact they are always releasing new updates. But what happens when the product of choice has deeply embedded itself inside your company has a substantial update focused on different market needs than yours? Marks points out that a weekend auto-update has the possibility to drastically upset the ways of work in some serious ways. It’s important to think this through before you select the foundation on which to build your collaboration.

Sure there are many additional pitfalls to be wary of but “putting people before technology” is a real threat that can be easily avoided.

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