push starting a motorcycle
Collaborative work management platforms help cut through the noise that multiple productivity apps create so employees can get work done PHOTO: WayTru

The inundation of productivity apps in the workplace may be doing us more harm than good. 

The American Psychological Association found that the average information worker uses eight applications a day — and all that switching between email, chat and other programs actually ends up diminishing productivity.

An enterprise collaborative work management (CWM) platform aims to address that. 

It combines tools for collaboration and task management in one interface, while also serving as the repository for the data needed to complete tasks. Information such as timelines, status and dependencies are visible to everyone on a project, so workers don’t waste time flitting between different apps.

The market shows signs of maturity — Forrester listed 13 vendors in its latest report (fee charged) on the topic. But choosing the right CWM system is complex, and the software needs to be rolled out properly to yield maximum return. 

The right choice can significantly increase an organization’s ability to complete meaningful work efficiently. The wrong choice can strain IT departments and leave you with a product few people use.

To help minimize the technical investment for IT and ensure maximum engagement across the enterprise, use the following tips to select and roll out your platform:

Seek Easy to Use Platforms

A successful implementation begins during selection. Define your requirements and considerations before making your assessment. 

As you build your criteria, think about usability for end users, onboarding processes (with a goal to keep these as lightweight as possible), key scenarios the platform needs to address, and the core functionality you need for the broadest processes in your organization. 

How many resources will be required to set the system up, and how long will it take? Can the platform be configured as needed without an undue burden on your team? 

Be wary of products that require custom development. Look for no-code solutions that allow end users to independently assemble the workflows and data sources they need without placing additional burden on IT.

Involve Users in Testing

Once you’ve narrowed your options, turn to your end users to assess utility and usability. 

Set up a pilot program that covers at least three major scenarios that matter to your organization. These can be processes like customer onboarding, multichannel campaign management or product development. The more dissimilar the scenarios, the easier it will be to gauge if the solution is a good fit. Include a scenario that tests adoption across different departments, and make sure the scenarios are robust enough to exclude false positives and negatives — you don’t want to be misled because your test didn’t include enough data or users.

As you pilot the software, pay attention to the following: How much training do employees need to begin using the platform? Will most of the training focus on new processes enabled by the tool — or on the tool itself? 

If the platform isn’t intuitive and easy to use, it may be dead on arrival.

Configure Wherever Possible

During implementation, configure your solution so it securely and effectively supports your pilot scenarios. A CWM platform's value isn't solely in providing the tools to manage projects. A big part is enabling structured collaboration, so that work processes are carried out uniformly across an enterprise. 

Configuration is key to balancing this standardization with the flexibility employees need, so that processes can evolve or be adapted for different parts of the organization. 

If you configure your new platform properly, your users can be up and running quickly and be flexible in their collaborative work, without you having to worry about customization at a later time.

Integrate with Caution

Core integrations make a CWM tick and identity and security should top your list. Before you move forward with any other integrations, make sure they support at least one key business process. Determine whether the integration will scale across the organization, as well as the technical debt required to set it up. 

Throughout, ask yourself: will this integration help us avoid yet another data silo?

This goes to the core of how you build the integrations. Ideally, they help you maintain a central source of truth — either your CWM or the core app, such as Salesforce — and this will be kept up to date by a sync relationship. If your integrations result in multiple copies of data rather than syncing, you’re no better off than if people were working from their own copies of Excel workbooks. 

Celebrate Victories with an Internal User Community

Once you’ve rolled out the software, a user community is a great way to keep up momentum and encourage other departments to get on board. Provide a resource where people can share knowledge and best practices with other teams. 

Even without the resource, pay attention to the work people are accomplishing with the software. Applaud those who use it to solve interesting business problems — promote their successes and build champions for the software. Celebrate those victories! It’s often the best way to get others on board.

Take the Toothbrush Test

Ask your teams for feedback about the software, but remember, the best feedback is often in their actual usage. How many people use the platform every day? How many hours do they spend in it? Does usage decline over time? 

You want your CWM to be like a toothbrush: so integral to the daily workflow that people use it without thinking about it. A successful CWM platform is the tool they can’t do without.