Getting People to Use Collaborative Tools

The Web 2.0 session was postponed until tomorrow, so I went to a session called "Collaborative Workspaces: Making the Transition." The panel was moderated by Jessica Lipnack, CEO & Co-founder, NetAge Inc. Other panel members were Tor Eneroth, Culture Manager, Volvo IT; Mike Wing, VP, Strategic Communications, IBM; and David Wires, Partner, Wires Jolley LLP.

Tor Enerath led out talking about helping people change. He described the problem as being a disconnect between people's objective and subjective thinking. We spend 80% of our time focused on the objective side, but 80% of our problems are subjective. Before you see a behavioral change, you need to change attitudes and beliefs. Rather than throwing tools at people, you need to start with the people. Top management's behavior is the hardest to change because they have strong mental models of what's worked in the past.

Next up was Mike Weng. IBM has been making a shift over the years toward less centrally controlled environments. IBMers rate the internal intranet as a source of trusted information equal to managers and co-workers. This is unheard of in corporate communications. Even when it's painful, you have to make information available to employees.

Mike talked about when IBM was on the ropes and they started putting financial figures out to employees. There were many divisions that didn't like "their people" having access to that information. Intranets and other information sources can disintermediate managers and keep them from hoarding information or using it to their own advantage.

David Wires is a practicing trial lawyer. When he started his clients, witnesses, and other interactions were all within a few miles. Now, they are around the entire world. Lawyers are reluctantly transitioning from quill pens. They consider email to be on the "cutting edge." Collaborative technologies have to work the first time and be invisible.

Wires is speaking of case information sites specifically, but the advise is good for anyone building sites they want people to come back to: Don't will your Web site with junk. Archive old information. Put current information on it. Update it daily. Otherwise, people won't come.

Wires says the when you shift the information flows, you're also changing the power and authority structures. That will create a lot of pushback from people who are losing in the power shift. This goes back to Wing's comments on disintermediating middle management.