Worst-case scenario: You build it and nobody comes. Take it slow and sell the technology to all prospective users.
Says Collaborative Strategies Coleman: "Eighty percent of collaboration issues are people related. CIOs need to understand that. Collaboration is a behavior. The CIO can provide the infrastructure and the applications, but it is the behavioral changes that will present the most challenges."
Honeywell International Inc. tackled those challenges head-on two years ago, when it began looking around for technology to help groups of employees collaborate more effectively on specific projects across time zones and geographic locations. The company chose Microsoft Corp.s SharePoint, which allows employees to create Web sites, invite coworkers to join discussions and post documents. According to Ramon Baez, CIO and vice president of IT for Honeywells $8 billion automation and control solutions group, the groups 27,000 information workers—located in 700 offices around the world—now rely on SharePoint for collaboration. The marketing department uses SharePoint in order to work outside the firewall with customers, while the global IT team uses it to coordinate its technology efforts. While Microsoft may tout the fact that users dont need to involve IT staff to set up a SharePoint site, Baez recognized that without an awareness campaign, followed by education and training, few would use the new system.
For starters, Honeywell chose the name "TeamRooms" because it sounded friendly. "We thought it would make more intuitive sense to business people," says Baez. The company generated interest in TeamRooms by sending out an internal "press release" that included a call to action: "Click on this link to start your own TeamRoom today." The sign-up process was simple, and the browser-based interface provided a familiar look and feel for anyone using a Web browser. Honeywell also set up a special hotline with people who were knowledgeable about TeamRooms. The effort paid off: Within a month, Honeywell employees created more than 500 TeamRooms. Today, roughly 2,000 are in use.
So far, most CIOs are taking a measured approach to new collaboration tools. This helps mitigate the risks involved in deploying an expensive piece of software, and gives users plenty of time to adjust their behavior. "Its all about graceful escalation," says Spataro of Open Text. "You might start by giving the user IM," he says. "Then move into shared workspaces, followed by Web conferencing and so forth."
Thats especially true where older workers are involved. Despite the overall success of TeamRooms at Honeywell, Baez acknowledges that not all information workers approach them with enthusiasm. "People who arent tech savvy arent going to go to a TeamRoom. But they are a dying breed. You have young people coming into the workforce now who grew up with computers in their bedrooms. Computers are second-nature to them." Collaboration tools may be only the most recent example of a technology that highlights the workforce generation gap, but CIOs and business managers alike would still do well to adopt the "graceful escalation" approach, allowing workers the option of participating in trials with new tools.
Ask your HR department:
- What impact might new collaboration tools have on employee morale?Ask your IT staff:
- Do we have a safety net for employees who might resist a new collaboration approach?Ask your CFO:
- How can we measure the ROI of new collaborative tools?