Change has been forced upon us this year – at home, at work, everywhere – due to COVID19. We have adapted to being virtually connected to our jobs, and this need has put a spotlight on the many disparities and inefficiencies within our corporate technology landscape. The duplications, conflicts, and inconsistencies of multiple point solutions can feel endless when you are trying to work remotely with colleagues – sometimes all over the world. COVID19 has exposed the massive technical debt lurking at most organizations, and the technology inefficiencies and pains we once just dealt with no longer work in our remote-work world.
Much like any working team within a broader organization, Talk Social to Me has used a variety of point solutions at the same time over the past eight years (e.g., Google, Zoom, BlueJeans, Jive, Yammer, Workplace from Facebook, Microsoft Teams, Slack, Dropbox, and more). Our rule of thumb was to use the same tools that our clients were using to mimic their working experience and build empathy with their employee digital experience. It worked well until we all felt notification fatigue and realized that a lack of unified search was forcing us to duplicate work. This summer, we decided to end the madness and migrate to one collaboration platform for the vast majority of our work. (Note: We still use many industry platforms in sandboxes to test new features and stay up-to-date on the latest and greatest products.) The goal was to minimize the chaos of managing varying technologies to get our work done, and to practice what we preach to our clients: keep your technology stack as simple, efficient, and streamlined as humanly possible (easier said than done, we know).
For any large digital workplace migration, there are things you can plan for and there will be mistakes you make along the way (though I prefer to consider them learning experiences!). In addition to technical debt, remember your people are likely suffering from what we call “change debt,” which we define as the exhaustion from being forced constantly into new and/or bad tools due to a lack of empathy and bespoke training centered on the end user experience. We want to help you plan and avoid the larger pitfalls companies tend to make as you take the leap to a new platform.
We encourage you to keep these seven important factors in mind – before you start planning.
Executive Sponsorship is #1
Executive sponsorship is number one for a reason. Without it, migrating to a new digital workplace platform is next to impossible. A fully-functioning, successful digital workplace environment needs to have executive buy-in and sponsorship from at least one member of your C-level organization from the very beginning of the process. This executive is imperative when it comes to owning and sharing the decision to make the change (even if the decision was made by a committee or someone else), transparent communications about the change, leading by example by using the new platform, being open to employee feedback and questions, and supporting the people who are implementing the change with resources and budget. We have seen clients struggle unnecessarily with their digital workplace migrations because there is no support from the top. If you don’t have executive support, we suggest you start here before proceeding with the project.
Project Management is Key
Depending on the size of your organization, a person or team needs to be responsible for the migration process itself. This person or team needs to be given the time, resources, and executive support to plan the digital workplace migration effectively. Project steps, timelines, milestones, tasks, and owners need to be established and agreed upon, and the project manager needs to manage the process and hold each task owner and executive sponsor accountable. This component of project management is critical to the success of this large, cross-collaborative undertaking. Ideally, this person or team has experience in project management, and also has the ability to communicate effectively with different levels of the organization, as well as understand and respect the different personalities and goals of each stakeholder involved in the project.
Technical Debt is Real
Software is so pervasive in our world. No company is immune to implementing a technology solution (or many) that provide(s) a quick solution to a problem (a Band-Aid), often without regard to its long-term value or role in the larger technology ecosystem of the company. These quick fixes add up over time and are often implemented without IT approval or support (i.e., shadow IT); therefore, creating a lot of technical debt that is holistically ineffective, collectively expensive, and that poses potential security risks (if not sanctioned by IT). When migrating to a new digital workplace platform, it is a good time to reassess your company’s technical debt. Find out what tools employees are actually using, which ones work, and seek their input. Take the opportunity to create a solid, executive-supported “Which Tool When?” strategy that supports the new platform and gives employees clear guidance on which technology they should be using, for what purpose, and when it’s appropriate.
This approach allows:
- Your IT team to better manage and support company-sanctioned tools while reducing costs and security risks
- Your Communications team to focus on the appropriate channels
- Your Collaboration and/or Community Management team to understand which tools to focus their adoption and employee engagement strategies
Getting People to Change is Hard
Humans are complex, and change is hard, especially right now when the world around us feels like it is morphing daily. Accept, understand, and plan for this challenge ahead of time. This means investing in understanding employees’ pain points (by persona, business unit, culture, geography, role, remote/in-office, etc.), detailing the user experiences of the new platform, providing short and long-term bespoke and general training (in varying modes like videos, PDFs, and visuals), setting reasonable goals for your migration timeline and the adoption of the new platform(s), including people in the process (soliciting questions and feedback), and communicating in a transparent, authentic way. Often companies look to hire outside firms to aid with the technical component of these migrations. We recommend you do the same for the change management, adoption, and training components if you do not have sufficient in-house resources.
Mobile is Non-Negotiable
This doesn’t feel like it needs much explanation; however, we have worked with clients who say they want a mobile-first strategy, yet they don’t prioritize the importance of easy mobile access and an intuitive mobile user experience that works on various mobile devices and operating systems. Mobility is crucial, more so than ever presently and into the future, to allow employees to be flexible to get their work done. When you are migrating to a new digital workplace platform, make sure the mobile capabilities meet your security needs and your users’ needs for many types of workers (frontline, desk-based, remote, etc.). Factor the time it takes to roll out mobile apps in your migration timeline, including time for testing. Highlight mobile access in the launch fanfare of the new platform once the migration is complete. Support employees to work whenever and wherever they want. This will speak volumes to people when it comes time to roll out the new platform, and it is critical to the ongoing adoption especially of community and small team collaboration tools. Note: We understand this depends on your mobile device policy (e.g., BYOD, company-issued devices) as well as your security requirements on mobile access (e.g., VPN, MDM).
Expectation Setting is Critical
This can be tricky and heavily depends on the culture and politics of your company. Setting expectations ahead of time – with leadership, IT, community owners, communicators, and employees – can save you a lot of time and pain throughout this (already complex) process. If you do not provide reasonable, transparent answers about why the company is changing to a new platform, the timeline of the migration, what the new experience(s) will be, how it will affect peoples’ daily work behaviors, and how they will be able to get help, then people will create their own false expectations to fill in the blanks. The keys to avoid this trap are executive buy-in, transparent communications, cross-departmental collaboration, and realistic goals with an agile timeline. We never recommend a “lift and shift” approach (fun fact: lift and shift is a myth!), so avoid marketing your digital workplace migration as such at all costs.
Technology is Only One Component
If you build it, they do not always come. At the root of all the imperatives on this list, the common denominator is focusing on people, not just technology. Technology is an enabler; it provides a solution to people. That is not to say that migrating one technology platform to another is not a challenge, on the contrary. But if you are going to invest a lot of time and money in moving content and people do not use it after you move it, what was the point?
Consider and have answers for these key questions when planning a digital workplace migration:
These questions are critical to answer to be successful and they will inform your technical decisions and timeline. Again, a migration cannot take a lift-and-shift approach from one platform to another. Not only is that nearly impossible (no two technologies are that similar from an infrastructure perspective), but it needs to be about more than the technology. A digital workplace migration is more like a “do over” opportunity to incrementally improve and modernize your business processes and the employee experience.
We hope our tips for migrating to a new digital workplace platform help you avoid common pitfalls. Ultimately, you will be in a good place if you consider first how the digital workplace platform migration will impact your end users. People first. Technology second. We’re here if you need help.