One of the first questions we hear from a new customer is, “What have you seen at your other clients?” When it comes to a digital transformation, collaboration, internal communications, or community projects, the answer is usually – “everything.” In today’s post about the “Which Tool When” guide process, the third in a series from Talk Social to Me, we’re sharing our experiences and learnings from actual client projects to help you navigate your own processes and decisions. Some of what we’ve seen is eye-opening (or eye-rolling in a few cases). This post is geared toward Internal Communicators as well as pros in Change Management, Digital Workplace leaders, and leaders across functions who have the responsibility to weigh in on important tool choice decisions – even when you might think that it’s IT in the driver’s seat.
On Choosing a Tool – Making Choices
A new tool isn’t always the answer.
We often see Internal Communications in particular seeking a new social or mobile app to improve communications. But throwing another bespoke tool into your busy employees’ daily lives can be an expensive and exhausting waste of time. We recently had a customer walk away from their relatively new mobile-first news app because a Sharepoint-plus-email/newsletter solution was actually enough (and free) to meet their needs. The lesson? Investigate if your current toolset can solve your needs first, and don’t let perfect be the enemy of the good.
Vendor bake-offs are a rigged recipe for disaster.
If you’re in Internal Comms or a Digital Workplace group, make sure you’re given the chance to audit the IT-crafted feature “bake off” comparison used to evaluate which vendors should get the job. We recently worked with a customer whose IT team was evaluating video, chat, and collaboration platforms. Instead of looking at each tool holistically, the evaluation artificially chopped up video conferencing and collaboration into two buckets, failing to account that some tools, like Microsoft Teams, integrates both seamlessly. The clear goal by doing it this way was to bring in two separate, single-point solutions that were preferred by IT. Business units should get involved up front, before a vendor is chosen based on unrealistic criteria.
Board Room Decisions Often Win
Your company’s global strategies and relationships dictate digital workplace choices.
It doesn’t matter how reliant your Sales team may be on their Outlook inboxes, or how in love your technical teams are with G Suite. When choosing a foundational collaboration platform, your company has to consider the macro trends that affect the business. We’ve seen a customer go all-in on G Suite because of future competition with Microsoft. We’ve seen another customer choose document storage solutions strictly based on a board of directors-level relationship. This one is out of your hands, and you have to play the cards dealt.
Executives get starry-eyed for features that dazzle.
Emojis flying across the screen during a live stream should not be the deciding factor in choosing a particular enterprise social network, nor should other vanity features that tend to “wow” senior executives. Some vendors are better than others at convincing the CEO, CIO or CHRO that their solution is the “only way” they can change company culture. But we all know this isn’t true. We urge business leaders to tame the expectations of senior leaders who are given fancy presentations and sold on transformation via technology. The result is often a disjointed mess of chat, collaboration, and communication tools that no end user finds appealing or effective.
Let’s Talk it Out – Listen, Learn and Cooperate
Internal Communications should be included in ‘Which Tool When’ communications.
While IT may own the tools, it’s more efficient and user-friendly to include professional communicators who have an eye for how the many audiences communicate and learn. We encourage a strong partnership, and definitely not a rivalry, when it comes to sharing “Which Tool When” guidance.
Use your Champions.
Both during guidance development and during its rollout, your Champions are the voice of your employees. If you have an established group of Champions – great! Bring them in early and get their feedback. If you don’t, take the time to find them (20-30 will do, depending on your company’s size) and ask for their invaluable feedback. They’ll be able to not only share what they know from the field to HQ, but they can also help evangelize the new guidance when it comes time to share.
Simplicity is Super
Catchy jargon is not your “Which Tool When” friend.
What is my outer loop? Why are you calling me an end-user? Everyday employees aren’t used to the jargon that collaboration pros tend to use every day. Too often, “Which Tool When” guide advice is rooted in tech-speak and complicated if-then statements. Example: “Use the chat app for immediate inner-loop conversations, but only if there are three or fewer participants, and in that case, use the enterprise social network and @mention everyone to trigger notifications.” Employees want guidance, not confusion, and we recommend using the most simple language and rationale possible to help guide their behaviors.
Get modern with your training.
Fifty-page “quick start guides” just won’t cut it when you’re trying to help employees use the tools you’ve guided them toward. And, typically, vendor-provided content like videos and user guides fall into the jargon trap. Think about modern methods of training that cater to a variety of learner types – whether they’re more visual or audio-oriented, and their day-to-day roles. People will be more likely to consume short, interesting and visual content that is rooted in business outcomes.
“Better together” is not a viable strategy.
As software vendors battle for market share, they’re promising that really, pinky swear, you can combine tools like Workplace from Facebook + Teams or Slack, or maybe Teams + Zoom. While in theory, each of these tools does solve a different problem (community vs. collaboration vs. videoconferencing), in reality, your employees do not have the time or desire to context-switch and jump between unrelated platforms. We urge companies to avoid launching competing platforms with similar functionality, as adoption will suffer immensely and information silos will sprout quickly. We’re already seeing companies who took this approach trying to walk back the decision and remove one of the duplicative tools, resulting in frustrated employees and lots of lost data.
We hope that these insights from our many customers navigating their own “Which Tool When” guide journeys are helpful. If anything, we hope companies will see themselves as they reflect on their own processes, and make small tweaks to optimize for success. We’re here for you if you come up against any roadblocks. Contact us.