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Enterprise Collaboration Strategy – 15 Key Steps for Successful Implementation

    Key Strategy Steps & Activities for a successful implementation of “Enterprise Collaboration”  platform. These are based on my implementation experience (including lessons learned), reading best practices & articles and listening to other implementers/peers/experts in this space.

Implementing an Enterprise Collaboration platform is different from other projects. This is more of a business project (not a technology project) as it touches all aspects of the business and processes. I recently did a presentation on my “Enterprise Collaboration & Innovation platform” journey at Enterprise 2.0 and CIO: IT Leadership Conferences(Enterprise 2.0 Presentation Link, IT Leadership Strategies Presentation Link)

Well before I list the steps….we need to standardize on the name for this platform (I will leave this to the industry veterans and experts). These are the names I have come across so far – Enterprise 2.0, Enterprise Collaboration, Enterprise Social Collaboration, Social Intranet, Social Enterprise, Social Business, Social Networking for Business.

For this blog, I will use the term “Enterprise Collaboration”. (Under the assumption that you can Collaborate if you are Social). By the way, I am very passionate about this area so some of the steps will be in detail).

Thanks to all who have provided feedback and comments on the steps/activities. I have taken all your input and updated this post. This is one more example of “real-time collaborating” that provides value to me and to all who are interested in this subject. We can/could get the same benefits and value within the enterprise – Share, learn, connect and network (:-


STEP 1: Assessment – Understand the Current Environment/Readiness

  • Assess the leadership support and paradigm. What type of support exists from the leadership team to have an open and transparent collaboration platform in the organization?
  • Conduct surveys, interviews and focus group sessions with stakeholders to understand the challenges and issues they are currently facing, communication and collaboration issues, work flow issues, project delays etc.
  • Assess awareness of social media environment – Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn etc.
  • Assess readiness of enterprise collaboration in the organization.
  • How is the job getting done? Projects, day-to-day tasks, communication etc.
  • How is the content created, updated, managed and shared? How is the content consumed?
  • What type of relationships exists?
  • Is there an overload or lack of communication? How is communication consumed and shared?
  • What are the current tools and modes of communication & collaboration? How is it used? Is it productive? Does it overlap?
  • What are other peer industries doing in this space? What’s the collaboration benchmark? This assessment will be helpful to know your current state and measure the progress over time.

STEP 2: Develop a compelling Strategy

  • What’s the vision? Where do we want to go? Why do we want to go there?
  • How does it align with the organization’s strategy, goals, objectives & values?

STEP 3: Develop a strong Business Case

  • What do you want to accomplish?
  • Key Objectives? In terms of Innovation, Idea generation, Collaboration, Communication, Excellence, Learning & Support, Competitive advantage etc
  • How does it align to the strategy?
  • What are the key drivers?
  • Why now? How does having an enterprise collaboration platform help being a “True” & “Efficient” Social Enterprise and compliment traditional/offline collaboration methods?
  • How is this different from Knowledge management tools?
  • Who will benefit? Key stakeholders? Internal (employees), External (customers, partners, vendors)?
  • What are the benefits & “VALUE” in business terms? Productivity, Satisfaction, Process Improvement etc
  • How will engagement and morale improve?
  • What challenges, issues or pain points does this address? If not addressed, what’s the impact?
  • How does it impact other business processes?
  • Key sponsors (Management buy-in is very important on a continuous basis)
  • Investment required? Cost, time and effort?
  • ROI? How about ROE (Return on Engagement)? In this case, ROE should emphasize more on business outcomes, engagement rather than $$$$, Measure the progress.
  • Identify the key metrics – adoption, use, impact, value etc
  • Last but not the least – What are the risks?

STEP 4: Develop a Road map/Implementation Plan

  • Develop a project plan (Agile project methodology is highly recommended)
  • Form a steering committee (advisory council or governance committee)
  • Define requirements & design
  • Evaluate vendors & select the right platform/solution
  • Develop an adoption strategy & plan
  • Develop communication, marketing, change management & training plans
  • Implement solution & adoption strategies (See related post on 10 Key Adoption Strategies)
  • Do communication & marketing
  • Conduct training
  • Listen, monitor and analyze usage
  • Do continuous improvements and changes
  • Partner & collaborate with the vendor

STEP 5: Form a Steering Committee (Advisory council or Governance Committee)

  • Define the goals and objectives of the steering committee/council. One of the main goals of this team should be to listen/communicate with the senior leadership and management team and also communicate to the organization as a whole for buy-in and adoption.
  • What are the roles and responsibilities?
  • What will be
  • What decisions will they take?
  • What type of information will they publish and communicate? One of the main deliverables should be ‘Leadership Playbook’ which details out the game plan, communication guidelines. This will help the leadership & senior management team to have an “Unified” message.
  • Identify members – It is recommended to have different members for different stages of the project. This will provide good support & buy-in throughout the project including after go-live. Initial stage – senior management, Design & implementation stage – mid-level management, Roll-out/Post go-live – mix of senior management, mid level management & employees.
  • Meet and communicate regularly with the committee.

STEP 6: Define Requirements & Design

  • Identify & document functional requirements. Map each requirement to the business value, benefits and collaboration patterns. Categorize it by importance and weight.
  • Identify & document technology requirements. Map each requirement to the functional requirements. Categorize it by importance and weight.
  • Draft a high-level business design & architecture diagram (see sample architecture, cloud security and single sign-on architecture) – in terms of people, process and technology.

Sample Enterprise Collaboration Architecture

Sample Cloud / SaaS Identity Management & SSO Architecture

STEP 7: Evaluate Vendors & Select the right Platform/Solution

  • Document technology vendor selection requirements & criteria (SaaS, Hybrid SaaS etc) linked to the above requirements. Following are some of the requirements to look for in the platform.
  • Click here for sample Enterprise Collaboration platform vendor selection criteria & framework (SaaS) under the ‘Vendor Evaluation & Selection’ section.
  • Evaluate the vendor solution across 4 main categories – Information sharing, communications, social networking and an integrated user experience.
  • Does it meet the SLATES requirement? Search, Links, Authoring, Tags, Extension & Links
  • What collaboration features & tools are available?
  • What’s the vendor product strategy, road map? Who is the management?
  • Does the vendor keep in the pace with the market especially the growing collaboration market?
  • What type of solution does the vendor provide? SaaS, Hybrid SaaS?
  • How is the product’s architecture and other features tie to the current infrastructure and architecture?
  • What type of APIs or web services are there?
  • What type of security and SSO is provided?
  • What are the licensing terms?
  • What type of support and maintenance provided? What’s the effort for internal IT team?
  • What is the total cost of ownership (TCO)?
  • What type of support will they provide for other integration vendors/partners?
  • Can the information be aggregated from multiple sources & formats?
  • What type of user dashboards/reports and management dashboards/analytical reports are available?
  • Assess how the vendor solution align with these categories and the requirements identified in Step 6?
  • Rank and select the vendor that meet your requirements & objectives.

STEP 8: Develop an Adoption Strategy & Plan (See related post on 10 Key Adoption Strategies)

  • What is the adoption goal, objectives, timeline, metrics?
  • What adoption strategies can be done to achieve maximum business benefit, value & immediate impact?
  • Identify the champions and ambassadors who will market and use the platform initially?
  • What are some of the current communication modes & channels that can be replaced to get maximum adoption?
  • Who will benefit the most? Does it align with the requirement that are ranked high on importance, business benefit & value?
  • What policies & procedures need to be set to get maximum adoption?
  • Identify & document functional adoption use cases – Intranet, RSS, external social media integration, organization wide calendar, resource library, corporate services (legal, IT, finance, HR, audit, administration, travel etc)
  • Identify & document technology adoption use cases – Single Sign-on to other apps, outlook integration, IM integration, document and video integration, audio/video conferencing integration, active directory integration (helps sync the profile data automatically)
  • Identify & document Application adoption use cases – Integration to CRM, HR/Payroll, help desk, BI applications to manage work tasks seamlessly via activity streams within the platform.
  • Identify & document Process adoption use cases – In terms of “In the flow” process, does it improve the process? – Project management & collaboration, communication, strategy alignment to projects, project status reports etc

STEP 9: Develop Communication, Marketing, Change management & Training plans

  • Clearly define and document the communication, marketing, change management & training plan. This is the most important step in the entire project.
  • Communication plan – What needs to be communicated? Leadership Playbook, Guidelines, Policies etc. More emphasis should be on business benefits & value, “What’s in it for me? rather than features and tools. How is this valuable than the email? Who needs to be communicated? What’s the frequency of the communication? How will it be communicated? Where will it be communicated – places, signage etc? How will the new features be introduced without overwhelming the users? Communication needs to occur throughout the project.
  • Marketing plan – How will this be marketed? Newsletters, video, management meetings, social meetings/games, incentives for users who have contributed to the most, social currency, buzz, trivia, innovative ways etc. This will help boost user’s morale and motivation to collaborate and share more info. This will also help them to raise their profile in the organization. Come up with a logo, tag line and maybe an avatar for the platform.
  • Change management plan– “This is the most important of all” – Clearly identify and define what existing processes, activities & tasks will be changed/impacted by this platform. Communicate these to key stakeholders and users earlier on and get buy-in. This plan will help the overall adoption.
  • Training plan – Identify the training requirements in detail – user awareness of social media and tools (see sample video from the guru himself), what training materials needs to be developed, what type of demos and training sessions need to be conducted, what will be the training format – classroom, hands-on, webinars, video tutorials? who will do the training (champions), how often will the training be conducted?

STEP 10: Implement Solution & Adoption Strategies

  • Review and refine the tasks based on requirements & adoption strategies by phase and priority to meet the overall. It is recommended to launch the platform in phases and introduce features gradually. Start with introducing basic features. This will help with adoption, training and usage of the platform and not overwhelm the users.
  • Get approval from management and steering committee.
  • Design, develop, test and implement the solution in a test mode.
  • Communicate on the release & training.
  • Release the solution in a beta/pilot mode, to a few business units.
  • Release the solution to the entire organization.
  • Implement & manage the adoption strategies (community managers, champions, evangelists) to help users to adopt to the new platform, create profiles, create communities, create & share content, use collaboration tools in conjunction with traditional methods, social games/prizes, implement & show the value of the collaboration platform related to the adoption use cases identified in Step 8.

STEP 11: D0 Communication & Marketing

  • Communicate, communicate, communicate – “This says it all”.
  • Communicate on the training.
  • Communicate and market on the business outcomes, benefits, value, use cases, customer testimonials (video recommended), process excellence.

STEP 12: Conduct Training

  • Conduct training sessions – demos, road shows, hands-on, classroom, webinars and video tutorials, Social media 101 sessions.
  • For the hands-on and classroom, conduct it more like a 2 part workshop rather than a presentation/demo. Pair the users (social + non-social media experts+champions), have the users create a page, join a group, send a message, create a project etc, give a group assignment that has many collaboration tasks using the platform, have them present their assignment in the next workshop – I guess you got the idea here.

Step 13: Listen, Monitor and Analyze Usage

  • Continuously listen and monitor the platform usage (metrics).
  • How are we measuring against the metrics?
  • Have a good support/help desk process & system for users to report issues, requests, suggestions & feedback.
  • Do data mining and analysis of the usage and change the implementation and adoption strategies.

Step 14: Do Continuous Improvements and Changes

  • Release changes, new features and improvements in a periodic basis and not all at the same time.
  • Communicate on the new features, success stories, testimonials regularly.
  • Conduct training sessions in many formats continuously.
  • Meet with users on a continuous basis to get their feedback and suggestions, show the new features and tools.
  • Meet with the steering committee/advisory council on a continuous basis (and change the membership regularly).

Step 15: Partner & Collaborate with the Vendor

  • Have a strong partnership with the vendor rather than a just a vendor-client relationship. You will need their support on a continuous basis. This will need to be “Win-Win” relationship.
  • Be part of the customer council/committee to hear about the new features, product road map and strategy, suggest features & enhancements.
  • Do presentations and webinars at the industry conference & vendor’s events. This is the best opportunity to showcase your solution, network with other customers/peers and provide a good opportunity to share & learn.


  • Effective Communication + Collaboration + Interaction + Sharing Knowledge & Ideas “Naturally Leads To” Process Improvement, Process Excellence, Break Down Silos, Creativity & Innovation across the Organization
  • In order to be a “True” Social Enterprise to efficiently & effectively collaborate & interact with customer & partners, it is very important for employees to collaborate and interact internally with the Enterprise Collaboration platform. This will also be useful and come in handy when software vendors (ERP, CRM, User Computing) start adding more of social collaboration tools to their products (many of the vendors have already started doing this).
  • The increasing number of young generation employees (Gen X & Gen Y) and the integrated global business networks are driving the need for new & better collaboration tools necessary. To meet tomorrow’s organization’s needs, we cannot work on yesterday’s tools? It is time to move and look beyond emails, file shares and static intranet (< or = Web 1.0) as the business communication & collaboration tools.
  • Enterprise Collaboration platforms should bridge the gap between Gen X/Y and Gen E, align with Gen E’s work processes, culture and gradually make them comfortable on using the new tools.
  • Encourage “Culture” of sharing & collaboration across the organization.
  • Last but not the least – Communicate on the value created by using the Enterprise Collaboration platform regularly.

Contact Info

LinkedIn  kchakkarapani@yahoo.com

  1. July 3, 2011 at 1:54 pm

    Excellent! I create collaboration roadmaps and you nailed every point. The only thing I would add is understanding the leadership paradigm and if it supports an open, collaborative environment. It is also helpful to create a leadership playbook that provides communication guidelines for leaders when things do not go as planned. Hopefully there’s a strong CM, but I have seen leaders step in and make comments that literally shut down participation by creating an environment of fear of retaliation.

    Nicely done!

  2. July 3, 2011 at 2:09 pm

    Thanks Steve. Yes Leadership paradigm and playbook is very important in addition to management buy-in. I will detail out this step with key activities.

  3. Adam
    July 6, 2011 at 1:29 pm

    This is a great piece of work, thank you for sharing. I appreciated the balance in approach between the strategic business drivers and the tactical IT execution in driving the plan. Thanks to this posting; I personally will be spending some more time working to validate, measure and communicate the key assertion that “Effective Communication + Collaboration + Interaction + Sharing Knowledge & Ideas “Naturally Leads To” Process Improvement, Process Excellence, Break Down Silos, Creativity & Innovation across the Organization”. You make a compelling point in that the initial rollout is just the beginning…

  4. July 18, 2011 at 3:38 pm

    Nicely done! Comprehensive and easy to understand. This is a treasure chest of best practices.

  5. July 18, 2011 at 7:14 pm

    Great post!

  6. Auckland Lad
    October 11, 2012 at 4:42 pm

    Really nice.. precise and to the point.
    People miss-understood what actually Collaboration mean and end up with lot of mess.

  1. July 11, 2011 at 5:04 pm
  2. July 21, 2011 at 2:00 am
  3. September 6, 2011 at 10:50 am

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