Driving Adoption of Visual Collaboration Technology

By David Danto
Director of Emerging Technology, IMCCA

techinvestment-0914How much money are you wasting on technology today? Many technology products have failed at organizations (or in the marketplace) because its owner assumed it was just so cool that everyone would flock to using it. Regrettably, that’s just not reality. No matter how “cool” the technology may be people tend to keep doing whatever they’ve done all along — meaning nothing new will establish itself in an organization unless there is an active project to drive its use.

That’s exactly the story for visual collaboration and videoconferencing. This is a very powerful tool that organizations can use to transform the way they do business, but all of the predicted ROI and benefits don’t happen if the technology doesn’t get used.

What I frequently ask technology managers to do is compare the planning and effort used for implementing a technology (project managers, written plans, schedules, targets, metrics, timelines, recurring meetings, etc.) with the time and effort put into the usage and adoption plan. If they are not equal efforts then utilization will fall short of the ideal — and often far short — leading to disappointment and negative perceptions of what should be a great technology.

So what does a good visual collaboration usage and adoption plan look like? First of all, it puts the technology in a secondary role and leads with the people. Ask yourself, “Did your users have any input into selecting that video system or service you just bought and implemented?” If not, it represents a lost opportunity to drive adoption right from the beginning.

Creating a focus group that represents a cross section of your users and finding out what they are really thinking (not just what you think they are thinking) has tremendous value. A formal process to engage users before shopping for technology not only ensures that the products you select will be in line with actual needs, but it provides some other benefits as well:

  • It serves as a “pressure-release valve” — so people do not let problems or bad perceptions build up.
  • It inherently conveys a sense of worth and value to the users — which then leads them to be more open to adopting changes in process and technology (because they feel the end product was “developed by them.”)
  • It begins to grow a group of “technology champions” that will be open to piloting new systems and spreading the word about their value.

Once you have completed that step you’re ready to develop a technology plan that actually meets your user’s needs. If you do so honestly you will conclude that no one product is the solution. Visual collaboration should be part of an organization’s entire Unified Communications strategy — providing the correct tool for each different application. Getting to that point requires a comprehensive User Segmentation plan. What are the various user groups that will interact with the collaboration technology (executives, managers, administrators, remote workers, team leaders, etc.?) Which tools will be appropriate for which groups and/or uses? How do you present that recommended tool information (as well as provide training) to each of the segments (which often requires different approaches to the varied user types?)

As you select the best technology to meet your now identified needs and let the implementation project follow its detailed steps, organizations should continue the formal work on the adoption plan in parallel. A well-developed plan will surely include some of the following elements:

  • Benchmarking – What are realistic utilization goals and targets? What do you say when some senior executive calls a month after implementation and asks about utilization in his area. (Someone says “20 percent.” “Is that good?” Do you know? Does he?) The wrong time to be trying to figure out benchmarks is after you’ve gone live with your systems. You need to determine in advance what metrics you will track. Before the first device is purchased you should set 30/60/90/120 day targets that are realistic. Pre-plan automatic actions that kick in if you are over or under your expected numbers.
  • On-boarding / Communications – How do you handle the “awareness” messaging? Who are your champions/evangelists? What kind of launch events can you create? How do you provide training materials for your identified user segments — each with different needs (one-on-one training, group training, Web instructions, on-demand video?) How do you continue to get your message out post launch?
  • Policy Review – What things at your organization need to change now that your collaboration tools are available? How does one ask for a system or software? Who’s allowed to get which one? Will anything change in your room reservation process or your travel approval policy?
  • Evaluation and Management – At some fixed point you need to take a long look at how it’s going. What do the metrics say? Are any adjustments needed? How is ROI looking? What can be improved?
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As I stated earlier, getting these and other elements planned and executed correctly is as complex as the technology implementation itself. If you’ve never created an adoption management plan it is wise to reach out to service partner firms or specialists that have done so (with a track record of success), and can help create a plan customized for your organization’s needs.

As a final step, it’s a good idea to get your original focus group back together again to ask “How did we do?” and “Is there anything we can fix?” A solid, ITIL based strategy involves a continuous improvement cycle, and a collaboration technology implementation is no different. All aspects should continually be reviewed for opportunities to improve the service.

If a thorough and well thought out usage and adoption plan is implemented correctly, the increase in technology ROI and user satisfaction will more than cover the required investment of time and resources.

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This article was written by David Danto and contains solely his own, personal opinions. David has over three decades of experience providing problem solving leadership and innovation in media and unified communications technologies for various firms in the corporate, broadcasting and academic worlds including AT&T, Bloomberg LP, FNN, Morgan Stanley, NYU, Lehman Brothers and JP Morgan Chase. He now works with Dimension Data as their Principal Consultant for the collaboration, multimedia, video and AV disciplines. He is also the IMCCA’s Director of Emerging Technology. David can be reached at David.Danto@Dimensiondata.com or DDanto@imcca.org and his full bio and other blogs and articles can be seen at Danto.info. Please reach-out to David if you would like to discuss how he can help your organization solve problems, develop a future-proof collaboration strategy for internal use, or if you would like his help developing solid, user-focused go-to-market strategies for your collaboration product or service.

All images and links provided above as reference under prevailing fair use statutes.

This blog was reprinted with permission from David Danto and originally appeared here.