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september 09, 2012

Change habits with Connections Mail integration

With IBM Connections 4 being released a few days ago the discussion about Mail starts again. As you may know, IBM Connections integrates Mail and Calendar into the browser window. Is integrating Mail into social software a contradiction? Should users not just start using the social software tools instead if e-mail?

Lately I have been talking a lot with customers, thought leaders, colleagues and business partners about IBM Connections Mail (and Calendar). Mail has become something ambiguous these days. There are those, mostly innovators and forerunners, that believe using e-mail is not done, almost something to be ashamed about. They fully embrace social and the new way of communicating and interacting that comes with it. As do I, being an adoption specialist, ofcourse.

I love social and the new way of working (I call this work21) that comes with it. I am a strong believer in IBM Connections for companies to become more agile. I will advocate working openly at any time. In fact I use e-mail less and less in favour of statusupdates, blogs etcetera.

And there are those who are using e-mail all the time as it has been their primary tool for getting work done for about twenty years. And they wholeheartedly believe e-mail is going to stay forever as it is now, and social is not for them, or just a passing phase.

It seems many of the advocates of social are horrified with the idea though that IBM Connections 4 integrates Mail (I never hear them say anything about the Calendar actually). Their point usually being email is a bad way of communicating and should be replaced by Connections social functionality.

But this is, to me, such a harsh stand to make. This will work out fine for 1st wave adopters, but in my opinion is only going to put second wave adopters off. As an adoption specialist I am very much aware of how social software is impacting the way of work. Basically, employees and organisations as a whole need to change their way of working. By now I think it is generally accepted to say that they will not just come if you build it. Adoption is very much necessary, however easy to use a software tool may or may not be.

Adoption is about changing behaviour. The innovators that have long moved to working open and social are amongst the 1st wave adopters. Quite often using new software such as IBM Connections is part of their work. And there's the point I am trying to make: the employees that are now using email as their primary tool for communication and collaboration don't just 'get it'. They need to be taken in to a new way of working, until it becomes natural to them. Unlike 1st wave adopters their work is NOT using new social software. In fact, they might not even enjoy using software at all! Any software to them is just a means to an end. Until the new way of working becomes natural to employees, they will fall back on the tools they know: Email.

Habits die hard. Once you are familiar with a way of working, you're not likely to change that over night. And this is exactly why I think integrating Mail into IBM Connections is so great. It makes it easier for employees to ease their way in to Connections. It takes the familiar way of working into the new environment. It allows for people to work in a browser with their e-mail and calendar, within the context of social. It takes away having to switch between two environments, therefore improving the chance of staying in Connections. Making it easier to transition to social tooling, because they get familiar with the user interface and might see others working in a social manner which will show them the way.

Luring them in, is wat Mail integration does. And once in they will surely start seeing the benefit of social. Why? Because they start to familiarize themselves and they will see some of their peers using it. Because change is social. Change is a process, not a one-off event and takes time. And change is made real by what people do! Once in Connections employees see what others are doing, and are more likely to try it out themselves given a little time to get more familiar. This is what Mail integration does: give 2nd wave adopters a chance and the time to adapt to social collaboration.

Watch this demo of the IBM Connections 4 homepage to see Mail integration in action (among other things).