training wheels
Pushing collaboration solutions on employees who haven't yet mastered the previous tools is a sure path to failure PHOTO: Mark Ittleman

As a parent and a sales executive, it amazes me how similar the issues are that I face in the two worlds.

Right now, as a parent, I face a critical decision: when do the training wheels come off? My son has three different bikes, all bought at different ages and all enjoyed for different things, but I know that for him to really progress, he needs a regular pedal bike without training wheels.

Removing the training wheels will benefit him in the long run, but he is begging me to leave them on — a situation which has also become common in the business world.

Have you ever tried to introduce a content management system in a company? Have you had to deal with users begging to remain on a file server and resisting the move to SharePoint or Office 365?

What happens if you introduce Office Groups into the mix? Even better, let’s introduce Microsoft Teams and while we're at it, Yammer too.

If your company isn't ready for these changes — and often, even if they are — you'll hear the questions: What to use? When to use it? How to use it?

For me, taking the training wheels off is all about maturity.

How Mature Is Your Collaboration Capability?

Similar to my son graduating from a tricycle to a bicycle without training wheels, organizations need to mature into the latest innovations of Microsoft. We cannot expect users who can barely use word processing technology to fully adopt features such as Microsoft Teams and Office Groups.

You need to start with the basics. Once a large portion of your workforce is comfortable with the tools at hand, gradually introduce the new innovative tools.

Most importantly, you need to consider: how mature is your organization's collaboration capability?

4 Maturity Levels

In simple terms, information workers are grouped into four levels of maturity:

Image Illustrating Levels of Collaborative Maturity

Depending on age, background, previous job experience and general attitude, your user community will be made up of a mix of these four categories. Before you can start introducing innovate solutions, you must first understand where in these four quarters your users fall.

Moving the Needle on Maturity

Once you know where your users fall in the four categories, you can take remedial actions where required. Starting a collaboration-related project without this pre-work will end in tears, guaranteed.

If you implement a system far beyond what your end users are comfortable with, they will not adopt it.

Mapping Maturity to the Microsoft Stack

Microsoft has dominated the word processing and general content creation space for decades, with no signs of letting up. Its current cadence of releases and innovations is unlike anything the company did before, which presents opportunities for fast adopters and challenges to the laggards.

The pace at which Microsoft is releasing new products makes it near impossible for large companies to adopt quickly enough. Users are barely comfortable with one piece of tech before the next one is released. Where does it fit? How does it help us? What must I use for what function?

It all comes down to the maturity of your organization. When you know the maturity levels of your users, aligning their capabilities with the available technology in the Microsoft stack looks like this:

Digital Workplace Maturity Mapping

One Size Doesn’t Need to Fit All

What’s great about the current wave of technology innovation is it includes everyone, even the “lonely user.” The Microsoft stack has become an all-inclusive, all-you-can-eat environment that provides services for the isolated users as well as social and collaboration superstars.

Teams is Microsoft’s Slack killer, and it has made massive inroads into the collaborate fabric of companies.  Office Groups, a natural extension of Outlook, fits nicely into the collaboration ecosystem as a slightly easier-to-use framework which allows users to work in a natural way, while remaining inclusive of teammates who don’t necessarily want to leave the comforts of their favorite email client.

So How Do We Proceed?

Assess the maturity of your organization using internal surveys and in person interviews. With that information, you can assess your existing systems and compare them with your organization's maturity level.  

You may find you need to turn a few things off, or in the best case scenario, provide your users with better tools.

When deciding on your systems, be sure to cater for all levels of collaborative maturity in your company. Ignore the "superstars" and you may find they've downloaded their own cloud solutions to drive teamwork. Ignore your “lonely users” and you may never be able to turn them around.

Know When the Wheels Come Off

Adoption is a choice, but without understanding the maturity of your user base, you cannot provide them with the relevant technology that makes it easier for them to adopt. Like my son, with some guidance and instruction, you too may be able to take off the wheels on your collaboration software.