The Impact of a ‘Which Tool When’ Guide

Welcome to #WhichToolWhen, a series for IT and Communication leaders partnering to build a simple and informative “Which Tool When” guide. The goal for this series is to help you reduce the choice burden on users, steer your employees in the same direction and drive collaborative behaviors.

Meet Jen Keyerleber, one of Talk Social to Me’s collaboration and community strategists. She provides coaching and support in community management practices for various technology solutions. Jen believes in the importance of translating tech-speak to non-tech audiences.

Find out her perspective on building an effective “Which Tool When” guide in our latest #WhichToolWhen interview.


What does it look like at organizations without a “Which Tool When” guide?

Imagine you’re working on a project with a few colleagues. You are using Microsoft Teams, for example, to collaborate on documents and keep track of deadlines and milestones. A few of your colleagues prefer email so they send new versions of multiple documents via email as attachments. One colleague sends you a link to a file from Dropbox because that is where they typically store their documents. Another colleague sends you a Slack message to discuss the project because they are accustomed to using Slack for chat. A different colleague sets up a Zoom meeting to discuss a recent project change that they documented in a Google Doc. (These examples could go on and on.) 

Do employees actually want a “Which Tool When” guide? 

Yes. Believe it or not, employees want you to provide structure around the technology they use at work. If you are anything like me, you sometimes sit at your computer and daydream (after perhaps dropping a few curse words of frustration) about what it would be like if everyone had the same directives on which tools to use at your company, and which tools should not be used because they are not supported or secure. I’ve conducted many discovery interviews with employees at a variety of companies across many industries and often their frustrations are the same and their request is simple. They want to be told which tools to use and when and how. That’s it. Sounds simple, doesn’t it?

But it’s not simple… or is it? 

It can be, but as humans, we tend to make things complicated. Our (U.S.) culture promotes options and freedom and those things are both wonderful; in fact, they are two of my favorite things. But our culture also promotes working quickly and multi-tasking (two of my least favorite things but that is whole other conversation. Ha!) You cannot provide your employees with freedom to choose whichever technology tools they want to use because they will not be able to work quickly and certainly not efficiently (please read the first paragraph again if needed). If they worked alone, sure, that would be a successful approach. But in a global enterprise, this is not an ideal or effective working environment. Technology at work should not be a freedom.

How do you strike that balance between freedoms and restrictions at work?

Options and freedoms can be addressed in so many other ways that allow employees to be unique and human at work – like the option to work from home, have a flexible schedule, and personalize your work space. It’s also good to have an informal place to connect and network with colleagues about things they care about (which may include non-work-related topics). Technology should not be one of those freedoms, and this includes your BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) policy. BYOD policies can and should have parameters too – which devices do you support, which ones do you not support, etc.

How do you create a simple technology structure for employees to follow?

It comes down to three primary factors:

  1. IT selecting a modern, mobile-first, and integrated toolset
  2. A unified leadership message announcing the company’s strategy and setting the example
  3. Internal communications and HR leading the charge

What is an example of a “good” Which Tool When guide?

If your organization is a Microsoft shop, you have a lot of tools at your disposal under the Microsoft 365 umbrella. As an employee, I do not need a structure that shows me every single one of these tools and how and when I should use each of them. I do need to know about the primary tools I use and encounter daily. Here is a simple example of how to promote your technology structure to employees (it is a great onboarding tool too):

Click image to enlarge or download PDF.

What kind of impact have you seen from “Which Tool When” guides?

Once your technology strategy is circulated by the leadership team, enforced by the IT team, and exclusively used by the internal communications and HR teams, most employees will let out a sigh of relief to have a consistent, agreed-upon structure to follow. Even employees who do not agree with your choices to use certain tools will eventually come around. During my discovery interviews, I have heard people say so many times, “I don’t care what tools we use; I just want someone to make a decision and stick with it.” And if an employee cannot learn to adapt to the new structure, they may leave. But at least you will have access to all the knowledge they created and shared in one place, on company-secured tools and systems after they have left.

It’s not easy being a global company – data security is complex and risky, the war on talent is real, international employment laws are complicated and disparate across borders, and a diverse employee pool can be difficult to please and inspire. You cannot make everyone happy; it is not possible. But when it comes to technology, modern tools, structure, and consistency will make the majority of your employees more efficient, effective, and, most importantly, happy.

TSTM is here to help if you need help determining which tools to use for your internal communications, collaboration, and community use cases, or if you need help building a Which Tool When resource for your company. Contact us


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