Top 10 success factors for virtual collaborative project implementation

I've just read a very interesting piece by Gartner analyst Tom Austin.  He's been on the road, travelling worldwide, examining how businesses successfully (or not) deploy new web-based, social and collaborative practices and technologies.   


The 10 key success factors he has outlined include:

1. If you haven’t defined what constitutes success (and what constitutes failure), how do you know how you’re doing? Stop using vacuous terms like “collaboration” (which means everything to everyone and nothing specific), instead substitute behaviorally-related objectives (project completion rates, time to decision, community vitality). A majority of IT organizations fail on this criteria.

2. Get prior agreement with the business on success/failure criteria. A majority of IT organizations fail to do this.

3. The future is here now — potentiate it. Study existing work patterns and add value selectively. Make the best cases more successful. The worst cases will follow on later.

4. Ignore siren call of infrastructure merchants. Broadscale rollout establishes the wrong pattern and wrong expectations. See rule 3.

5. Culture: Evaluate the culture(s) in your organization and work within your cultural constraints.

6. Volitional: All of these approaches  are “volitional”. Andy Grove was right when he said the new has to be 10X better to displace the old.

7. Not everyone is an expert! Target based on key skill profiles. Maybe you should target task workers or junior practitioners and not build for experts.

8. Interenterprise is a key part of critical ad-hoc projects where collaboration and social are key. Users will go outside if you make it difficult.

9. Less is more. Minimalism is to be revered.

10.   Be organizationally inclusive at start (legal, ops, security, etc)

From my previous experience, I've got to say he's hit the nail on the head on every point. 

A Shared Vision

It's essential that everyone is clear and in agreement about the project's objectives from the start.  It's also imperative that the whole business buys into these objectives.   Too often, new technologies and processes are implemented without clear explanation as to the business objectives they are designed to support.  

Get Specific With Metrics for Success/Failure

I'd also say the metrics that measure success need to be bite sized and sensibly phased.  It helps if deadline dates are specific, rather than Quarter 1 or Summer 2011.  This keeps the delivery impetus sharp and makes projects less inclined to scope creep.

Look For Quick Wins and Shortest Project Cycles

Starting with the quick wins is a great way to get everyone on side.  Then focus on the points of greatest pain with existing processes.  Where possible, break every project down to its smallest constituents.  The shorter each project cycle, the more likely it is to succeed.  Using this Agile, iterative project management approach is proving much more appropriate in these days of constant change.

Activate The Feedback Loop Early On

It's sobering to remember that many people will avoid change, unless they clearly see how their pain is going to be cured with this new approach.  And if it solves the pain, but creates a nasty time-consuming side effect, your new 'improved' process could be dead in the water from week one.  It's got to be obvious and easy-to-use from the start, so using the lowest-grade people effected as your user-benchmark is a very helpful piece of advice.  Get their involvement at scope, development and test phase to make sure you've covered all the issues before deployment.

A Supporting Culture Is Key

Needless to say, organization culture plays a huge role within the successful deployment of new technologies and practices, especially when we ask people to collaborate online in new and unfamiliar ways.  This process has to be supported with training and guidelines.  Additionally, departmental advocates can also be sought out and nurtured within your organisation.   They in turn can help encourage their more reticent co-workers to get over any initial wariness of the new.  

Greater transparency and engagement also requires support and leadership from the top.  If the 'let's all collaborate' line sounds like empty management rhetoric to the shop floor,  you may encounter cynicism about new projects, even if there is genuine value on offer.   For ultimate success, the soft people issues need to be looked at squarely and managed alongside deployment.  Getting genuine advocacy and sponsorship from the company's leadership can give the project a huge positive boost.

Be Inclusive

An engaged workforce is more inclined to be collaborative, but true engagement will only come with involvement from all departments and levels in the early stages.  And as Austin mentions, that should include people who represent every corner of the company from the point where the project is scoped.


To find more about successfully deploying virtual collaborative technologies within your organisation, contact Susanne Currid for a free 'no-obligation' chat about your requirements.

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