I can’t say that I’m aware of too many failures with enterprise collaboration implementations per say but out of the ones I am familiar with (mainly through private discussions which is why the company names and individual’s names are left out) I thought it would be interesting to explore why they failed (or at least why their first attempts failed). There’s still a lot that needs to be learned in this industry in terms of what makes a success or failure but here’s what I have gathered so far.

Forgetting About the Users

A fairly large organization began implementing Enterprise 2.0 a few years back and they were touted as one of the great successes. Recently I learned that adoption has plummeted and users are back to doing things the way they used to do. Why? Because this organization had a habit of incorporating user feedback into product enhancements and developments (twice a month) on a regular basis and then stopped. Leaders of this organization (I am told) were so excited with the spotlight and the press that they forgot about their users. Needless to say once the users realized they were no longer being listened to, they stopped using the collaboration platform.

Lesson Learned: When you create a certain expectation in the mind of the users it’s important to deliver on that expectation. This is why sustaining adoption and success is perhaps more difficult than gaining the original adoption to begin with. As with customer facing social media efforts it’s not just enough to listen, you have to let users know that you are doing something with the feedback they are giving you.

Starting with a Tool

I had a recent conversation with a top executive at a large hotel chain who told me that a few months ago they purchased one of the new latest and greatest collaboration platforms to roll out to their many tens of thousands of employees. I asked how the implementation has been thus far and what has been done; his reply was shocking. Basically he said they spent a ton of money on something but didn’t think through how or why they actually needed the platform. I met with another executive from that company a few weeks later and he told that most employees at the company don’t even know that the platform exists.

Lesson Learned: Collaboration technologies are just that, technologies. They don’t guarantee success and they don’t solve problems. That is up to the people. Understanding what the business problems are and developing a strategy around how to solve those problems should always come first. If you just have money you need to burn then let me know and I’ll take it off of your hands!

Choosing the Wrong Tool

A large and prominent consulting firm purchased and deployed an internal collaboration tool but then realized that it didn’t really fit into the style and way of work that people are used to. As a result the tool was never adopted. Currently another tool is being sought out to replace the first one but the time and resources have already been spent and will now have to be spent again.

Lesson Learned: Prior to deploying anything I believe it’s important to get a good understanding of how receptive and open your employees are to using something new. It’s also crucial to develop a set of use cases around how employees can use the new tools and what the value of the new tools are to the individual. Without speaking with your users first and understanding how they work, the tool is useless.

Failure vs False Start

I’m currently in the process of trying to aggregate and collect more failures or “false-starts.” In fact, I’m hesitant to even use the word failures as I think every organization runs into problems and obstacles along the way. In the near future I will write about what I think can cause enterprise collaboration failure.

I think the lessons learned in each of the above examples are very important yet simple things to consider when embarking on the enterprise collaboration journey. Failure to some extent should not be feared but in some ways expected. It’s what organizations do after they “fail” that really matters. I think at this point it’s a bit unreasonable to think that organizations won’t HAVE to change within the next few years to adapt to this social and collaborative landscape. How they adapt is another matter.


Editor's Note: Additional articles on enterprise collaboration include: