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Enterprise Collaboration: Start Celebrating Adoption, Not Deployment

So, you think that new shiny tool or technology you found will be the answer to your organization's problems. Unfortunately it's not the tool that provides business value, it's adoption of it you should be looking at.

A while back, Mike Gotta wrote an excellent piece called "Changing IT Mindsets from Deployment to Adoption" where he argues that we too often think that a solution is in the tool or technology itself. This is, according to Mike, why we are always looking for the next tool or technical solution that might solve our problems or satisfy our needs:

We should not be so enamored by what we think is our current right answer from a technology perspective that we forget the non-technological things we need to enable so that people (and the organization at large) can realize and sustain the value derived from use of the tools…Within many organizations, the plan-build-run philosophy still frames our view of IT — once a system is implemented (i.e., deployed), the project is “over” — resources are reallocated, budgets are closed out, systems go into some type of maintenance mode or await the next release cycle of new development. We then wait and watch for the results promised by the project (e.g., ROI)."

For those who have experienced it, the sensation of having successfully deployed a new IT solution is often quite fantastic. After all the time and effort you have put into building it, it is now actually live. You made it! Yay! Time to celebrate the success!

When you return to work the next day, you know that the next urgent project or a list with new tasks is waiting for you. Maybe there are one or two features to complete, a few bugs to fix, or incidents to handle after the deployment yesterday, but that's just normal procedure. The handover to the maintenance team is ongoing or even completed, and they will now deal with those things so that you can concentrate on whatever comes next.

The Only Path to Business Value Goes Through Adoption

It is easy to forget that a deployed solution is not brought to life until it is integrated into people's work, minds and hearts. That's when it will start paying off the time and money invested in it. That’s when it starts generating business value.

For enterprise collaboration solutions, it is often simply assumed that adoption of new collaboration technologies and practices will happen by itself, as if people are willing to change their habits voluntarily and could do it without any effort. That practically never happens when implementing ERP solutions; we know we can't afford a situation where the new ERP system doesn't get adopted and used in the right way. It's simply too business critical.

I believe most people know this assumption is false. So, the key question is why they don’t act upon that understanding? Why do organizations silently watch their large investments in technical solutions go to waste?

A Shining Example to Follow

I have had the fortune to have some very giving exchanges with the team behind connect.BASF. Connect.BASF is BASF's internal networking and community-building platform. BASF, the world’s leading chemical company, launched this platform over a year ago with the purpose to "create an easy way for networking among employees and communities, and to enable faster and efficient knowledge sharing and collaboration across units and regions.”

The team behind connect.BASF are really dedicated (passionate) and focused on facilitating adoption, making sure that the platform becomes an integrated and natural part of the employees' daily work. Their extensive adoption strategy includes everything from virtual events and webinars to face-to-face events, consulting (coaching and advisory services) and roadshows to their different sites around the word. They are continuously working on their adoption strategy, adding new activities and refining their approach.

Luis Suarez, social computing evangelist in the IBM Software Group division, and I were recently invited to participate in the celebration of connect.BASF’s first birthday. Luis, who is a friend of mine, has worked with BASF on their journey toward adoption and describes their work and approach as follows:

 

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