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Why Successful Collaboration Demands an Excellent User Experience

For communication tools to add value to organizations, users must adopt them.


When I speak about collaboration solutions at conferences, I often bring a 1960s-era rotary phone with me and ask the audience what words the object brings to mind.

Typically, the first phrases that people shout out are things like “outdated” or “old-school.” But then, almost always, someone says “reliable.”

Technology has obviously made enormous strides over the past five decades. Today’s collaboration tools still connect people via voice, but they also incorporate high-definition video, conference lines, chat and screen-sharing, among other features that could only have been dreamed of even in the relatively recent past.

But here’s a question that doesn’t get asked enough: Are these solutions as simple, user-friendly and reliable as that 1960s phone? At too many organizations, the answer is no.

The Challenge of Simplicity

When I’m consulting with an organization, it’s not unusual that I’ll find less than half of its employees know how to use the enterprise video conferencing system. Often, a laminated sheet of instructions is taped next to the technology, and users are left to figure out often-cumbersome processes by themselves. In more than one instance, I’ve discovered that these instructions don’t even work with the way the technology has been configured. As a result, it’s common for users at these organizations to give up and simply make calls on their personal phones.

Here’s how collaboration solutions should work: You walk in the door, and the video system recognizes you instantly. Instead of going through a complicated dial-in process, you are able to join a meeting with the push of a single button. When someone dials your office phone, the call also rings on your smartphone, appearing as a native call and showing up in the phone’s history. If you pick up a call on your desk phone and then need to run to a meeting, you can instantly transfer the call to your smartphone.

The technology already exists to enable this sort of seamless functionality. But compared to many actual deployments, these scenarios sound almost futuristic or fantastical. According to Forrester, only 25 percent of information workers say that their company provides the tools they need to collaborate successfully.

Technology is only one piece of the puzzle. While much of the desired functionality can be achieved through steps such as integrating collaboration tools with application program interfaces on a user’s device, training that person is also essential. Too often, enterprises make large investments in collaboration tools, but then fail to show users how the tools work or identify ambassadors who can support adoption.

When implemented correctly, collaboration tools can greatly improve the user experience. They allow people forget about the technology divide and get work done effortlessly.

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