So, What Do I Use This Tool For Again?

So, let me get this straight. I use a wiki to create project agendas but a SharePoint site to store my project management documents. I go to YouTube for our corporate videos and Flickr to contribute to our “fun” employee photo library. Then, I jump to the discussion forums to share and comment on ideas but if I want to quickly ask a question of my colleagues, I go to Yammer. I should read and respond to blogs on various topics and share my expertise. Oh, then, I have to update my profile (should I update LinkedIn and Facebook too?). And, what do I use Instant Messenger for again? Help!

Yep. Another victim of tool fatigue.

Sure. You can provide a link farm on your Intranet so people don’t have to remember the URLs of each tool but each interface looks different and people will struggle to remember all the cutesy brand names for each point solution you have. You could also provide a quick reference guide – a When to Use What cheat sheet. This can work reasonably well.

But, I really think we need to define objectives as to why we have all of these tools. There is something to trying them out to see what sticks. I whole-heartedly advocate for that but, in the long run, consolidation and streamlining become important to support the efficiencies these tools were invented to create in the first place.

Your employees need you to ask yourself these questions:

  • Are people comfortable with other people changing their work? Then, by all means, implement wikis. If version control and levels of security are critical, then don’t.
  • Do you have to have Yammer AND Discussion Forums? No! Choose one. Are threaded discussions necessary to keep replies nested under the original discussion or are quick quips and limiting people to 140 characters essential?
  • Is there one system for storing documents and then set appropriate security settings? I hope the answer is yes but I know how difficult this can be.  Strive for this!  Don’t make people guess which system to store their documents in.
  • Can profiles, blogs and status updates be the same solution? Yes!There are tools like Jive and NewsGator Social Sites that offer this.
  • Integration, integration, integration. There is a reason SharePoint is so popular. It may not have everything but there are plug-ins that complement the interface for just about any need.
  • Try and limit to two solutions – One for storing my work as an individual and on teams, and one for information about me specifically…that’s it.

Keep it simple for the people who have to work. After all, these tools are supposed to help makes things easier not confuse people.