5 Best Practices for Onboarding a New Collaboration Tool

Corporate America is becoming more and more digitally-based, with some companies even opting for paperless procedures. Not as many face-to-face meetings are necessary, and the ability to work remotely is making our world smaller, providing opportunities for more collaboration than ever before. Projects can be collaboratively managed in one hub location. Managing communication and projects centrally allows for greater transparency and more accountability.

Why implement a collaborative management platform?

  • Collaborative platforms allow teams who work remotely to communicate and share information on a time-convenient basis, rather than needing to coordinate across time zones.
  • Using tech tools to collaborate provides opportunities for uninterrupted productivity. (“uninterrupted blocks of time” was the number one solution to improving productivity as identified by 202 marketers in a recent survey.)
  • Using a project management tool online makes all communication and work 100% traceable, searchable, and accountable. Transparency and accountability will improve any situation where teamwork is needed.
  • Documents and other files can be uploaded, attached, and are easily accessed by all users.

Collaborative communication that is time-convenient rather than time-dependent is more important now than ever. Technology is such that many teams work remotely-only. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: “On the days they worked in 2015, 38 percent of people in management, business, and financial operations and 35 percent of people in professional and related occupations did some or all of their work from home.”

It is said by 53% of marketers that “most workers will be remote in a few years.” Does this seem surprising to you? Clear communication and effective project collaboration are important for any organization, but they are absolutely vital for teams that work 100% remotely.

The way we do business has changed dramatically in recent years and it will continue evolving in the future to include a greater need for improved collaboration with project management. When you onboard a new tool for collaboration it’s important to do so in an efficient and well-informed manner. Keep the following best practices in mind when searching for and adopting your new tool:

1. Choosing a New Collaborative Tool

Evaluate operational processes within your organization and identify the specific areas where improvement is needed. Be sure that if you’re going to make the time investment of training all employees to use new software, that it will resolve important issues, increase productivity, and have a positive effect on company culture.

Your new tool should do away with fragmented communication. All aspects of project management should be accessible from the platform rather than continuing to rely on outside messaging, email, and shared documents. Tasks and accountability should be tracked easily in a visible space with time tracking and calendaring with due dates.

A tool that incorporates both collaborative communication and project management in one location will yield the best results.

2. Executive Team Approval/Investment

All members of the executive team need to be on the same page with onboarding the new tool. There will be hesitation with adopting the new collaborative tool within your organization. Change is disruptive and difficult, and it’s easier to be critical and find fault with a new procedure. If there isn’t 100% buy-in within the executive committee, it will hinder the success of the onboarding process. Full ownership of the new tool requires being open to change and understanding the time invested in the upcoming training period will yield positive results for the business as a whole.

A team is only as strong as its weakest link. Everyone needs to work toward understanding the vision of why change is necessary, and find their own motivation to accept the new solution. Individuals in positions of authority need to lead by example for the greatest success in the process of learning and adopting the new tool.

On the subject of platform adoption Chris Savoie said, “After evaluating the experience of hundreds of customers, a compelling trend emerged: if a company surpassed 75% solution adoption, they reach their business objectives 95% of the time. You could not say the same if adoption rates were 50% or less.”

3. Analyze and Identify Existing Workflow Obstacles

Analyze operational procedures to learn what weaknesses exist within different departments that may be hindering productivity and collaboration. You need to identify how processes are being affected before attempting to solve the problem. Ask yourself (and possibly others) these questions before introducing a new tool:

  • Are all team members clear on company-wide roles and responsibilities? Without this clarity, individuals won’t know who to turn to for the best workflow.
  • Is there someone who withholds information in an effort to usurp authority?
  • Is work distributed evenly among employees so as not to overwhelm them to the point they feel collaboration is not possible?
  • Are there issues of trust and loyalty with employees that are obstructing efficient workflow.

Address any major problems within departments before attempting to introduce a new collaborative tool. If introduced too soon, confusion will increase existing issues.

4. Be Patient

The process of analyzing your organization for areas where collaboration needs improvement, researching project management software options, selecting one, and implementing the new program takes time. Have realistic expectations with the adoption of the new tool. Expect that there will be bumps in the road. When those hurdles come, simply move forward. Don’t look at them as setbacks.

Realize that not every aspect of the new tool may be a perfect fit for your operations. Most project management software companies are backed with support teams that can help you customize their tool and effectively train your team. Chances are that their experts have assisted other organizations like yours in the adoption process. Take advantage of their expertise.

Employees will need training and time while adopting the new tool. Be patient in the process and be sure it isn’t too overwhelming. Set a deadline to have everyone fully integrated into the new system. Team leaders should be responsible for making sure everyone understands how to use the new tool and their role in it.

Erin Frey, Creative Director at House of Blues, had this to say about the conversation she had with their consultant, “The minute our Workfront consultant arrived, [he] asked me questions about our workflow. He didn’t just figure out how things would work in Workfront, but figured out if we were using the most efficient workflow, period.” Don’t underestimate the benefit a consultant can bring to the table.

5. Transition the Current Tool Out

Keep your current project management method while working through the process of onboarding the new tool—for now. You don’t want to cut everyone off from the old platform too soon. It will take time to transition all of the information from the old tool to the new one.

As a manager or team lead, you may have individuals who all prefer to use different tools, and you’re left to copy the information from all those different sources every day. This is a difficult and confusing way to conduct business. You could require that all new communication and work be organized in the new platform while transitioning old information out of the previously used platform. Make expectations clear so the old system isn’t used as a comfortable fallback.

Business strategy expert Jay Baer advises that organizations hold onto their old system for at least 60 days. He says, “The reality is that no software is going to be as easy to use and as painless to adopt as it seemed in the demo. Real people ask all kinds of questions—and do all kinds of questionably intelligent things—that they forget to ask or do in the software review and consideration process. … you cannot ‘cut the cord’ until you have at least two, and optimally, all three, of the most important features fully launched and in use in your organization.”

Improved Collaboration: Worth the Investment

There will be bumps in the road through the process of adopting your new project management tool. It will take time for everyone to learn the new software and fully integrate it into daily procedural operations. Take the time to properly analyze your organization to learn how a new collaborative platform can most efficiently benefit your vision and goals. The investment will be worth it.

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