Yes, you can build it. But employees won't come unless you have an adoption strategy.

Michael Sampson, Collaboration Strategist

March 3, 2011

3 Min Read

User adoption is the single biggest challenge with new collaboration technology--it is now, it has been for 15 years. This is what I hear from people implementing and introducing new collaboration technology within their organizations:

"We did the work to install the software, but no one is using it. They're still on e-mail."

"We chose the greatest new gear from one of the hottest new vendors, but our users can't figure out what they're supposed to do with it."

The problem often comes back to a fundamental error in introducing new collaboration technology: The IT group selects the product or service in a vacuum, does whatever work is required to set it up, and then makes it available to anyone and everyone to use. IT hopes that the users "will come" and immediately know what to do with the technology, but it's an approach doomed to failure.

In order for user adoption to happen, a couple of things must line up.

--The people being asked to use the new technology must see value for them and their work. Adopting something new requires "de-adopting" something that's currently used, or at least de-emphasizing that current tool and shifting some or most collaboration activities to the new tool or platform.

--Entire groups and teams (sales, marketing, HR, production, customer service) must transition to the new tool. It's not enough for just one or two people in each group to switch.

In my book, "User Adoption Strategies: Shifting Second Wave People to New Collaboration Technology," I offer a four-stage model to help companies think through the user adoption challenge.

In stage 1, the objective is to capture the attention of the target population of users within the enterprise. For most users, that can't be accomplished by just referencing new features. In stage 2, once attention has been won, the basic concepts of the new tool have to be described--for Yammer, for instance, that would include descriptions of a short message, the nature of a hashtag, and how to create or follow one. In stage 3, the focus changes to working with people and groups on how they can use the new collaboration technology to do their work more efficiently. Stage 4 is all about making the "new" stuff the "now" stuff in the workflows of the groups and teams in the organization.

Within each stage, there are different strategies to achieve the objective. We'll talk more about those in future columns, but the strategies include internal case studies for stage 1; classroom training for stage 2; a local collaboration champion for stage 3; and making the tool compulsory for stage 4.

So how is user adoption of new collaboration tools going at your place? Have you won employees' attention yet and given them a good reason to pay attention to what's coming down the pike? What's working well? What's not working? I'd love to hear from you via the comments field below, or privately by e-mail or phone.

Michael Sampson is a collaboration strategist and author. You can reach him at [email protected] or +64 3 317 9484 (New Zealand).

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