When it comes down to it, making collaboration software such as Microsoft Teams, Slack, and Asana work effectively comes down to people—not the tool itself.
Whether you’re talking about Trello, Asana, Google Workspace, InVision, Notion, Microsoft Teams, or Slack, workplace collaboration software is having a moment right now, and it’s one that will likely not fade away for a while. The pandemic merely maximized a budding interest in such tools.
That said, just because you have the software doesn’t mean that it will make your association work better overnight. In fact, collaborative software is the epitome of the truism that what makes a piece of software work for your organization is the people who use it—not the program itself.
So with that in mind, here are a few considerations for maximizing the potential of collaboration software in your organization:
Focus on finding the right tool for your organization—not someone else’s. It can be easy to get pulled in by the hype around a new collaboration tool, especially if it’s one that other organizations seem to be having good luck with. But just because it works for them doesn’t mean it works for you, writes Jed Cawthorne at CMSWire. “What I think some organizations will have found, is that for every well-meaning blog post or LinkedIn article, espousing the virtues of working a particular way with a particular tool, trying to put that advice into practice word for word just didn’t work for them,” he writes.
Bring in a champion or two. Simply dropping in a piece of collaboration software isn’t going to make it properly spread throughout an organization, so it’s important to find people within an organization who can act as “champions” to help train people on the benefits of the software. This is something that Slack recommends for its popular chat-based software. “Champions are focused on rallying people around the why, with an eye toward increasing awareness, adoption, productivity and perception. Extra points if they exhibit curiosity for new tools and a willingness to learn,” writes the company’s experience specialist, Min Young Lee. The company also recommends looking for people in the organization who can sell colleagues on the best practices and day-to-day uses of the software rather than by focusing on highly technical uses.
Encourage uptake by adapting to users’ needs. One problem that organizations might face with collaboration is the use of “shadow IT,” or unapproved applications. Part of the reason people use unapproved applications is that some need of the team is not fulfilled, such as real-time collaboration on mobile platforms. The application Mio, which integrates chat apps from different providers, recommends properly accounting for end-user needs to account for the root cause of shadow applications. If your employees need mobile access, for example, ensure they have mobile access. If they need voice chat, give them voice chat.
Make room for disparate workflows. No two employees work the same way, and that can be a major limitation to how a collaboration tool can work within an organization. A collaboration tool can be a great way to bring different work styles together into one place. One way to do that would be through platform integrations, including those offered with the help of automation tools such as Zapier or IFTTT—which your collaboration platform should support as a standard feature. Ultimately, these tools can come in handy by making it possible to work in different applications while still bringing everything together in the same platform.
If it’s not taking, understand why—but don’t force it. It can be incredibly difficult for a technology team to invest time implementing a new system, only to see employees largely ignore what’s there. But that situation might have deeper roots—perhaps employees are feeling overloaded by collaboration and need to better handle the base issues that may be harming the uptake of collaboration software before writing it off. “Companies that have successfully combated the excesses of overload have done so by focusing on the root causes of unproductive collaboration—and not merely the symptoms—in devising the cure,” Michael Mankins writes in Harvard Business Review. After all, you don’t want to keep using a piece of software if it’s not working.