A contrarian view to adoption of collaboration-tools-in-the-global-workplace


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A contrarian view to adoption of collaboration-tools-in-the-global-workplace

  1. 1. POINT OF VIEW A contrarian view to adoption of collaboration tools in the global workplace Subroto Gupta Vice President, Social Business & Digital Marketing More than eighty-thousand enterprises worldwide have operations in ten or more countries, and this number only continues to rise. How do these enterprises effectively harness the collective knowledge of their global workforces, which are increasingly scattered? Although building a collaborative eco-system is the most obvious answer, it’s no easy task, and besides investment in new technologies, it requires training, and the adapting of processes and organizational matrixes. Those that get this right have a competitive edge—incorporating real-time intelligence not just for market strategy but also for resource allocation, talent sourcing and investment decisions. A study of enterprises with successful collaboration eco-systems reveals that the factors that steer them toward success are often counterintuitive to what is believed to be the best practice. Has the time come? A 2012 study by McKinsey & Company of just four industry sectors suggests that social platforms can unlock $900 billion to $1.3 trillion in value in those four sectors alone.1 In a recent whitepaper, we discussed how new technologies, process advances, and imbalances in talent are changing the way people work together.2 Over the last five years, social technologies have reached mainstream adoption and a variety of synchronous and asynchronous platforms available have accelerated this adoption. For example, more and more companies have adopted IM and VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) tools as ways of promoting interaction between employees. Despite the obvious benefits and the theoretical feasibility, building these collaborative capabilities is challenging, given geographical distribution and cultural differences in global companies. For instance, a 2011 study by a researcher from IBM and the University of Michigan found that while the workforces in China and India are comfortable with using instant messaging (IM) as a communication tool, their counterparts in Japan view IM as an “improper interruption in a business context.”3 Moreover, while many multinationals have invested heavily in social platforms, the returns on these investments can be slow to materialize. A 2013 survey by Towers Watson found that while 56 percent of the employers surveyed deployed various social-media tools in their organizations, only 30 percent to 40 percent of respondents rated the tools as highly effective. What’s more, only 40 percent of the employers rated the use of social media technology as cost effective.4 This failure carries a high cost. Failure to achieve significant productivity gains could be attributed, in part, to the fact that when deploying social technologies, organizations often make the mistake of applying the same principles as those used to adopt other technologies. McKinsey & Company, “The social economy: Unlocking value and productivity through social technologies,” 2012. Genpact, “The Future of Global Business Operations,” 2013. Yang & Wen, et al., “Collaborating Globally: Culture and Organizational Computer-mediated Communication,” 32nd International Conference on Information Systems, Shanghai 2011. 4 Towers Watson, “2013 Towers Watson Change and Communication ROI Survey,” 2013. 1 2 3
  2. 2. The four questions that matter our experience and success leads us to believe that the best practices are often the ones that are, in fact, counterintuitive. To ensure its social collaboration strategy is executed with success, any organization that embarks on the journey must consider the following: Conventional wisdom #1: Executive sponsorship is critical to adoption • How do you ensure that socialcollaboration tools help identify and then generalize, tag, and distribute the right content? Much like icebergs, often 90 percent of the knowledge in any organization is buried below the surface. The question is, does your social collaboration strategy help make this knowledge readily available in such a way as to significantly improve the supply chain of information? • As resources and operations become more distributed, how can companies use the principles of social collaboration to design effective processes, particularly those that touch multiple internal and external stakeholders? • How can social graphs and social-network analysis be leveraged to detect influencers within the network and to identify collaboration issues and bottlenecks? • How does an organization’s corporate culture affect collaboration? In addition, how does this change between geographies? Having these answers will help enterprises overcome the most significant challenges, such as how to create a unified operational view and how to ensure adoption and use of these platforms by employees. A counterintuitive approach to achieving adoption At Genpact, we started using social intranets and SharePointbased internal and external communities in 2006 to effectively connect a large workforce distributed across more than ten countries at the time. And what we have discovered from our experience is that companies need to modify commonly accepted practices and conventional wisdom when building collaborative platforms. Much of the existing literature regarding the further adoption of enterprise collaboration platforms places undue emphasis on so-called “best practices,” as well as on other guidelines for deploying knowledge-management platforms. However, social technologies are inherently different. For one, the needs and expectation of users have evolved dramatically, thanks to the massive growth of Web 2.0 communities and social media outside the work environment. More importantly, collaboration platforms need to support real work. A collaborative approach that incorporates social tools promotes two-way dialogue between work groups and can also include the growing number of outside contractors that organizations rely upon these days. Here are six examples of “best practices” that have become part of the conventional wisdom. In each of these instances, Social-tools adoption doesn’t work like other IT applications. When it comes to social tools, grassroots adoption is the most critical success factor. Relying exclusively on executive sponsorship can often delay growth and adoption. Rather, employees will naturally gravitate towards and stick to social tools if it makes their job easier. Getting employees to adopt social tools is an effort that shouldn’t begin with the C-Suite but with juniors still in their 20s. Organizations that first recognize and recruit advocates with which entry-level employees can identify have a much higher chance of sustained adoption. At Genpact, this approach resulted in 22,000 users joining the community within the first twelve months of rolling out and a 36-percent adoption rate that was tenpercent higher than the industry benchmark. Conventional wisdom #2: Technology is not important; any platform will do While everyone agrees that technology is only part of the equation, it is important to choose the right technology based on business priorities. The key role of technology is to make it easier for individuals to connect based on areas of common interest. Beyond the general questions regarding security, it is also important to consider the user experience. How easy and intuitive is it for people to use? Does it integrate with other commonly used systems, and does it easily address their most important work requirements? Is it available on mobile devices? Does it support multiple languages for global organizations? The choice of platform is a critical decision: platforms that enhance the user’s experience will aid adoption and collaboration. Conventional wisdom #3: Because this involves software, IT should be the natural owner Because enterprise collaboration is powered by software applications, the IT department becomes the natural owner in most large organizations. While its role is significant for deployment, the real owner should be a community manager whose singular goal is to drive adoption across the organization. The community manager must be involved with IT experts throughout the process of selecting the right technology and platform. The community manager will drive engagement and adoption and, more importantly, gather feedback In a successful community, contribution and engagement tend to start out as transactional and then move to the supportive, the critical, and, finally, the collaborative stages. How long this process takes depends on how quickly the community managers mobilize users to become connected.
  3. 3. Conventional Wisdom #4: Build it and they will come work better to drive early adoption within one or more sub-communities first (based on region or a function) - a group more willing to use collaboration in their daily workflow. When organizations roll out a new social-media tool, the announcement creates a buzz, which, in turn, generates high levels of adoption—at least for the first few months. However, over time, usage typically drops when the novelty wears off and stakeholders don’t see tangible benefits. As a result, the socialmedia tool starts to gather dust. Most organizations today operate in a matrix structure. Managed properly, the combination of horizontal and vertical alignment can enable successful collaboration. The vertical alignment helps ensure relevance with business strategy, while the horizontal alignment enables collaboration across functional groups. The truth is that unless the tool becomes integral to users’ work habits, it quickly develops a reputation as just one more thing that has to be done. As a result, it is critical to entrench online collaboration services into the existing workflows. For example, users need a clear roadmap of how the collaboration platform can be synchronized with e-mail, calendar, or documentmanagement solutions. Collaborative platforms such as SharePoint have been used by many companies, but how it’s leveraged varies vastly. For most companies, building a collaborative culture is an evolutionary process that requires balancing users’ needs with the latest technology. To ensure that social tools become integral to daily tasks, companies need to pre-populate the platform with customized content and then build a framework around key themes of interest within the organization. Running an extended pilot may yield a lot of seed content, which can eventually be migrated to the final platform. For example, at Genpact, some of the most prolific user groups were active long before the platform was actually rolled out, and the feedback from subject-matter and functional experts was crucial towards eventually engaging a wider base of members. Conventional wisdom #6: Reward and recognition drives usage and behavior Let’s face it: most reward and recognition (R&R) programs do not generate the kind of excitement that their sponsors expect. Organizations create campaigns to reward adoption and assign “knowledge champions,” but often with little success. What these organizations don’t recognize is that the true value of enterprise collaboration comes from bringing data, content, and people together in the context of business activities. The reality is that most people will adopt a platform only if it makes them more efficient and effective. If it doesn’t, usage will be short term and driven by incentives. Conventional wisdom #5: Play the culture card right What most global organizations have to account for is that there is no single universal culture. While there are values and behaviors that all organizations promote, cultures can vary greatly based on demographics, geography, and the nature of the business. In some restrictive cultures, a lack of access to social tools at the workplace leads to a reluctance to adopt social tools. Very often, the concern for employees is how their peers judge them. Following a merger, organizations usually discover that the new entity brings its own unique culture. Similarly, companies that expand into new countries find the regional office operates quite differently from the headquarters. To accommodate these differences, it’s important to recognize that a collaboration community is an aggregation of sub-communities, representing different geographies, with different needs and communication dynamics. It may actually Think global, act social Across the world, social tools are supporting a rapid shift from transaction to engagement. Most companies have understood that a social community is the only collaboration mechanism that they can scale up easily. And like any network, as more and more members participate, the value of the community grows exponentially. Our experience shows that if organizations are willing to rethink the conventional wisdom, they can drive the kind of adoption rates that generate increased value from these tools.
  4. 4. About Genpact About the author: Genpact Limited (NYSE: G) is a global leader in transforming and running business processes and operations, including those that are complex and industry-specific. Our mission is to help clients become more competitive by making their enterprises more intelligent, meaning more adaptive, innovative, globally effective and connected to their own clients. Genpact stands for Generating Impact – visible in better management of risk, regulations, costs and growth for hundreds of long-term clients including more than 100 of the Fortune Global 500. We offer an unbiased, agile combination of smarter processes, analytics and technology, which limits upfront investments and enhances future adaptability. We have 60,000+ employees in 24 countries with key management and corporate offices in New York City. Behind our single-minded passion for process and operational excellence is the Lean and Six Sigma heritage of a former General Electric division that has served GE businesses for more than 15 years. Subroto Gupta leads social business strategy and digital marketing at Genpact. unified.collaboration@genpact.com For more information, visit www.genpact.com. Follow Genpact on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.