By: David Norfolk, Practice Leader - Development, Bloor Research
Published: 25th April 2013
Copyright Bloor Research © 2013
The trouble with collaboration software is that it is really hard to assess without using it in a real community - with real pain points that collaboration can help with. However, a good demo can give you a feel for a product and the attitude of those developing it - which is why this is about 'impressions of Huddle', based on talking with Chris Boorman (Huddle's CMO), James Pipe (one of its product managers, focused on mobile and desktop) and Jonathan Howell (its CTO) and not a review.
My meeting confirmed my original impression that Huddle was very much targeting the Enterprise (i.e., collaboration at scale) - although its approach is to start small, with experienced mentors, and grow on the basis of demonstrable success. I think this is an excellent approach, especially as there seem to be a lot of anecdotal reports around the failure of collaboration initiatives, so you need to achieve confidence and buy-in at the grass-roots level, as well as convincing top management. Personally, although there are real differences in collaboration software, I don't believe that failure is usually due to problems with the software tools (at least, as a primary effect). Building a collaborative culture implies changing company culture and, possibly, treading on the toes of vested interests who may have engineered personal power out of exploiting silos and distrust. I suspect that many failures are due to lack of investment in managing cultural change; mismanaged politics; and the belief that buying and installing the right collaboration tool is all you need to worry about in order to achieve a collaboration culture. In other words, I think that a company that fails to install and get benefit from, say, SharePoint may well also fail with Huddle - for similar reasons - unless it learns from the previous failure and changes its approach.
Which leads me to possible pain points that Huddle might encounter. After a lack of maturity in its customers, and the consequent political and people issues (which its 'start small and grow with success' approach may well be addressing), I think that the difficulty in measuring success could be a real issue. Companies like to look at ROI, but Roger Whitehead (with a great deal of experience in this area) has commented that concentration on ROI too early can stifle a collaboration culture. So, given that good management includes tracking and managing investment in collaboration, what is 'success'? You can measure collaboration using surveys, but collaboration is not really an end in itself: it should deliver business outcomes. But one can fail to achieve these for other reasons besides poor collaboration; and if one does succeed (in business and monetary terms) after a collaboration initiative, how much of this can be allocated to the collaboration initiative and how much to the workers who were able to exploit what collaboration made possible? At the beginning, morale; use of collaboration software; and so on is probably a good-enough metric; but, longer time, I'd expect (on average) that firms with an effective collaboration culture would succeed in business more than other firms - but that might be hard to measure.
Personally, I've suggested that Huddle sets up an externally-facing Analyst community in Huddle, to communicate with us all. The analyst community has sufficient egos and politics to make this a useful proof of concept for us, I'd think.
Posted: 25th April 2013 | By Bill Porter :
On the question of understanding the measures ofsuccess in social collaboration, you might like to read my colleague Richard Hughes' post "10 things you should measure during your enterprise social network adoption" - http://www.broadvision.com/blog/blog/2012/07/25/10-things-you-should-measure-during-your-enterprise-social-network-adoption/. As he says "With so many companies exploring the idea of implementing a social network within their organisation to connect their employees better, it's perhaps surprising to find that many of them fail to measure the success of the adoption scientifically. Instead, they rely on subjective measures like 'is it working?' and 'do we feel better connected?'. These emotional measures are useful and interesting, but they need to be backed up with hard numbers if you are to measure success accurately."
Posted: 26th April 2013 | By David Norfolk :
Thanks, that is very interesting, I'll read it again and perhaps blog on it.
I think subjective measures are important, especially in the early stages, but agree absolutely that something more quantitative is needed. My only concern (which is merely an "implementation issue") is that people can "game the numbers" and that too much emphasis on quantitative measures early on might discourage "gelling". But, that doesn't mean that you shouldn't measure scientifically.
Posted: 29th April 2013 | By John Glover :
this is a very good article and you are correct in your assessment that culture change is key to effective collaboration. From 10 years+ of experience in this sector I would also agree with the THINK BIG, start small approach. This allows organisations to identify what works for them. You are also correct in the need to focus on outcomes, not collaboration. This was one of the main reasons we move our collaboration software away from a 'one size fits all' user interface to one that users configure to provide context and purpose so that their collaborators understand why they are involved and what is required of them. This ability to customise the application of collaboration tools also empowers users to innovate which helps to drives up ownership and adoption rates and releases staff HR capital. You might be interested in this related article: http://in.kahootz.com/blog/bid/246195/The-Cloud-Ideal-for-Innovators
Regarding cultural change, we have clients such as the RICS who started with only 50 users and now have over 15,000 internationally. Initially, they had to fight with many 'old club tie' attitudes that resisted the move from face-to-face meetings and distribution of meeting notes and papers in hard copy. See case study: http://www.inovem.com/CaseStudies/INOVEM-RICS-case-study.pdf
Posted: 29th April 2013 | By David Norfolk :
Yes, some interesting links there. I do think that allowing users to customise a collaboration interface has some subtle benefits - it turns collaboration from "something that is done to you" to "something I do to myself" - and people hate being made to do something, even (or especially) if it is for their own good!
Are you interested in briefing Bloor - at https://www.bloorresearch.com/briefing.html
Posted: 29th April 2013 | By John Glover :
So are you ready to engage and work with your stakeholders?
For each online workspace/community create a simple checklist:
What are your chief goals/objectives?
Have you explained these to your stakeholders?
Do they understand how their contributions will be valued?
2. Scope- (membership)
Who needs to be involved beyond the 'famous few'?
Will the membership you have created help to achieve your goals?
Do you need to segment further into sub-group teams?
Who will manage and facilitate the stakeholder community/workspace?
How empowered will your stakeholders be to add/modify content?
Will you need to moderate discussions/feedback?
What mix of collaboration, consultation and information tools might you need to use?
At what point in support of your project would it be appropriate to introduce each tool?
How will you stimulate contributions and reward participation?
a. No purpose - your stakeholders will quickly become disillusioned and confused as to what their role is
b. Wrong scope - some stakeholders may feel they are missing out, where others may un-subscribe themselves if bombarded with irrelevant information
c. Poor governance - chaos is likely and the group may die or take-off in directions that will not help you to collectively achieve your purpose.
d. Inappropriate activity - the tools are only there to help you collaborate, consult and inform and achieve your goals. Don't use them because they look cool. Keep it Real!
Posted: 29th April 2013 | By David Norfolk :
That all sounds pretty good to me - especially starting with some real goals.
Just one thing, I'd handle "inappropriate activity" with a very light touch. If people are communicating/collaborating, I'm not sure that forcing them to stick to company business is always very productive. IME most people want to do a good job - if their company lets them
Posted: 30th April 2013 | By John Glover :
your approach is fine. Most of our clients use Kahootz to work with stakeholders who by definition work 'with you' and not 'for you'. As such, sometimes a light touch governance policy is all you need especially if you are looking for innovation and not process control. We would normally expect a user organisation to utilise cloud collaboration to support a wide range of activities, everything from project management to online special interest groups, the latter can be used to build clusters of expertise that can be become a useful business resource although they are quite often informal in nature.
Stakeholder definition: "A person such as an employee, customer or citizen who is involved with an organisation, society, etc. and therefore has responsibilities towards it and an interest in its success."
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