When it comes to collaboration tools in the workplace, productivity gains and ROI are dictated in large part by user adoption. In other words, if you deploy tools that collect dust because people don’t use them, it’s impossible to maximize the benefits. Typically, the IT folks choose collaboration tools that they think are best based on features, technical capabilities, cost and ease of installation. Very often, IT doesn’t take into account the needs and expectations of the end user. When user experience is overlooked, features and capabilities don’t always match user needs, and adoption suffers.

User experience refers to how easy it is to use a product or service, how a person feels when interacting with that product or service, and whether it meets user expectations and business objectives. While features, capabilities and cost certainly need to be part of the conversation when evaluating collaboration tools, user experience is the biggest driver of adoption.

Sure, that shiny new collaboration solution may have a lot of bells and whistles, but are they the bells and whistles users need to do their jobs? Do these tools truly enhance collaboration and productivity? Are they easy to use? Do people enjoy using them? You could buy the most innovative solution on the planet, but it won’t matter if it isn’t used to its fullest potential. When users don’t adopt the tools you provide, they will acquire their own solutions, often without the knowledge or approval of IT. Such a shadow IT environment creates serious security risks and a management nightmare for IT teams.

To maximize user acceptance and adoption of collaboration tools, organizations need to determine what features and capabilities users need, not the ones IT and upper management think users need. This begins with creating profiles for different user groups and recognizing the collaboration needs for each group. For example, workers who spend most of their time on the road and frequently interact with customers have different needs than those who spend most of their time in the office. What problems will collaboration tools help you solve? Which users will benefit the most?

Rather than requesting user input as a token gesture, organizations must use this input in the decision-making process. User experience and adoption should be part of the planning phase, not just an afterthought. Before implementation, make sure users understand the business value of these tools and are trained to use them properly, and establish realistic user adoption goals.

Once collaboration tools have been chosen, it’s important to measure progress and request feedback from users. What percentage of users are actually using the new collaboration tools? Are all relevant features being used? How frequently are tools and specific features being used? If users aren’t collaborating on approved platforms and applications, what are they using? Beyond the numbers, listen to the users. What do they like most and least about the collaboration tools, and why? Are those tools making it easier to collaborate effectively? What additional functionality would enhance the user experience and add value for the organization?

User experience is critical to effective collaboration. Organizations need to choose solutions and capabilities based on user need, allow user input to influence these decisions, and measure adoption to maximize productivity gains and ROI.