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Enterprise Collaboration Without Email, Spreadsheets or IT

Red_CarpetCompanies have been collaborating for a long time, but have been doing it the hard way. Tools such as email with attached documents have made working together slow, difficult and ineffective.

Topics get fragmented across many places with design files stored in different desktop applications, shared drives and content management systems. According to research firm IDC, corporate employees spend up to a quarter of their day looking for information.

For manufacturers eager to reduce ECO cycle times and accelerate time to market, these inefficient “collaboration” strategies for sharing design files by sending individual emails, datasheet files and standard operating procedures do not work.

A collaboration solution that requires a user to involve IT to create a new workspace, manage permissions, form a new group or customize their home page will not adapt fast enough to enable productive collaboration. If it doesn’t allow users to make these changes, as and when they wish, on the fly, it will slow down collaboration and will not gain the level of adoption needed for success.

Today I would like to talk about social collaboration rollout strategies. As you onboard coworkers to a new collaboration platform these tips will help motivate teams to participate and contribute.

Three Distinct Deployment Strategies

A rollout strategy addresses the different ways that enterprise social software can be deployed across the supply chain and where to place the focus within the organization. Many innovative product companies choose to take a viral approach to deploying their solution. Rather than target any particular business unit or employee group, a company can opt to announce the collaboration solution and let teams join and invite co-workers to participate. Employees can basically “have at it.”

One might ask, when initiating a program do you always start with the executive team? Should it be a managed release? Or should your collaboration initiative be introduced as a viral offering? You’ll have to decide based on your unique business needs. Let’s examine each approach.

Viral Rollout

The term “viral” originated in the Internet consumer space and references the rapid spread and consumption of videos, pictures and news by a large number of people in a short period of time. In the enterprise space, viral adoption is a hands-off, unstructured approach, which can be random in how the social communication tools are adopted. Because of the unpredictability, some organizations may start off with a viral approach, but eventually evolve into a more semi-structured strategy to move the effort beyond ad-hoc groups adoption.

Within a viral format, initial adoption groups—whether they are engineering, operations or contract manufacturing teams—do not need to be connected; however, a shared requirement is that there has to be agreed upon interdisciplinary leadership within each of these distinct groups for momentum to build. Optimally, these leaders possess: the gravitas, enough business card ethos, social collaboration skills, technical competency and the ability to confidently encourage others to participate.

Phased Rollout

Many enterprises opt to deploy their social collaboration solution in a phased approach to help focus the efforts and provide more executive control over the initiative. Rather than launch the tool to all users at once, specific groups are targeted. For instance, a company could choose to first launch an engineering targeted program with the addition of more focused training, messaging and end user support with the hopes of developing an advocate or “bell cow” to lead the others to adoption. Because the business processes and objectives of operations will be different than engineering, it is important to identify and profile the unique challenges and needs of each group.

A phased deployment centers on having a roadmap that shows the deployment timing for each group. This approach has the added value of generating buzz and demand from the groups who are not yet a part of the program. As other groups see and hear how the solution is used and the potential value it provides, heightened anticipation and its follow-on demand in other functions will percolate. In fact, many companies generate demand with a managed rollout by publicizing the success of other deployed groups.

Note: Enterprises deploying a collaboration solution often ignore involving mid-level project and business managers who ideally could be doing the heavy lifting. It’s true they provide daily supervision and direction over everyday business activities to keep all on task. These managers should not be dismissed in a phased approached because they can be key primary influencers towards welding social collaboration more directly into “real work”.

Enterprise Rollout

The opposite of the phased rollout approach is an enterprise-wide rollout, where the solution is deployed to all users at the same time.

While this approach does require far more governance and upfront planning, and perhaps more risk, the upside is it can quickly mobilize the number of users activated on the solution. The more users there are, the more workers are able to collaborate with one another. A critical factor in determining whether to phase the user rollout or not is the overall size of the enterprise. Deploying to an enterprise of 50 users all at once will not be nearly as challenging as it would be to roll out to 50,000 users.

If the decision is made to do an enterprise-wide rollout, high-level executives can have tremendous influence on how employees perceive their own participation within the new solution. Active participation from leaders coupled with effective communications to the workforce, demonstrates management commitment to the program. In essence, executives can serve as a role model to others for how to best utilize the solution.

I hope these tips help facilitate a smooth rollout as your organization considers adopting a social collaboration tool. Get more collaboration tool advice in our new white paper, “Next Generation Collaboration.” And if you’d like to learn more about Arena Scribe, a flexible collaboration solution that allows Arena customers to socialize, share and solve problems, contact sales at Arena.