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Why employees don't use collaboration tools

Paul Rubens | Jan. 3, 2017
Enterprises continue to roll out tools like Slack and Hipchat, but many struggle to get users to adopt them. Here's why.

"They will have had a simple user interface experience on the consumer side, so there is the expectation that this is how these tools should be," he explains. "Tools like Twitter are actually not simple, but they have a front end which is easy to use. Asking people to change is not easy, so you need to move to a tool that offers a similarly clean and smooth interface."

Unnecessary functionality

Another reason users prefer collaboration tools with simple interfaces is that many — probably most — users only do simple things with them, according to Alan Lepofsky,  a specialist collaboration tool analyst at Constellation Research. "People can jump into something like Slack, but when you show them what it can do only about 5 percent of people actually need or use that. If you put Slack into a typical sales and marketing department it will just be used like Skype but with the occasional smiley thrown in," he says.

Lepofsky adds that Facebook's Workplace has a huge advantage over other collaboration tools simply because most people are already familiar with the Facebook interface. For that reason, he believes that enterprises that implement Workplace will see above average adoption rates.

A simple or familiar user interface may be important to get people to try a new collaboration tool, but can it get them to stick with it?

Here companies face what Fauscette terms the "email overload problem version 2." Put simply, he says that many employees get bogged down under the weight of vast numbers of emails, and moving to a tool like Slack or Hipchat simply shifts the problem to a different platform. Instead of getting too many emails, employees risk getting too many notifications and messages.

Artificial intelligence to the rescue

One solution to this in the short term may be better education for new collaboration tool users, to ensure that they know how to filter notifications and separate activities into channels so they don't get swamped.

In the longer term this may not be necessary thanks to the increased use of artificial intelligence (AI) to help filter what an employee needs to see immediately from the general noise that collaboration tools can generate, Fauscette believes.  "If I can teach a machine what I am interested in in various contexts then it can filter information for me," he says. "AI is great for filtering and I think that this is the way that things will have to go."

Fauscette adds that another reason some users may not stick with a company's chosen tool is that its functionality may be weak in an area that they use frequently.  "We can end up with a Slack-centric company, and employees are expected to use it for all the things that it is good for, and for all the things that it is not so good for," he says.  The result can be that some users select and use other tools more suited to their needs — often without the knowledge or approval of the IT department.


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