Denis Duvauchelle is the CEO and co-founder of Twoodo, the hashtag language that lets you organize anything and everything.
A study conducted by Gartner last year stated that 80 percent of attempts to gain benefits from using social collaboration tools will not be seen until at least 2015.
This is astounding. Wouldn’t you think most businessmen and women know how to use social collaboration tools and exchange information in feeds, forums and chatrooms by now? What is causing the delay in adoption and use of these tools?
As the creator of a social collaboration tool, I am a firm believer that a virtual space for working together breaks down physical barriers and creates a better environment than an office for collaboration. It is less intrusive (for example: get to a question when it suits you, rather than being asked on the spot and getting distracted) and information is recorded.
These tools are also able to increase enterprise innovation by providing the team(s) with the ability to discuss, merge and create new ideas without human barriers between departments.
Events such as Social Now (due to be held in Amsterdam this April) are dealing with such issues. Here is what I have learnt so far, from my experience as the CEO of a collaboration product.
1) Misuse of tools (i.e. poor resource management) is bad for every company
Many enterprises will tell you that they already have a collaboration tool or platform. This means that managers in these companies/departments assume:
- we have it, so people are using it
- it works for everyone’s job role
- we all know how to use it best
The first challenge is limited use of the platform. Document sharing and editing is where many enterprises got to and stopped. This does not encompass the many other benefits to using a social collaboration tool.
The direct result may be the ability to write, share, edit and store documents. But the additional benefits are real-time discussions on the paper, the visibility of that paper to people across departments, timezones (and other barriers) and the resulting innovative ideas that come from group collaboration. Imagine having that across all the processes in your company.
We move on to the next challenge. If even just one worker is not a social media user, that person will not enjoy the same level of comfort and ease in using a social collaboration tool at work. They will be left “out of the loop” as they say, and a social enterprise should not aim to only include “most” or “some” of their workers.
Each person has value to contribute beyond a narrow job description, and including everyone is crucial to tapping into all of that value.
I’m not saying take advantage of your workforce; Twoodo’s data analyst once posted a question about increasing the click rates of our emails, and the designer suggested turning the message from text into a comic strip. And because it was via a collaboration tool, it was recorded and stored for us to act upon, not forgotten in a melee of meetings and emails.
Therein lies some of the beauty of social collaboration tools.
The final challenge (perhaps the greatest one) is implementing change in an organization. Current traditional work practices mean getting your job done within your 8-hour window. Social collaboration incentivizes colleagues to support each other and share their knowledge.
However, in order for it to be successful, managers and evangelists of the chosen tool must encourage this new culture of openness and exchange. It’s the IT guy’s job to just install, present it, and walk out of the room. Like any new installation (from the new coffee machine to the new email client) an example needs to be set.
Change is hard. But it’s no secret that businesses that don’t adapt to change fall behind.
2) The belief that the cost of these tools outweighs the benefits they bring
This is easily researchable, and it doesn’t take long to see that many collaboration solutions are, in fact, quite affordable – especially once you see the increase in productivity they bring.
The problem is more likely to be not spending enough time seriously researching the right tool for the business, and then, if funds really are that tight:
a) looking for a close alternative that costs less, or
b) negotiating a deal with the provider of the service.
If the costs of the service are not the problem, but rather the costs of implementing, teaching and learning the new tool, here are some points to consider.
Any tool worth its salt out there is being developed to be as intuitive as possible, thus reducing training and learning costs. Online tutorial videos, presentations, webinars and other forms of support should be optimized to make the onboarding process smooth and unconfusing.
Check out this tutorial by Optimizely, publicly available on YouTube. It is thorough, simple, and short enough not to be boring or intimidating.
Still not convinced of the ROI? This succinct example is hard to argue with:
“If you wanted to study access to information, for example, you would simply measure how much time it takes to locate information before and after implementation of your enterprise social network. Tie this amount of time to the dollars spent on salaries of the respective employees using this time, and voila – you now have an accurate measure of the reduction in cost your social network brings.” – Emilie Doolittle
McKinsey calculated in 2012 that 77 percent of workers gained faster access to information via social collaboration tools (including from internal experts in the companies). Boom.
If you want to find alternatives, you might want to check out “AlternativeTo” or “GetApp.” You can also ask on forums, but the drawback is that you don’t know in the replies who is selling their own tool and who is genuinely recommending something.
Reputable tech and social media websites are also a good resource in researching the best social collaboration tools. Questioning a private community of fellow business managers (on LinkedIn, Google+ or Facebook for example) is also a good way of researching the right tool for you.
Listen to people you trust for the best options for your enterprise.
3) Not taking the time to train in how to use these tools
“…there’s nothing more expensive than employees who do not have the skills to do their jobs well.” – Josh Bersin, Deloitte
Training and development are a normal part of any business’s expenses, with the understanding that the knowledge gained will return a profit over time.
With all the statistics being produced on the increase in worker productivity that social tools bring, why would it be thought that learning about these tools is not beneficial? This damning report on productivity in Canada due to underspending on tools and training is what happens when:
a) the latest technologies and equipment are not implemented, and
b) managers are not taking seriously the damage inaction does.
Imagine if your company never adopted email.
Photo by Dan Krauss/Getty Images