A few weeks ago, my colleage Ted Schadler caused a bit of a stir when he revealed – shockingly! – Gen Xers were actually leading the social technology revolution for information and knowledge management – not Gen Yers. I want to double down on this idea: Gen Yers aren’t driving the business use of any collaboration technologies. In a report that I’ve just completed, we show that despite their much ballyhooed technical savvy, Gen Yers are just as apathetic toward all of the fancy new collaboration software – like web conferencing and team workspaces – as their older colleagues. You’ll note I said “apathetic.” Well, beyond email and calendars, information workers really aren’t using these tools. If that gives strategists and marketers at the software giants that produce these tools pause, the fact that Gen Yers still see their organizations as collaborative, even though they don’t use “collaboration tools,” should be alarming.
In the upcoming report, we propose a simple idea: embed these tools in worker business processes. Now, I know some will argue that “our platform ties into all of the systems that information workers use!” Well, in many cases this still assumes that the information worker will make the collaboration tool central to how they work and simply have information from other sources pumped into it (e.g. data from the CRM system feeds into the team workspace). What we are suggesting is going the other way – putting the technology in the places where the information workers actually spend their time. Our proposal for achieving this:
· Begin developing out-of-the-box verticalized products. Get an understanding of who is using the tool and what they do on a daily basis. With this understanding, tailor the tool to fit this individual’s job needs and working style. Your partners can provide the integration and customization component, but you need to provide verticalized options a la the web conferencing market.
· Allow for do-it-yourself verticalization – at the end user level. Going one step further, provide the information worker the flexibility to configure the experience for how they work. Allow them to dictate what sources of information they want to tie into the tool – and allow them to decide how they want to launch the tool.
· Roll out your tool internally and find out why your employees use it. Being a power user of your tool, start to figure out which of your employees use and why. Is it because they are good soldiers or is it because it cuts down on the time it takes to complete a job specific task? Once you have this understanding, you can start the work of verticalizing your product and prepare the appropriate marketing to explain to IT decision makers and end users how this product helps.
So, I turn to you now and ask for your thoughts. Are we on the right track here?