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The Most Common Types of IT Resistance To Enterprise Collaboration and How to Deal With It

Posted by on December 4, 2012

Based on a research report Chess Media Group released last year on the State of Enterprise 2.0 Collaboration, the most common types of IT resistance to collaboration are: it’s not a priority, there are security issues or threats, no manpower, and no budget.  Let’s take a look at each one in more detail and explore how to deal with them when they come up.

It’s Not a Priority

As with the manager resistance, fear and lack of education are a factor in why this isn’t a priority.  However, it’s true there are situations in which an organization is focused on other projects and needs to wait until they are completed before investing in something else.  I would recommend asking the IT folks why this isn’t a priority.  I have also found that bringing business and IT professionals together to discuss priorities often makes for interesting and enlightening discussions.  If employees and executives decide that effective collaboration and communication is a priority, IT usually follows.  You don’t want to separate IT from the decision-making process as their approval and input are integral.  Bring them into the conversation and try to understand their perspective.  Sometimes IT leads the collaboration initiative and team members in this department may not all agree on things such as security or feasibility.  Education is also a crucial component not just for the employees on the business side but also for those on the IT side. There have been several instances where CIOs or VPs in the IT department have had to force the use of these collaborative tools because their own teams were not familiar with them and thus didn’t understand what they were really resisting.  There have also been several situations where CIOs or CTOs were just not familiar with the emergent collaboration tools that are out there and how they could applied to their organization.

There Are Security Issues or Threats

This is a common concern, but if some of the world’s largest and most heavily regulated companies are able to make this work, security is an issue that can be overcome.  In all my research and case studies I have not found a single example of a security threat that has done a company serious harm.  Security is and will always be a concern, but that doesn’t mean enterprise collaboration platforms are less secure than any other system.  Part of selecting a vendor entails reviewing security; don’t go with vendors you are skeptical about.  Pabst Brewing Company is one of the largest breweries in the United States with about 300 employees, and they had to overcome this very problem.  Ben Haines, the CIO of Pabst, had to take a top-down approach with IT and basically force the transition to using more social and collaborative tools.  At the beginning, Ben’s IT team didn’t really understand the security behind these news tools (whereas Ben already had prior experience with this) but after implementation all of IT saw how secure these new tools were.  When I spoke to Ben, he told me that many IT professionals don’t always have “security” as their focus; they concentrate on architecture, integration, support, and a host of other issues.  However, vendors have a whole team devoted to making sure their product is secure, so it’s more efficient to go with them.  Keep in mind that Pabst is not a company with thousands of employees; they have just a few hundred, and 80 percent of their workforce works remotely thanks to the use of collaborative tools.

There Is No Manpower

This is a very legitimate concern.  However, many business units have the ability to deploy these tools and platforms without the involvement of IT.  Of course, it is always preferable to have the IT department involved here, but chances are that your business units are already deploying customer-grade collaboration tools that are not as secure as enterprise-grade tools and platforms.  As far as manpower goes, it should be stressed that this is not an IT project; it is a company project that will necessitate a team of which IT will have to be a part of.  However, this isn’t something that IT is going to be slaving over (or at least, it shouldn’t).  Smaller organizations can go with cloud-based vendors, which require little if any IT involvement. Many of the collaboration vendors today can act as allies and partners who already consider complex issues such as security and integration.  This is why it’s important to make sure your company goes with the proper vendor.

There Is No Budget

Budget is always a concern from an IT and a managerial perspective.  However, I have found that organizations are usually able to find the budget for these programs, especially when the platforms replace legacy intranet systems that the organization pays for. Furthermore, there are several free and/or low-cost options for collaborating, such as blogs and wikis.  Océ was able to save around 350 euros annually by shifting its budget from a legacy intranet system to social and collaborative tools.  Penn State Outreach canceled one of its annual employee events and used that money to fund its collaboration project.  The annual event allowed only 500 of the 1,500 employees to attend, so it wasn’t very effective at engaging employees.  Now all the employees are able to connect with one another in a way that was never before possible.  Companies don’t need to go automatically with the best and most expensive enterprise collaboration solution.  There are plenty of lower-cost, if not free, options available (several popular vendors have recently created freemium or very low cost options). Transferring budgets from legacy deployments is also something I have seen done many times with great effectiveness, typically when an organization realizes that it needs to update its intranet.  Organizations can get creative when it comes to budgets, especially when it comes to deploying cloud-based solutions, which can save the company money on hardware and server costs.  This money saved alone can often pay for the use of the new tools and then some.

How have you dealt with IT resistance at your company and what other types of resistance have you been coming across?  Don’t forget to subscribe to my Facebook feed for more commentary and insight on collaboration (in more bite-size chunks) and also my list of enterprise collaboration vendors.

  • JP

    Hi Jacob, I find your list spot-on but I would title it “Bring me any business problem and I will show you a list from IT about the problems that make it impossible to solve” I find this excuses dealing daily with energy management issues, but as IT is pervasive and everything is touched in part by computing… they are in all the battles.