For all the rhetoric on collaboration as a strategic competitive advantage, and even a crucial element for the future of business, the research is still showing that many organisations are failing to truly maximise the benefits of collaboration tools effectively. Gartner has noted that the success rate of "provide and pray" collaboration software is about 10 per cent. But a properly crafted collaboration strategy will see businesses realise the benefits that collaboration solutions have the potential to deliver.
The problem of low success rates in collaboration roll-outs is not the technology - at least not in isolation. A unified communications strategy is a key building block in a business's collaboration strategy, but there is also the need for deep consultation across all business stakeholders, including on-going commitment during the embedding stages. This is a truly strategic approach. The technology is a tactical element in the mix, but ensuring that all stakeholders' needs are being met is essential to a successful rollout of collaboration software, which requires a consultative approach. This not only involves customisation of the solution for the specific needs of individual teams, but also an understanding of how these teams will use the solution to get their jobs done, as well as gaining insights into how successful user adoption will be achieved.
A business-focussed consultative approach goes a long way towards getting the best results from a technology solution.
But when is a good time to act? Contrary to existing perspectives on institutional technology change management, the best time to consider productivity improvements can be when an organisation needs to replace its outdated infrastructure, particularly if it is in a growth cycle.
Rather than pursuing a strategy of "least change for least pain", the moment that outdated software and infrastructure is identified for replacement, there is an opportunity for businesses to embrace collaboration and explore its true potential.
We saw this with MTC Australia, an employment, recruitment and training non-profit organisation. We implemented a set of solutions that were designed to bring the organisation up to scratch in terms of technology infrastructure. The solution was also designed to meet the challenges of communication and collective production across branches and divisions (more details of this case study are here).
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MTC Australia had anticipated staff resistance to the Microsoft Lync implementation as it was a new tool for them. However, they responded positively to the immediate productivity benefit through the ease of finding, sharing and communicating with others across the business. And while growth of the organisation was enabled by the technology solution, improved collaboration helped MTC Australia to drive faster business decisions with quicker access of knowledge. MTC Australia now has multiple choices around how their staff interact - whether it be through an immersive video conversation, or by using an unobtrusive instant messenger to engage with others.
This was just one example of a successful collaboration solution implementation, but it nicely illustrates the opportunity that an upgrade of fragmented and legacy technologies can present. You can do more than overcome the maintenance headaches of an organisation's IT infrastructure; you can change how teams communicate, grow interdepartmental productivity and improve customer experience, all from the one initiative.
Technology upgrades are also an opportunity to address new trends like mobilising business communications, have social elements that help people connect in real time, and easily escalate to video calling if a face to face interaction engagement is required.
Collaboration is the engine of that improved productivity, but the "provide-and-pray" mentality - where businesses install collaboration solutions and hope for the best - is just not enough. It's necessary to consider how the entire organisation can adapt its processes to maximise the collaborative opportunities in the technology, and for everybody's benefit, too.
Business Practice Manager (Enterprise Collaboration). More from Mike on Twitter: @mikereddie
All views expressed are the author's own.