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Introducing Collaboration Tools? Three Required Personas for Success

When introducing collaboration tools to an organization – creating the corporate intranet, defining project sites in Sharepoint, etc. – there are multiple skills you must master – well, at least get better at. You need to capture the ideas and communicate the data such that your target reader understands what you are trying to convey – but you also have to help them locate it in the first place.

Hercules capturing Cerberus
An early SharePoint cert test

Three personas you’ll need to adopt, three sets of skills to master, if you want your stuff to be relevant and get read …

Librarian – Where to start with a big pile of information that needs to be captured and categorized? Consider the typical technical tome – when browsing at the bookstore, how do you pick the one you will buy? I will select the winner by browsing the table of contents, to see how the subject matter lays out – very important stuff. But how do you end up using it? More often than not, I keep going back to the index, to locate a specific word (topic) and find out where the author has stashed the details. The Librarian should know the vocabulary in the book and the surrounding / related areas of knowledge, and fill the index with the key words and phrases that folks keep coming to the information desk to ask about. Sure, most word processors will automate the pagination tasks, but there is some skill and art in choosing the right words – and making sure the document contains those words in all the right places.

Experienced authors who rely on the index to function as their “local Google” will go back to the text and place key words in all the right places. Savvy intranet content producers will anticipate the searcher’s keywords and make sure they are in the document and/or the metadata.

Marketer – There’s more to it then just anticipating the reader’s needs. It’s not enough to write effective prose – you need to create content that wants to be found. Attack the problem like an SEO expert; learn how the search engine indexes content, and what data and metadata gets scanned. The Marketer will understand the local lingo and style of describing things, and make sure to include those words and that style in the text. Be realistic and humble – the vast majority of the planet does not actually think exactly like you do. Think about how you search for stuff on the internet, but also work hard to observe and learn how other folks find and absorb new information.

Completing the document is not enough – success is only achieved when people are actually reading and understanding the material. And they have to find it before they can read it.

Coach – You can document and publish plenty of material, but unless you get folks to actually change their behavior and use the tools, it will sit their like those big fat binders from long-past meetings, lovingly put together for the big event but now gathering dust on the bookshelf in the corner. The key is to find the opinion leaders, the folks who set the standards for the group – and give them extra attention and detailed, task-oriented coaching to change their behavior. Target the experienced hand, the one that folks like to emulate, possibly the one who can dictate the team’s behavior – and get right on the keyboard with them, helping them learn how to use this stuff.

This approach clearly will not scale to a large, geographically dispersed team; but if you can Coach the team leader(s) – teach the right skills and set the right expectations – the rest will follow.

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