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Rolling out Features of an Emergent Collaboration Platform

Posted by on July 24, 2011

After selecting a vendor for your enterprise collaboration initiative it’s tempting to just release the product with all the features to the company.  This is not the most effective way to roll out a platform as it will overwhelm the employees who are going to be using it.  Many tools and platforms today come with quite a robust feature set but that doesn’t mean they should all be released at once.  In Andrew McAfee’s post entitled “Drop the Pilot” he states that organizations should:

“Deploy tools that deliver a novel capability, like microblogging, social network formation, or prediction markets. Tools that deliver something novel — that aren’t trying to displace an incumbent”

I mostly agree with this and this is something I am seeing work quite well within organizations.  The most effective features to start with are those that can be familiar to employees while offering a new way to solve an existing problem that employees are currently faced with.  However, I would actually not start with “prediction markets” as McAfee suggests as they have a much higher learning curve then some of the other simpler solutions such as microblogging or rich profiles.

There isn’t a specific timeline for when the entire feature set has to be rolled out, this should be gauged based on employee usage and feedback of existing features.  For example if you find that employees are struggling with understanding how to use microblogging then spend some more time on this and roll out additional features later.  If however employees are quick to adopt and use microblogging (basically if they are comfortable with it) then you can release additional features much sooner.  Overall you might roll out all the features in a few months or in a year (or longer).  Remember every feature that you roll out can have several different uses, so get employees comfortable with a few of them first.

Just because the vendor you go with has the capability to do everything doesn’t mean you want it to (at least not at the start).  I encourage a phased approach to deploying these tools as I think it will help with employee adoption and the overall comfort level with using these tools.

A few final things to remember

  • Start with simple yet valuable features that employees will be comfortable with (such as rich profiles and microblogging)
  • Wait for employee adoption and comfort level to rise with existing tools before adding new ones
  • Features can be rolled out in any timeline that makes sense to your company
  • Don’t roll out everything at once as it will overwhelm employees and the learning curve will be steep
  • Connie Chan

    I would add that other tools can be released to a small set of users for trial, for example, conduct a dry run of a prediction market platform could be tested amongst one or two departments or business units.  This will enable the enterprise collaboration implementation team to assess any performance matters and users to raise any issues, and then resolve them so that the broader roll-out has a great probability of adoption.

  • Erin Curtis

    Agreed with Connie. There’s no more powerful selling tool than positive internal buzz.

  • LCS

    A slow release of features will give your development team, time to get it right and keep the momentum going.

  • I do agree with comfort level issue. It is necessary for each and everyone.

  • I think each platform has to be scalable, start with a majority of relational features (like a rich profile, connection with other member made easy,…) and increase little by little the conversational functional scope, selecting the most appropriate features according to how the community grows.