Six months later I have been assisting the organisation to implement the selected platform. Previously I thought that choosing the platform would be the hardest activity. But implementation has been equally tough. I will explain why, so my experiences can assist others in managing their deployment projects.
First, a little context: The organisation that I am working with is supported by volunteers. As such, there is not the ability to pass down tech mandates -- Everybody involved in administering and running the organisation gives their time for free, and most run their own businesses and need to juggle their time carefully. This was the very reason why we needed an effective collaboration capability. Add to that the fact that many were already using several different collaboration tools on an everyday basis in their lives as working professionals and we have a perfect storm of reasons why user adoption was going to be a challenge.
This required us to think carefully about how to drive user adoption and encourage everyone to use the tool. Our volunteers must choose to use the new tools. We have tried a lot of things. Some have been successful others less so. I’ve set out some of the things I’ve learned to guide others setting out on similar journeys. It’s not intended to be a definitive Bible, more a toolkit from which you can build your own adoption strategy.
1. Develop a Communications Strategy for Users
We found that the best approach to communications was short messages sent frequently to users. Start early and gradually communicate the benefits to your users. Also consider what communications media to use. You are trying to change communications habits, so use your new collaboration tool. But you will need to duplicate some communications elsewhere (probably email) to make sure that messages do not get lost before your users’ habits change.
2. Build in Resources for Training
Whilst the tool that we selected is largely intuitive, it has its quirks. So training was essential. We focussed this upon the specific features that we wished our users to use at the early stages. Our initial sessions were structured but these soon evolved into more interactive Q&A sessions once users had started to use the tool.
We found that short sessions focussed upon single topic were most popular with our users. And repetition was appreciated by those who couldn’t attend initial sessions. We also recorded the sessions so that users could revisit them at their own convenience.
3. Make Documentation Readily Available for Users
Documentation is key for those users that are unable to attend live training sessions, and also for reinforcement. There is already a huge quantity of documentation available for most tools. This comprises both supplier documentation and the user documentation that has been put into the public domain. It is important to curate the information rather than rely upon the what others have prepared in its original form.
So we identified the key features that we want our users to use and simply compiled an index of hyperlinks to existing material that we felt would be helpful. We kept this relatively succinct and avoided too much detail at the early stages.
To complement the public domain material we prepared a small amount of customised material to fill gaps or focus documentation upon specific important aspects.
Finally, and most importantly, create your own FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions). We found this to be both the most requested and most used piece of documentation. If you only have time to do one thing well, then make it your FAQs.
4. Identify Targeted Use Cases for Improving Adoption
A common mistake when deploying collaboration tools is to simply put it out there and expect users to take it up in the same way that they would for personal social media tools. That rarely happens in a work environment. You are likely to find that it is necessary to guide users as to how they should use the tool in their professional life. To achieve this identify a small number of simple use cases that can be quickly and effectively deployed. Our best example was to use discussion threads and polls to facilitate decision making between scheduled meetings. Very quickly, the participants found that they could both participate and vote on the matters in hand more effectively in the tool than using email.
5. Make Personal Benefits Clear to Users
As well as focusing upon the business neds consider how your collaboration tool can deliver more personal benefit to users. This could be anything; perhaps informative or just plain fun. Incentivise users to post information on any topic by running simple and quick competitions with small prizes. They don’t need to have significant monetary value if the fun is there.
6. Identify the Barriers to Adoption and Remove Them
And finally, identify your barriers to universal adoption and work to remove them. You will get pushback from some quarters. But this can usually be overcome by listening and refining. Ake account of your user feedback to improve your communications, training, documentation and use cases.
In summary: no one thing will work for everybody and in every circumstance. But adopting at least one of these six guidelines should help your organisation. Identify what works for you and leverage that by doing more of it and doing it better. Your goal should be to transition from a position where your deployment team is pushing the solution to one where the users are pulling you; asking for more features faster. Make your users your champions.