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Collaboration Adoption: The Value of a Trusted Advisor

"Collaboration tools are a cost of doing business." This statement was made to me by the CFO of a 3-billion-dollar organization. When I asked about ROI (return on investment) or IRR (internal rate of return) as a justification for the tools, he was ambivalent because he trusted the executive team making the expenditure to do the required due diligence.

by Dan Stephens, Director, Customer Experience Services, Thursday, 1 Aug 2019

This exchange was odd to me until I sat down and put everyone’s job roles into perspective at that organization. ROI, IRR and LEI (leveraging existing investments) are all metrics that matter but they matter to the true client. Alan Weiss, PhD, in his many books on consulting methodology states that the buyer is the person who is authorized to stroke the check, (the CFO) but the client is the person or group whose condition, as consultants, we are meant to improve. When an organization invests in collaboration tools the business as a whole can be the client but for that to be a reality, understanding the business needs and proper adoption planning must be included.

Many organizations build technology solutions to enable the enterprise to conduct business with the expectation that the people will use the tools identified to make internal processes work. This approach fails to seek an understanding of how the existing processes work, the culture that the employees have developed around those processes and to understand which technology solution can best enable the business to accelerate toward those business outcomes.

Acknowledging the aforementioned problem, several collaboration vendors are investing heavily in the adoption message, but you may want to view that with a modicum of skepticism. Vendors want customers to adopt the features so that no lack of value is perceived when the time comes to renew license agreements. There is no judgment or condemnation in that statement, they are in business to make money but working with a trusted advisor or creating an internal Standard Operating Procedure for adoption might remove the pressure coming from those vendors.

Over the past 27 years of consulting in the technology space, my team and I have learned a few simple truths that can be applied across technologies but impact the users of Collaboration tools significantly. First to understand ROI, IRR or LEI as it relates to Collaboration tools you must view the process in the following order;

  1. People
  2. Process
  3. Technology

Unfortunately, most companies start by buying technology and then attempt to shoehorn the people and the processes into that technology. There exist a multitude of reasons for this particular sin, but let’s suffice it to say that it does not necessarily create the desired outcome.

Why do businesses buy collaboration tools and, for that matter, what are collaboration tools? The definition will vary but let’s settle on any application that is voice, video, messaging & presence, or collaboration application related. For example, a phone system, video conferencing, web conferencing, peer to peer messaging, group messaging or documentation sharing are all applications that would fit nicely into our definition of Collaboration tools. The reasons why businesses buy these tools are also varied. However, many times the operational team responsible for recommending a toolset is not properly educated on the business drivers creating the need. So, the criteria transform into technical drivers which is what the operational team is fluent in. This process can then lead to complaints about the new system or, even worse, apathy and avoidance of the new system.

Why is apathy worse? Complaints will often drive a conversation and course correction of the system deployed. Apathy and avoidance will cause the company to continue to waste money on a system and features that are not creating an IRR or ROI.

Note: Collaboration is the process of inserting the proper tools into the existing processes without disrupting the organizational culture.

How should this process change? Let’s go back to our People, Process then Technology conversation. People create a business driver or demand. Executive management would like to drive “Productivity Improvements” thereby “reducing mean time to decision” or “reducing absenteeism”. Maybe they would like to increase “Revenue Growth” by “bringing offerings or services to market faster”. These are examples of business drivers that, if understood, can then be tied into the workflow or process that people are already executing on.

The first step should be to Identify and document those key business drivers and goals. Next would be to iNspect and observe people to understand how they are already collaborating to execute a workflow or process. Then Correlate the collected data with the business goals and drivers to Introduce an Architecture and make product recommendations. With this information one can Tender a collaboration valuation. The final process would be to Enact a customer success program. My team calls this methodology Presidio INCITE.

At a large international media company, our team was asked to make a solution recommendation while also providing the details that lead to that recommendation. Utilizing the INCITE process we were able to obtain Executive sponsorship and conduct interviews with over ten business units to build a functional requirements document. Utilizing the functional requirements, knowledge gathered on existing investments, desired future state outcomes along with our industry knowledge and research we were able to provide a solution recommendation and five-year roadmap. Our team was also able to provide the customer with a findings document defining a solution recommendation based on the business drivers and KPIs they defined. The findings document also demonstrated the analysis of each solution and how it rated on a scale from 1-5 for functional requirements, financial requirements, operation requirements and future state requirements.

The ultimate value of this process is that the organization garnered a through comprehension of it’s business unit’s collaboration needs, the investments that have been made both by IT and the business units in collaboration tools and the ability to tie a solution investment plan to defined business outcomes. By engaging the business in the process, they created excitement, appreciation for outreach and conquered the apathy problem.

With a technical solution selected, we next had to turn our attention the preparation and planning for the customer’s successful adoption of that solution.

The customer success program, which we call Presidio EXCITE, creates a series of actionable plans to drive feature adoption based on the business drivers identified, internal marketing and communications plans, as well as training and end-user feedback plans. With the execution of Presidio EXCITE, key performance indicator metrics can be used to demonstrate ROI and LEI. For instance, an organization that has an Existing Investment of $1,000,000 in Collaboration tools but has recognized that only 50% of the people are using the tools currently is only showing $500,000 in Current Value(CV). That is a loss of $500,000 in value.

Existing Investment Spend (EIS) x Existing Adoption Metric (EAM) = Current value of spend (CVV)

(EIS) $1,000,000 x (EAM) 50% = (CV) $500,000

If we take that same Existing Investment and apply the Presidio EXCITE program to define an Expected Adoption Increase Metric (EAIM) of 20% then we can recapture a Hard Value Recovered (HVR) of $200,000.

Existing Investment Spend (EIS) x Expected Adoption Increase Metric (EAIM) = Hard value recovered (HVR)

(EIS) $1,000,000 x (EAIM) 20% = (HVR) $200,000

This method just describes the return on LEI (leveraging the existing investment), if you then add a productivity multiplier of, let’s say, 1.8 would show a ROI of $360,000. The productivity multiplier is unique to each organization and will vary based on how greatly the existing processes can be improved with the insertion of the proper Collaboration Technology.

Many business drivers are based in operational efficiency as opposed to straight cost justification as listed above. Take for instance an organization that always starts every meeting that includes some form a web content 5-10 minutes late because of different equipment in each room, different tools required for meetings with different business units or just simply a lack of training on the tools. That organization may want have Productivity Improvement by starting meetings on time. Using the information we learned during the interview process of the business units, we can help the customer modify training materials to include the problematic use cases, create small how to video’s and provide the feedback to IT for their assistance to standardize rooms.

In order to validate that the solution is meeting the customer’s needs, we can assist the customer with creating a success plan which identifies how each business driver can be measured and reported on. The success plan would also identify a schedule by which they should run those reports and validate that the solution is meeting the needs as identified by the business.

EXCITE provides the operational team with on-going feedback of the solution from the business and creates a dialog that does not always occur. The goal is to create a co-operative process between the business and the technical operations teams to meet and exceed their digital solution goals.

My team at Presidio has the experience, the methodology and the expertise to be your trusted advisory. We can execute Presidio INCITE or Presidio EXCITE to help you reassess or plan your current roadmap regardless of the collaboration tools you currently own. If you find that your organization is at a crossroad, needing to make a change or needing to determine to stay the course, Presidio is here to help.

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