Plenty has been written about why employees are slow to adopt enterprise collaboration tools. Most opinions on the matter, however, don't provide satisfying conclusions about why collaboration tools are so slow to gain traction in large organizations. As with more traditional IT initiatives, the old “senior executive support” mantra is frequently cited as a key to successful user adoption.For example, in a Klint Finley interview called Five Principles for Improving Social Enterprise Adoption, Yakabod CEO Scott Ryser cites the importance of “political juice.” Ryser says:
You need a champion with clout, supported by a cross-functional team of people with a good mix of experience, credentials and authority.
While executive sponsorship may be important, it’s not enough. In fact, executive support is a good example of what a logician might call necessary but not sufficient.
Certainly, it's true that guidance like this from Ryser is valuable, along with his complementary advice – e.g., start small, go slow, don’t overplan. However, there’s something more fundamental missing.
The more important missing piece for gaining user adoption of collaboration tools is less obvious. Laurie Buczek, in her Beyond the Cube blog, describes the Big Failure of Enterprise 2.0 Social Business as follows:
The big failure of social business is a lack of integration of social tools into the collaborative workflow.
This makes a lot of sense. The “official” collaborative workflow in many companies involves Outlook for e-mail, an ERP system for many routine tasks like creating and routing purchase orders, and an intranet for company-sanctioned news. Along comes an internal collaboration tool like Yammer, or the aforementioned Yakabod, and employees have to launch a whole new workflow to get engaged.
Employees might love the new tools, and may even be anxious to support senior management drum-beating about “getting on board” with the new tool. But, if the tool requires switching workflows mid-stream, user adoption will continue to languish.
Buczek elaborates on this point, using the corporate intranet as an example:
Your intranet should be one in the same with your social platform. If an official portal is the place to get news, updates & find information – your social platform must seamlessly be an integral part of that experience. Don’t ship off your employees to a separate site to socially engage & collaborate.
Just as it is with sound instructional design, context is key. Whether teaching a new skill, or asking employees to demonstrate a new behavior (often as a result of that teaching), it is imperative to place the desired behavior in context for people. Companies will see greater user adoption for their social collaboration tools if they enable employees to use them in the context of the company’s existing business processes.