Even the most enthusiastic advocates of enterprise collaboration are still tripping up over its introduction because of fundamental flaws in their approach to deployment.
Common failings fall into two main areas — both relating to how companies attempt to create a foothold for the technology, according to Chris Morace, chief strategy officer at social business firm Jive Software.
First, proponents of collaboration tools are sometimes overly ambitious and choose the wrong place in the organisation to exploit it initially.
"One of the biggest mistakes we see in organisations is often that the people who were championing this were very aspirational. They saw the future," Morace said.
"They saw the things they wanted and they would want to start in one of those areas they knew the company had a problem."
The trouble with choosing one of these problem areas is that by their nature they are often failing precisely because of poor controls, measurement, and management. Those failings mean there is often little scope for gauging the effectiveness of collaboration tools.
"To get started, start in a part of the business that's actually important to you. Start in a place where you measure something today, where you know exactly what the baseline is — because if you don't measure it today, it's not that important to your business," he said.
"So even if you improve, no one's going to believe it. It's different from company to company where they start but the ability to have a baseline initially and be able to prove to yourself how much value you've got is critical."
Flawed social software deployments
The second mistake in deploying social software avoids this first error of picking the wrong business grouping but perpetrates another by drawing too widely on participants from across the company and choosing employees with little need to collaborate with one another.
"That really jumps out in terms of the classic mistake we saw companies make over and over. More often than not, IT will lead the selection process. But the challenge is they typically have a company that already has a lot of things that people are pretty unhappy with. They've probably got an intranet, they've got email, they've got a portal, they've got a lot of things that probably aren't working super well but they're being used," Morace said.
"So they have the challenge of taking 100,000 [employees] and trying to move them over. Their go-to tendency is to want to do a small pilot. Then you'll get the argument about do you get a small group that works together already, or do your pick a random group across the world from your 100,000 employees?
"Often what IT will do is just say, 'We're going to stand up a small instance and just invite a collection of people on this and see what they do. Do you like it? Is it a better intranet? Are you working together more effectively?'."
This approach gets the project off on the wrong foot and immediately creates difficulties that ultimately stand in the way of successfully exploiting the technology.
"The challenge with all those [approaches] is you're creating an artificial environment where you're putting people in a place together and saying, 'Hey, we'd like you to just start working'," Morace said.
"Collaboration without purpose makes no sense. You've got to have a job you're trying to get done or something very purposeful you're trying to do if you want it to stick and get the value."
Foundation for subsequent social rollouts
According to Morace, starting with an area of the business with sound measurement already in place, such as manufacturing or sales, provides a solid foundation for subsequent deployments.
"Once you have enough people on the platform, a lot of these more aspirational areas — where information finds you and people feel more connected and you start using it for other parts of the business — those start to happen," he said.
"But in that early stage, where people don't understand what this is, that's where you have to be very purposeful about what you're doing."
Jive Software this month announced plans to increase activities in Europe, which represents about 25 percent of its business, with new offices in Sweden, Amsterdam and Paris to handle operations in the Nordic and Benelux regions and France.
The company already has a datacentre in Amsterdam and says it will be hiring engineering and sales staff in a drive to target larger enterprises with employees spread across several countries.