When organizations initially set out to find an enterprise collaboration system, they look for a tool that can improve productivity, streamline processes, eliminate unnecessary meetings, reduce workarounds, and make collaboration across departments easier (click here to learn more benefits of collaboration tools). On top of all that, the software should be cloud based, with mobile and social communication features.
With all these goals in mind, how do you know which enterprise collaboration tool is right or wrong for your organization?
Unfortunately, it’s not as easy as choosing the right features. You could have the most powerful collaboration features - video conferencing, real-time document collaboration, calendar sharing, comments, email, and project management - but employees may still not use the tool or you still might not be able to prove its value.
To help you, we interviewed top collaboration experts and compiled the top 7 indications that you chose the wrong enterprise collaboration system.
The Wrong Enterprise Collaboration Tool: 7 Warning Signs and Advice from the Experts
An enterprise collaboration system is a combination of tools, extranets, or other networks that support enterprise-wide communication, such as sharing documents and knowledge with people inside an organization.
With dozens of enterprise collaboration options available, it’s important to understand the warning signs of the wrong kind of tool.
Here’s our list of signs that you chose the wrong enterprise collaboration tool, with advice from four industry experts:
1. Employees run into adoption issues
The most obvious warning sign that you chose the wrong enterprise collaboration software is if your employees just aren’t using it. It could be time consuming and difficult to learn, or employees may not know where to go or how to start integrating it in their work.
Your organization could also experience age group differences in levels of adoption. Perhaps the millennials intuitively understand the tool, but the baby boomers aren’t as open to change (signaling that you need to provide more tailored training options).
A lack of c-suite participation also hinders employee adoption. Executives need to lead by example and use the tool themselves to promote the new culture. Employee won’t be motivated to take the time and learn a new tool if their leaders aren’t doing it either.
Jane Hart, an international speaker and author on workplace learning, also believes that lack of adoption is a major warning sign, but says it may be attributed to the wrong kind of implementation:
“The biggest warning is that people aren’t using it! But this is usually NOT because they have chosen the wrong collaboration technology, but because it has been forced upon people who are required to ‘be social.’ In an organizational culture that is not inherently collaborative, this is not the best way to proceed; it requires a gentler touch of first building trust within the organization, so that the technology is not seen as another way of controlling workers, but rather supporting them in their daily work in their groups and teams.”
-Jane Hart, modern workplace learning advisor, speaker, and writer.
2. Security doesn’t meet enterprise standards
With 90% of large organizations having suffered a security breach, it’s imperative that an organization-wide tool meet enterprise security standards.
An enterprise collaboration tool will house important, confidential company data that needs to stay confidential. Without proper security controls in place, you won’t be able to manage who has access to what or who can share information with whom, putting your organization at risk.
You also won’t have access to user management controls like single sign-on, external collaboration restrictions, or centralized account management, making it more challenging to scale usage across the organization.
3. There wasn’t a framework for a collaborative culture to begin with
If employees aren’t used to managing work in a collaborative way, they won’t know what to do with a new enterprise collaboration system. For example, if employees usually work independently, they’ll use the tool independently, defeating the purpose of a collaboration tool.
David Coleman, author of two collaboration books, believes organizations need to improve collaborative skills before buying more technology:
“Even if you have invested millions in a collaborative infrastructure that is not working, hire an outside firm to take a collaborative snapshot of your organization and see where the tool-based issues are. Sometimes, it is not the collaboration tool that is the problem, but rather collaborative behaviors and skills. Better to invest in improving these than buying more technology. As Einstein said ‘We can't solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.’”
-David Coleman, author of “Collaboration 2.0” and “42 Rules for Successful Collaboration", and founder of Collaborative Strategies.
4. The tool doesn’t meet company goals or processes
While it can be difficult to prove the ROI of enterprise collaboration, the tool should still add value to the company in a tangible way. For example, you should be able to compare metrics before and after implementing the tool, or show value in terms of employee time (e.g.how much manual labor the tool has saved by automating a process).
If you can’t pinpoint how the tool is impacting your business, you may need to take a step back and first understand your goals and processes, then re-evaluate the tool (or choose a new one):
“Many companies I frequently meet haven’t identified, or haven’t defined, what that value-adding business process is yet. As a result, they buy on a generic set of features and functions on an RFP supplied by an industry analyst - and then try to find business processes internally that can be supported by that software rather than the other way around. Understand the business processes first, then look for software that supports that process best before you look at features and functions. You need to buy a glove that fits the hand you have, not re-engineer your hand to fit the cheapest glove you can find.”
-Boris Pluskowski, innovation, collaboration, and social media strategist.
5. Employees experience app fatigue
When you introduce a new tool to employees, make sure you’re offering something of value, not just adding to the noise. With the average employee using 25-29 apps per month, they can quickly feel overwhelmed with yet another new tool.
App fatigue can occur when a bunch of tools all achieve the same thing. Instead of easily choosing apps to address a specific problem or need, employees are overwhelmed with dozens of options that produce the same result.
If an enterprise collaboration tool is met with blank stares or confused faces, it may not be offering enough value to get employees excited.
6. The software doesn’t easily fit into existing workflows
An enterprise collaboration tool should adapt to how employees work, rather than forcing employees to adapt their working style to the tool.
With an average of 483 apps in the enterprise, employees have already created a system for managing their work. They use certain tools on a daily basis and are unlikely to completely change their current process. As a result, any enterprise collaboration software that doesn’t easily integrate with their existing workflows just won’t stick.
Without integrations, employees will be forced to manually copy and paste data between tools, creating even more silos of information and hindering collaboration.
Another reason why the tool may not fit into existing workflows is if you focus on functions and features, versus the system’s actual impact on work.
“For me, one of the most probable warning signs is that organizations focus on the tool itself by promoting its functions and its ‘coolness’ instead of use cases that give personal value for the staff doing their work. Very often this originates in selecting a tool because of what it can do instead of what the staff can do with it (and so better fulfilling their tasks).”
-Frank Hamm, collaboration consultant and enterprise 2.0 and social business evangelist.
7. The tool doesn’t help with standardization across the enterprise
One of the goals of an enterprise collaboration tool is to standardize work and processes across the company. If everyone uses the same tool, it should be easier to share information, communicate with others, and get a real-time view into projects.
However, the wrong enterprise collaboration software will just create more chaos and confusion. If adoption is low, only certain employees will use the tool while everyone else uses something different, creating islands of data. Or, leaders will have difficulty making transformational decisions, since they don’t have one source of the truth and will have to piece together data from different systems.
Choosing the Right Enterprise Collaboration Tool
With the variety of enterprise collaboration tools available, picking the right one can be a challenge. To choose the best tool for your organization, take the time to first understand your business goals and processes and ensure a collaborative culture already exists. Then, look for a system that offers unique value to employees, fits into existing workflows, and meets enterprise security standards. Once you focus on these factors, adoption should come easily.