For many organizations, the move towards social collaboration is entirely grassroots-driven. Pockets of employees find a tool which meets their need, and suddenly the organization is faced with many different, unsupported technologies.
Clearly there is demand for a better alternative to the organization's existing approved tools, but how do you a. find a solution that meets everyone's needs, and b. get people to switch to the corporate approved choice?
Start With the Business Needs
Employees' tool choices often lack the scalability and security demanded by corporate IT. They also tend to support very specific use case(s) -- meaning that they have limited value as an enterprise-wide tool. Rather than focusing on the tool itself, or finding an alternative that replicates its capabilities in a more scalable/secure platform, organizations need to focus on the problems that employees have been trying to solve with the technology.
While it's arguable that any technology selection process should start with the business need, with social collaboration solutions it's vital. Improving collaboration within an organization is not just about getting people to use a new tool, it's about getting them to think and behave differently -- in a more open, cooperative and less competitive way than many are used to.
Use Cases Sell the Solution
Think of the old adage "knowledge is power" -- this is something social collaboration aims to unpick. The trouble is that you can't just tell someone to be more collaborative, you need to help them understand the advantages to them, identify situations and specific contexts where collaboration will make their job easier, and help them to want to work differently. This is where use cases come in.
Showing social collaboration in action in your organization is one of the best ways to show its benefits. If your employees have started using self-selected technologies to collaborate, you probably have ready-made use cases in place already.
These use cases should form the basis of any enterprise-wide technology selection, as these individuals are potentially your early adopters; your champions; your ambassadors. Meeting their needs first will give you a powerful platform of adoption from which to grow, so understand a. why they looked for a new tool in the first place and b. what they are using it to do.
It may take a little convincing to persuade them to switch to an alternative, but if you can't convince these people that your enterprise-wide solution meets their needs, you can probably forget the rest of the organization. On the other hand, in recognizing their experience and efforts to date, you may find these early adopters respond enthusiastically and are more than willing to be involved in your initiative.
Lead with specific use cases in your rollout process. This means avoiding deploying the full, all-singing, all-dancing social collaboration platform on day one. Focus on the necessary features for your first one or two use cases. Not only will this help to avoid confusing or distracting users who are trying to get to grips with a new application, but it may also help you to deploy more quickly.
As users gain confidence and you identify additional use cases to support, you can enable new features. This provides an opportunity to promote the initiative and the platform, and consequently drive adoption. From a technology selection standpoint, this focused deployment approach has particular implications for your selection criteria. Your enterprise-wide solution not only requires a breadth of features, but the flexibility to deploy the solution in a modular way, allowing easy prioritization of the features that support your leading use cases.
So for organizations trying to balance the tactical with the strategic when it comes to social collaboration technologies, my advice is to step back from the technology question to begin with -- it clouds the water. Focus on the business need -- both at an enterprise-wide level, but importantly, at the level of employees who are crying out for a better way of working. Look at these people not as a challenge, but as an opportunity. Let their use cases lead the way.