Employees Dread Collaboration Tools, But…

by Jim Berkowitz on June 4, 2010

Here are several excerpts from an interesting article by Jessica Scarpati, Why some users dread business collaboration tools, feel they waste time:

Unified communications (UC) and business collaboration tools are supposed to improve workflow, unify dispersed groups and breathe life into teamwork.

Despite growing interest among enterprises around UC and business collaboration tools, a recent survey found that 25% of employees “dread” collaboration because of “the amount of time it wastes.” The same survey, however, reported that more than 80% of employees believe “enterprise-wide collaboration is the key to success.”

Should IT be worrying about improving adoption of business collaboration tools?

Enterprises wrongly assume that glitzier UC and business collaboration tools correlate to more dramatic increases in productivity, according to Stephen Prentice, a vice president and fellow at Gartner Inc.

IT pros need to help develop a sound collaboration strategy to ensure that the technology is matched to the business objective, according to Ted Schadler, vice president and principal analyst at Forrester Research.

Working with business groups to outline a collaboration strategy and roadmap can help enterprises ensure that their investments in UC and business collaboration tools don’t go to waste, according to Sprenger.

“This has to be driven together by IT and business,” he said. “I don’t think IT can really deploy these solutions without very clear business perspectives, very clear business objectives and very clear business support. Just providing technology without guidance and without a purpose is of limited value.”

What IT can do to enhance usage of business collaboration tools

IT’s role in developing a collaboration strategy isn’t limited to flow charts and outlines. UC and collaboration pros should take an active role in application training and shouldn’t assume that most users understand how best to use business collaboration tools, according to Melanie Turek, principal analyst at Frost & Sullivan.

“When companies deploy a new technology, they need to treat it like any other application. If you deployed an ERP or CRM application, you would train people on it. You need to do the same things with your collaboration tools, and a lot of times that doesn’t happen,” Turek said. “End users either overcompensate and then they feel overwhelmed [by the technology], or they do the opposite and don’t use the tools at all and conveniently forget about them.”

Communications-enabled business processes (CEBPs), such as embedding a messaging client within a CRM application, may boost adoption of UC and business collaboration tools, she said. But they don’t quite foster collaboration, Turek added, and CEBP remains a distant goal for enterprises.

“We think CEBP is really where unified communications is going to pay off the most significantly, but right now there aren’t very many organizations that have done anything with that – the main reason being that, frankly, there aren’t a lot of organizations out there that have truly deployed UC,” Turek said. “It’s a really important part of this discussion, but it’s hard to do, and [these are] really still the early days.”

{ 3 comments }

Janelle June 4, 2010 at 7:20 am

Maybe if collaboration tools were focused on a critical business need, like innovation, that warranted employee input and reinforced a sense of value in the ideas and opinions of employees, getting them to embrace collaboration would not be as difficult. This is an interesting piece that makes the argument for why social networks in businesses should be purposed for innovation.

Dana Larson June 8, 2010 at 6:02 am

This is exactly correct. Many business teams believe in collaboration, but don’t want to take the time to learn it or implement it into their organization, no matter what the benefit can be. Like you said, the key is to identify a team adoption plan for collaboration, and ensure everyone is on the same page and doing it correctly. This is exactly what we do with our larger customers – give them an adoption plan for team collaboration so they can be successful.

Lauren Hall-Stigerts June 22, 2010 at 10:43 am

Great response to Scarpati’s article, Jim. It strongly resonates with the argument that collaboration tools should focus on COLLABORATING, not necessarily the TOOLS, and be more human-centric.

Excellent point, that people only think collab tools “waste their time” because they don’t know how to use them effectively. Meeting in a conference room and whiteboarding isn’t always realistic these days with employees spread out all over the world, so what’s the best substitute for meeting in the conference room? Using collaborative tools. (I still believe that email can be incredibly less efficient than internal community tools! I can’t stand sifting through those infinitely-long email strings between eight people. Yuck.)

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