Clearly, many companies have collaboration tools such as portals on their to-do list as one of the top technology trends of 2009. Even this early in the year, we’re already hearing some frustration with the earlier adopters, in terms of the difficulties in getting their organizations to actually embrace the powerful functionality of collaboration portals.
Here are four key elements to fostering user adoption of collaboration tools. They need to be baked into your portal implementation plan, because you need to sell this change aggressively into your organization to realize the full ROI of the technology investment. Sometimes, this can be the part of the implementation that requires the most finesse.
1. Strong executive sponsorship. Portals can fail when they are perceived as an IT initiative. Someone at the top has to get the early message out about how the portal can make the whole business more efficient. Executives can then lead the way by making the portal the preferred place to interact with the executive team.
2. Data Migration plan. If your business has traditionally used shared drives for file-level collaboration, make sure your portal migration plan includes moving the latest versions of files over to the portal site and decommissioning the old shared drive.
3. Refine your collaboration processes to fully exploit the new technology. Workflows that have burdensome review/approval cycles can bog down any attempt at collaboration. While such rigor is useful in highly regulated businesses, it’s overkill in many others. If you make the portal a place where people can quickly share lessons learned and the new tools they develop for doing their jobs more efficiently, they will rush to embrace the portal. Limit approval requirements to the bare minimum and don’t let their contributions languish an an approval queue.
4. Change management. More than just training in portal functionality is needed. Key elements of your portal change management plan include organization design (assigning clear responsibility administration and creation/maintenance of portal sites), getting the message out early and often about the benefits of portal functionality, training in key user procedures (checkin/checkout, alerts, discussion boards, etc), and handholding as the business units create their own working sites.
If you’ve implemented a collaboration portal and are finding that your enterprise is ignoring it or under-utilizing its capabilities, please leave a comment–we’d love to hear about the challenges and how you’ve overcome them.