The companies that are going to shape the next 10 years of industrial development in the world all have one thing in common: They will be using digital online tools to improve their internal processes, product development and customer relations.
From the startup-garage and mom-and-pop-shop levels to SMEs and even global giants, web-based collaboration tools are becoming the ubiquitous, obvious and powerful tool of choice. We know that this is the way we need to go, but beyond that the road is open.
There is a truly mind-boggling amount of platforms to choose from. While most offer a level of functionality that just a few years ago was reserved for large-scale enterprises, the traditional IT benchmark of Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) is difficult to calculate, and implementation of this new cloud-based generation of business platforms poses a host of challenges to traditional IT departments.
All too often companies end up choosing a challenge-solving system that never actually gets implemented; the original goals are eventually forgotten and the system dies a quiet death.
Based on reports from experts in the field as well as input from customers and personal experience, I have assembled a collection of rules of thumb that can be used as a guideline to enable a successful implementation of a cloud-based social enterprise platform such as Podio:
1. Stop looking for one system that can do everything you want it to. These platforms are developing rapidly, they respond very well to user feedback and some (like Podio) even have a two-week development cycle for small features and bug fixes. A new generation of cloud integration platforms (like Zapier or ItDuzzit) can fill in the gaps and set up a portfolio of several systems that can meet your needs.
2. Remember that your technology project is really a change-management project. Don’t lose track of why you are doing this in the first place: improved efficiency, increased innovation, better knowledge sharing, better customer relations, better working environment, etc. Measure those things to engender and determine success. Communicate widely and repeat the key message again and again.
3. Avoid big-bang rollouts. Implementing a system by sending thousands of users a welcome email in fire-and-forget mode and then claiming that “we now have a new intranet” is a recipe for failure.
4. Identify easy success targets. Find departments, projects, practice communities, firebrands or flagship customers that are both eager to become early adopters to reap the benefits and willing to help you learn from your mistakes in the process.
5. Spot the opinion makers. The real opinion makers in your company are not necessarily the managers. Identify the real cultural gatekeepers and involve them – you will have to face them sooner or later anyway.
6. Integrate legacy data. One of the major annoyances with new IT platforms is the fact that you have to use the old ones at the same time. Put extra effort into linking your legacy systems to the new, fancy social enterprise network and make life easier for everyone.
7. Take your own medicine. Use the system while implementing it. If you are launching a project management system, use it to manage the launch project. Show that you believe in the benefits. Don’t get caught using a competitor or the old stuff.
8. Viral implementation does not exist. Just expecting that it will distribute itself is a major mistake. You might end up with unconnected implementation islands, lone wolf users and unfulfilled promises.
9. Make it official. Management must show the way, period. And that means top management as well. Whenever someone can point at the CEO and say “But he’s having a secretary write his status updates,” you have a problem.
10. Match the culture. A system can help you implement a strategy, but it can’t change the culture on its own. Make sure that your choice of platform matches the company culture. If the purpose is to change the culture, prove the benefits again and again, and not in theory – in practical examples.
11. Avoid fashion when choosing platform. Your nephew, the CEO of a competitor and your favorite consultant might all have pet platforms, but how can you be sure that any of those are the right tool for you? Set up a few clear, strategic criteria for your choice and stick to them.
12. Establish clear codes of conduct. People need to know what is expected of them – what should be documented? What should not? How are we using the system in our company? Make it clear and make it easy.
13. Maintain, maintain, maintain. New features and versions appear like mushrooms. Support them relentlessly, even if you might run into a flurry of platform corrections. Don’t ever get left behind on an old system version. When you build custom solutions, budget with maintenance. Update spaces, users, features and plugins.
14. Be forgiving. People are people, and they make mistakes or get sidetracked. Often this is because they want to spend their time on doing a better job. Don’t chew out anybody for not using the intranet. Use positive motivation. Help them out. Fix the mistakes.
15. Hold back on the buzz. New systems mean new words, new structures of meaning. Avoid using too many new technical terms, fancy acronyms or system pet names all the time. It doesn’t prove your worth to the company; it only alienates your audience.
16. Don’t create empty spaces. Avoid building large logical structures to encompass all departments and projects. If you do this, you’ll likely end up with a huge amount of project rooms with no projects, department sites with no news, or communities with no maintainenance.
17. There are no laggards. Make sure that no employee is left behind in the transition process. Avoid stigmatizing groups or departments – use more effort to get them on board instead. Acknowledge that social shyness is not a generational issue but can affect anyone. Don’t demand that everyone adopt Millennial attitudes and practices.
18. Mobile leads to success. One of the key drivers in the current wave of social enterprise tools is increased mobility, i.e. smartphone and tablet usage of the systems. Support it, use it and enable it if possible. Don’t prevent it.
19. Get enough licenses. A typical problem that holds back company-wide adoption is lack of user seats in the purchased license, often in the beginning of an implementation project. As soon as you have made your decision on implementing the platform, get the seats you need. Don’t hesitate and start juggling single user seats or force users to request system access. It’s a real adoption inhibitor.
20. Involve your IT department. Mentioned last because it is very important and because you have been trying to avoid it so far. Don’t be scared; be bold. You know why this system you have chosen will transform the company. Your average IT department might be challenged by your project, but in the end they will benefit by being a part of the solution rather than the problem. And they might even be able to help you succeed.
New Media Crew specialize in helping organizations succeed with the implementation of modern collaboration platforms. We help our customers define the strategy, choose platforms and subsystems, manage the implementation project, any other suppliers or subcontractors, and make sure that the customer’s organization adopts the new platform and way of working.
We believe it’s vitally important to revisit the strategic reasons these implementations, and to make sure that training and project communication happens at the right time. New Media Crew aim to take the load and insecurity out of your implementation project.