Since the emergence of Web (insert arbitrary number here).0 -- with social networks, bookmarking, online applications, photo tagging, and blogs -- collaboration has become the dominant characteristic in the way we work, live, and play. To a large extent, software as a service (SaaS) has made this phenomenon possible, eliminating the need to buy, distribute, install, and learn conventional software.
According to a report by THINKstrategies and the Cutter Consortium, more than a third of small and large businesses will adopt SaaS into their technology portfolio during the next year to help bolster such activities as project management and internal collaboration. About 80 percent of those considering it say they plan to adopt it within the next 12 months.
Unfortunately, some project managers who may otherwise eagerly share vacation photos with family members through Flickr or freely respond to a blog posting remain reluctant to adopt project collaboration software. They have become bogged down in paper-based systems or standalone software and have not yet realized the benefits of turning to a networked environment for their crucial work projects. Yet the success of implementing a software-based project collaboration system depends wholly on the willingness of potential users to integrate the system into their work flow and work habits.
To help avoid such resistance, businesses should consider 10 practical steps that can enable the company to gain the support of its staff and the efficiencies inherent in project collaboration software.
#1: Start with the basics -- incorporate everyday tools
Choose software with familiar, everyday tools, such as e-mail integration, Wikis, and instant chat. This makes introducing new software less intimidating right from the start.
#2: Novel concept alert: Ask the user first
Consult the people who will actually be using the software before making a purchase. Take it from the experts: "IT professionals, project managers, and business development managers should provide input into the PPM [project and portfolio management] investment decision; otherwise, the tool might not be capable of providing all promised benefits." --Daniel B. Stang, Gartner research
#3: Loosen up - go subscription-based
Subscription-based pricing is more flexible, so you can deploy on a small scale first to make sure it is right for your company. Pay-as-you go flexibility allows organizations to add or subtract functionality as needed, so you're not locked into expensive commitments.
#4: Collaboration promotes adoption
Tools that offer enhanced collaboration abilities lead to more rapid adoption, as teams can grow virally and expand as more employees are pulled in.
#5: The key word is "user" interface
Remember that it's a user interface, not a developer interface -- navigating the system shouldn't be like solving a Rubik's cube or completing a scavenger hunt. Rather, it should be brilliant in its simplicity. Choose software with a friendly, intuitive interface designed with the end user in mind, and people will be more willing to give it a try.
#6: Fast deployment = fast adoption
Common sense tells us the quicker a solution is deployed and is up and running, the quicker employees can familiarize themselves with it. This means selecting software -- most likely SaaS -- that doesn't require an IT SWAT team of installers or hours-long training sessions. Venture capitalists are noticing this trend: "What we see now is a huge increase and adoption of Web apps that are equivalents of business or consumer apps that you used to install on your PC or Macintosh," said Jeff Clavier, managing partner of SoftTech VC.
#7: Adoption flows downhill
Lead by example. If others see team leaders using the software, they will be motivated to follow suit.
#8: Less is more
Make sure to distinguish between "must have" and "nice to have." Inundating your team with a solution that has all the bells and whistles will intimidate and veer users away from a smooth adoption. Apply the 80%-20% rule. It works!
#9: It takes a
Offer a help community -- quick, anonymous online assistance forums for troubleshooting and shared experiences.
#10: Offer cash rewards
When all else fails, bribe employees with cash and/or fabulous prizes.
Gil Heiman is the Director of Community at Clarizen, an online project management solution provider, acting as the User Advocate -- a liaison between Clarizen's user community and its internal members.