Investment in new communication and collaboration tools is on the rise, but companies still need to make more effort to train and guide their employees not only in how but when to use them.
Organisations too often forget the human factor when they implement ‘Unified Communication and Collaboration’ (UC&C) tools. This is the finding of a study* into the increasing number of UC&C tools being used as part of company strategies, carried out by independent ICT analyst organisation Ovum on behalf of Johannesburg-based Dimension Data, a global supplier of ICT services and solutions. IT sector decision-makers responding to the survey predict investment worth a total of $53 million in developing these tools over the next two years, but, says the report, “the challenge now is to ensure that these tools are properly exploited to deliver the best possible outcomes for the organisation.” This expenditure may bring dubious returns if employees fail to make optimal use of the tools, or are reluctant to adopt them through lack of basic understanding of what they can do.
Educating employees to use the tools
The Ovum researchers found that companies were putting virtually all their investment into supplying and installing the new tools, but failing to train employees in how to use them. Dimension Data reports that “only afterwards do they realise their investment isn’t showing the returns they envisioned.” The study points out that these tools do not necessarily replace the old ones; they are complementary, or “additive” as the authors describe it. For example, when companies introduced instant messaging with a view to improving internal communication, they did not shut down their email systems. Rather, employees were given more choice of ways to communicate. Similarly for other UC&C tools, the report stresses that without sufficient training and guidance, “less adventurous employees are likely to continue using the methods that worked for them in the past.”
Identifying change drivers within the organisation
It’s not enough to know how to use these new tools. Given that they offer multiple methods for achieving the same result, it’s also important to understand the circumstances for which each tool is best suited and establish a company “etiquette” for their use. The study argues that successful adoption of UC&C tools demands a cultural change within the organisation, based on three ‘cornerstones’: technology, people and process. To speed the integration of the technology into the firm’s working processes, expert users – or ‘super users’ – should be appointed within each department, who will help drive rollout and adoption. Among the IT decision-makers responding to the survey who have made major UC&C investments in the last two years, 61% cited results in terms of measurable savings and greater employee productivity. This sends a strong message to those organisations which have not yet taken on board the fact that Unified Communications and Collaboration have the potential to be a strategic business weapon.
*’Putting the ‘You’ in Communications and Collaboration’: Dimension Data's 2013 Global UC&C