Why people are more important than technology

If you've ever been on a corporate team tasked with the implementation of an internal collaboration tool, you're probably still frustrated by the outcome.  You know the one.  The "once we build it they will come" pitfall. Everyone thought it would work beautifully (except maybe your marketing department, though they should have known better) but it didn't.

Why not?

You checked off all the customary major milestones before launch:

  • Consult with absolutely every stakeholder within the institution regardless of their ability to contribute value to the process? Check.
  • Select really expensive corporate tool so if things go wrong collective butts are covered? Check.
  • Focus on features exclusively?  Check.
  • Establish taxonomy by committee?  Check.
  • Force users to visit tool first thing, upon every login, whether they like it or not? Check.

So what went wrong?

Nobody thought to stop and think (or more importantly focus on) the user.  Audience analysis and engagement should be the cornerstone of the implementation of every internal collaboration tool (and most other things) a la:  Who are they? How will they use the tool? Why should they care (aka how will it make their day easier, their work better, their relationships stronger?)

It's in the approach.  When making decisions about critical collaboration tools, talk to those who have something to say, rather than those who feel they need to say something.  Ask pointed questions about the user experience rather than the types of transactions they need to make.

If you find yourself organizing around the technology, start over.  Your people will always be more important than the product you use to connect them.