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Blog post:

This makes or breaks your implementation of digital collaboration tools

  • Many organisations today implement Office 365, Jive or similar software solutions to handle a wide range of collaboration and knowledge integration needs. Goals range from merely facilitating communications and effectively leveraging experts’ knowledge to be an integral part of your innovation strategy.

  • Often the return on investment is not realized because of low user adoption and misaligned behavior. It is rarely technology that is insufficient, instead one has often failed to pay enough attention to implementing a key component, appropriate management of passionate change agents.

When we help clients implement value adding digital collaboration we work actively with creating a positive spiral of engagement which in turn enables a greater return on investment. However, to accomplish this, we need to have people acting as passionate change agents. In this article we will shed light on why and how this vital network of people can be structured to increase ownership and action to overcome the thresholds that digital knowledge landscapes typically must cross.

Advice on passionate change agents to boost ROI of Office 365, Jive and others

Adoption creates adoption
It is important to realize that digital collaboration in the form of digital communities and social digital ecosystems largely get their value from the people that interact within them. The more people join and interact the more value is created and as an effect even more people will join which in turn further increases the value. In other words, there is a positive (or negative) feedback loop.

The specific behavior matters
How people interact will also decide the value you achieve. For example, what knowledge and how people share their knowledge will affect the ability to integrate it into value creating actions. This also affects the feedback loop as it clearly can add or detract from the collective value.

The change agent network is critical
The art and science of driving the adoption and proper behavior largely comes down to change management. Given the social nature of what you are trying to achieve, it is especially important to have formal and informal leaders actively engaging early on, and to make sure that they are easy to follow for everyone. This so-called change agent network is the network of people that can drive the change forward towards the groups you have targeted.

The change agent network requires situationally attuned structure
The structure of the change agent network can be managed and one way to do this is to have it tiered. This means that you for example may have groups with one lead each that in turn has five change agents who in turn may communicate with additional change agents. The trick here, as our experience also clearly highlight, is to balance aspects such as control, ownership and complexity. For example, having a lot of change agents and zero tiers can result in difficulty in creating clear ownership, actions as well as complexity in following up their work.

You need both passion and ability
It is worth highlighting that sometimes a change agent is defined differently from a so-called champion, and one can learn from this difference in definition. When defined as different entities a change agent is someone who can operationally drive the change while a champion may just be passionate about the change. However, our experience is that to really drive adoption in your digital collaboration solution, you need to have the combination, i.e., you need passionate change agents.

Conclusion, a recipe to help getting your digital collaboration adoption and behavior boosted:

  • Get passionate change agents: Make sure you get people who can effectively champion with you (in fact, you want them to act as early adopters as well). They will form your change agent network that will help drive the adoption and the specific behavior you need.
  • Segment: Organize your change agent network in logical segments, looking at for example their respective functional units and/or geography. This is to ensure change agents’ understanding of the people being championed towards as well as to ensure sufficient time zone coverage.
  • Functional group ownership: If you have very few change agents they may be manageable by the overall driver taking command in relation to each change agent in large meetings. Otherwise however you should instead select leaders for each segment.
  • Check and verify: Before operationalizing your change agent network, check if you have a good balance between for example control, ownership and complexity. For example, five groups each with its own leader (or perhaps two leaders split upon time zones) is likely a relatively easily manageable structure, while having 25 groups each with four leaders likely is not. Finally, verify that your change agent leaders are able and willing to lead. In some areas it may work with an informal leader, while other situations may call for a more formal leader.

Influence always work with the combined perspectives of people and technology. You can only expect to get the right business value from a digital collaboration initiative if you are putting at least as much effort on the people aspects as you typically do on the technical.

Pierre Jarméus