8 Ways to Make Collaboration Tools More than a Virtual Water Cooler
John Mancini

By: John Mancini on April 9th, 2013

Print/Save as PDF

8 Ways to Make Collaboration Tools More than a Virtual Water Cooler


Yahoo, Best Buy, and other innovation-hungry businesses are rethinking the value of remote work in their organizations. But everyone can’t work face-to-face all the time; social collaboration platforms are being called upon by a growing number of organizations to fill this gap.

But there’s a difference between having social tools in place and actually using them to accelerate innovation and change within an organization. Companies need to get their teams to move beyond “Facebook” social connections and get down to business with these investments.

Here are eight ways to get your employees and other stakeholders to actually use your collaboration platform to move business forward.

1. Enlist collaboration champions.

The spirit of collaboration is not “top-down,” relying solely on corporate encouragement (or worse yet management edicts) to spark adoption of collaboration tools day-to-day will not work. Identify natural leaders in the organization with energy for collaboration and enlist them as ambassadors. Provide extra training and put them in a position to model this for others in the organization.

Once these advocates start applying the tools to business processes in a way you want to encourage, communicate these success stories in company-wide channels. You can make their role unofficial or anoint them with a title – whatever works best for your culture.

2. Back up words with actions.

Changing behavior has to be supported from the top as well – but, actions are more important than words. If company leadership isn’t present on SharePoint pages or actively messaging with the communication tool of choice, don’t expect the rest of the team to jump on board.

One visible and effective way to do this is with executive webcasts. Live events streamed to employees using the company’s collaboration platform not only demonstrate that management supports the initiative; they are powerful communication tools that can engage employees instantly, and add valuable content to your knowledge repository that the team will use.

3. Make sure there’s an app for that.

We now live in an app world. If you want employees to really use your social tools, they need to be available on the mobile devices that they use; moreover, they should run on native applications on those devices.

This is much easier to accomplish if your company has standardized on a limited number of devices. This is less and less common, so a realistic long-term plan accounts for apps that will work on a variety of devices. Phase things if you have to, but don’t take short cuts that will inhibit usage.

Get Your Free Tip Sheet: Collaboration Tools Help Businesses Leverage  Work-From-Home

This may seem like an optional capability, but social collaboration cannot be forced. If it’s too hard or unnatural, your team will not change their behavior.

4. Implement video blogging.

Face-to-face collaboration is powerful. Giving employees the ability to send video messages – if easy to use – is a unique and powerful way to make collaboration real. This is especially helpful in situations where employees are collaborating across departments or offices. Putting a face to a name stimulates personal connections and fosters creative relationships. Videos don’t have to be masterpieces; they can be simple narrated screen shares, reducing the fear factor and skill factor in recording them.

The best video blogs are not top-down lectures or all-encompassing overviews; think Twitter (or email) with video. Addressing specific issues through video is quick and easy yet, collectively these assets deliver a much deeper understanding for a broad set of employees.

Few companies have made the jump to a video blogging culture. Those that have are improving the quality of interaction between their employees, but the benefits go beyond that. They also get a free library of virtual training videos that are “evergreen,” remaining up to date and on message over time.

5. Make it fun with gamification.

Engage employees through scoring, awards, and leader boards to encourage friendly competition through the collaborative platform. Ratings systems that are accessible by all users and that include “featured” and “highest rated” sections in the collaborative portal encourage users to upload quality content and facilitate sharing of ideas across departments. Similarity with social media platforms that your employees already use can ease the transition into using a collaborative enterprise system. The ability to rate or “like” posts and content provides a familiar structure to encourage higher adoption rates.

6. Integrate collaborative tools in everyday business processes.

Don’t limit your team’s collaboration to their desks. Using collaborative tools in the conference room will not only help to keep more detailed and diverse notes, but will also encourage others to participate in the experience by seeing it at work. Tablets and other mobile devices have made it easier for employees to take their collaborative platform with them. They can share notes, access content, and integrate input from remote team members during meetings.

Another way to do this is to take advantage of your company’s existing conference room technology. Video conference and telepresence rooms can be integrated with collaboration solutions, turning these existing (and usually under-used) assets into distributed video studios. Record meetings and store them as enterprise content to be viewed on-demand. Let employees use these rooms to record videos requiring more than a webcam.

7. Maximize content sharing from your collaborations platform.

Populate your collaborative framework with a rich content base of on-demand materials cutting across your content silos. Easier said than done – but the more of your company content that can be accessed and searched from your portal, the more valuable the portal becomes.

Recent breakthroughs in search technology have made it easier to research not only text-based content but also the words spoken in audio and video content through speech recognition software. This enables employees to broaden their resource base and very efficiently find a relevant recording – or just a video clip.

Many companies are adding video content hubs as part of the collaboration platform – an in-house “Youtube” for their enterprise. This builds viral energy for viewing and contributing content.

8. Pick a “poster child” project for social collaboration.

Possibly the best way to increase adoption of your collaboration platforms in your business is to pilot its use on a real business project. Choose an important initiative where social collaboration can enhance results, and drive usage as a priority for success.

A national mobile phone retailer created a collaboration platform for hundreds of stores that enabled staff to be trained via short videos on whatever phone they owned. Employees could also share their own videos for their phones on in-store product placement and other real-time topics using the same collaborative network. This retailer promoted their training network throughout the business as an example of new social behavior that they wanted to encourage across the company.

Forcing adoption for a key project gives you more than a “poster child” example to demonstrate success to your team. It also helps you identify issues and enhancements that only come to light from applying these tools in the real world of your business.


Free Tip Sheet: Collaboration Tools Help Businesses Leverage Work-From-Home

About John Mancini

John Mancini is the President of Content Results, LLC and the Past President of AIIM. He is a well-known author, speaker, and advisor on information management, digital transformation and intelligent automation. John is a frequent keynote speaker and author of more than 30 eBooks on a variety of topics. He can be found on Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook as jmancini77. Recent keynote topics include: The Stairway to Digital Transformation Navigating Disruptive Waters — 4 Things You Need to Know to Build Your Digital Transformation Strategy Getting Ahead of the Digital Transformation Curve Viewing Information Management Through a New Lens Digital Disruption: 6 Strategies to Avoid Being “Blockbustered” Specialties: Keynote speaker and writer on AI, RPA, intelligent Information Management, Intelligent Automation and Digital Transformation. Consensus-building with Boards to create strategic focus, action, and accountability. Extensive public speaking and public relations work Conversant and experienced in major technology issues and trends. Expert on inbound and content marketing, particularly in an association environment and on the Hubspot platform. John is a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of the College of William and Mary, and holds an M.A. in Public Policy from the Woodrow Wilson School at Princeton University.