It was a pretty simple question: If you could only do one thing to ensure the successful implementation of your collaboration tools, what would it be? 852 of you responded. Here's a look at results.

Pick One Thing

Okay, so the reality is that it isn't as simple as choosing just one approach, or tactic, to ensure that your enterprise collaboration tool implementation is successful, it's going to take a number of tactics combined into a solid strategy. However, with limited budgets and the need to get something up and running quickly, it's also not likely that you can do everything you want with the budget and time that you have.

Which is why we wondered what you think is the most important thing you can do to ensure success. The results of this informal poll are below:

Collaboration_PollResults_Marc23_2011.jpg

Start Small Tops the List

23.71% selected "start with a small group pilot and expand it from there". That was the number one response. If you think about it, it makes sense. Starting with a small group is easier on the budget and you have less people to train to use new technologies, so you should be able to implement something faster, get your learnings back quicker and adapt accordingly, again faster.

Of course, this brings up a number of questions such as how do you pick the group, is this an already established team, division or project, how do know that this pilot group's needs will mirror the overall needs of the company when you expand the pilot out to a larger group, and many more questions.

If you are looking to implement enterprise collaboration across the entire organization for something like knowledge management/sharing, then don't pick a group that's already in place. Create your pilot from a cross section of employees across the company. This should provide a pilot group with a nice range of knowledge and needs and provide good feedback on how the tools you implement need to work.

If you are considering implementing collaboration tools to be used primarily by project teams, then pick a team to test the solution and go from there.

Something to consider: Enterprise Collaboration: Pilot Project or All In?

Get Management on Board

It goes without saying that if management doesn't buy into the process, then the likelihood of success is small. You'll also have an uphill battle to obtain funding for new tools, project teams and so on. So it's important to ensure they understand the value of collaboration tool to the organization as a whole, and to the individual groups/divisions.

Proving the ROI of collaboration tools is not easy and some things are easier than others to prove, like reduced travel expenses. But you need to understand what you are trying to achieve with this implementation and put some metrics in place to provide feedback and guidance. This information will be required if you want management on board.

Also, find your champion and take advantage of both their insight and clout within the organization. You want someone who is a real leader and well respected, not just any manager will do here.

Something to consider: Nine Steps to Improve Business Collaboration (see # 1 & 2 particularly)

Ask Employees, Implement in Stages

The next two responses were pretty close:

  • Ask your employees what capabilities they really need (17%)
  • Implement the functionality in stages, starting with key processes (16.3%)

This goes back to knowing what it is you are trying to accomplish by implementing collaboration tools. You don't do it because they are cool and everyone uses them in their personal time. There has to be a business need to fulfill here. What better way to understand the need then to ask the people who may benefit from using it?

Not everyone will use these new tools and some will outright rebel against them. Obviously you want the people most open to new things on board. But don't leave out those naysayers, they will actually provide some keen insights (even though they may not know it) and when you involve them in the requirements process, and then the implementation, they may just become your biggest proponents.

To the other point. Don't implement all the functionality possible at once. You will overwhelm your users and they may very likely get scared and run back to the old, comfortable way of doing things. Prioritize according to need -- whether it's something the majority of users need, or a capability that will reduce work effort.

Something to consider: Enterprise Collaboration: Focus On Improving Practices

Just the Tipping Point

There were some interesting "Other" responses worth noting here:

  • Ensure that people have a reason to use it that is fundamental to their job
  • Start with a pilot that is actually part of their daily work
  • Cultivate a community of evangelists and champions
  • Identify the organization constraints and develop a strategic plan
  • Establish a workplace culture around idea sharing, respect, and trust.

All of these answers actually fall into one of the responses listed above. Why it's interesting to note them is that they are seen as different. And that is one of the biggest challenges. We all understand enterprise collaboration in our own way, based on what it means to us and how we do our job.

Implementing any kind of tool is not easy, but when it comes to collaboration tools, the challenge seems greater because there are no straightforward use cases that can be clearly defined and implemented. Collaboration processes are unique to each organization and to teams and individuals within the organization. This makes the strategy essential (whether it's a well thought-out plan or a no-strategy plan).

So to summarize, there is no one thing you can do make your implementation of collaboration tools successful. What we hope we have provided here are some guidelines, or suggestions, on steps to focus on to get you moving in the right direction. If we've missed some key piece of the collaboration puzzle, we'd love to hear it.