A collaborative enterprise network, where workers are digitally connected and set up to seamlessly share knowledge and skills across functional and geographic borders, can deliver significant productivity gains and business value. The challenge for many is finding a way to get there.\nIn recent years, a slew of mobile and cloud-based tools have given enterprises new opportunities to improve communications among workers, business partners and customers. Savvy enterprises have tapped such tools to improve productivity and unlock the collective knowledge of their workforce.\nTapping into the Collaborative Enterprise\nExamples abound across all industry sectors. More than 100,000 employees at the Texas Department of Information Resources, for example, are using Office 365 cloud-based communication and collaboration tools from Microsoft to streamline how they do business. Employees at the agency use videoconferencing, real-time document collaboration and calendar-sharing tools to communicate with peers regardless of the community they serve, what devices they use or what time of the day they work.\nKennametal, a $3 billion firm manufacturer of metalworking and mining tools, has set up a companywide intranet called The Hub using Office 365. The intranet connects the company\u2019s engineers, scientists and manufacturing technicians and enables internal conversations, access to company news and intelligence on rivals. It allows the company to track areas of expertise among employees and share their information across different teams and geographies.\nAdoption Issues\nDespite such successes, the number of companies fully benefiting from collaboration remains relatively small. Recent research by the Altimeter Group showed that adoption of enterprise collaboration and social network tools leave plenty of opportunity for growth. Less than four in 10 of those surveyed said many employees at their companies were using collaboration tools at work while 23 percent said some employees were using these tools. The remaining 41 percent said few to no employees were currently using enterprise collaboration tools at work.\nB2B social media strategist and consultant Paul Gillin blames the situation on a lack of executive participation. \u201cIt\u2019s a classic case of where executives dictate some tools be brought in and they don\u2019t use it themselves,\u201d Gillin says.\nUnlocking Knowledge\u00a0\nCollaboration tools can help unlock the knowledge that exists within the company \u2013 an increasingly critical capability, Gillin says. \u201cMost companies are now knowledge businesses,\u201d he says. \u201cThey don\u2019t make products anymore. Their value comes from information or from their knowledge of how to distribute products to customers.\u201d\nHotel companies, for instance, don\u2019t own properties any more. They are experts at managing inventory while the properties themselves are handed out to individual leaseholders. That concept applies to a lot of industries, Gillin says.\n\u201cThe point is you have a lot of knowledge in the company but you don\u2019t know where the knowledge is,\u201d he explains. Companies that can discover and tap into such resources are likely to get things done more effectively.\nExecutive Leadership\nTop executives have to lead the charge that drives widespread use of collaboration tools, Gillin believes. \u201cExecutives have to show willingness to collaborate and be open\u201d to using social media and other tools to communicate, said he says. Even tactics like blogging or posting updates on a company wiki can have the effect of spurring broader usage. \u201cIt sets the tone that sharing is okay.\u201d\nIn addition to executive sponsorship, companies that are deploying collaboration tools need to ensure complete control over security and potential data exposure issues. \u201cAuditing is important,\u201d Gillin said. \u201cI would say you want something that\u2019s slipstreams easily into the existing workflow.\u201d\nImplementation Alone Is Not Enough\nOrganizations also need to think beyond just deploying collaboration tools and focus on improving adoption of them, said Shel Holtz, enterprise collaboration consultant and founder of Holtz Communication + Technology (HC+T).\n\u00a0\u201cAt many organizations, there seems to be this \u2018Field of Dreams\u2019 mentality of \u2018if you build it they will come\u2019,\u201d Holtz says.\nBut it\u2019s not merely enough to make a collaboration tool available and then do little to foster adoption. Email, for instance, continues to be the primary communication tool inside enterprises even though they are very inefficient compared to the communications enabled by modern collaboration software. Yet, few organizations have made a concerted push to wean employees away from their dependence on email.\n\u201cYou do want to influence behavior for people to adopt collaborative tools,\u201d Holtz says. \u201cYou have to put some effort into the adoption phase and market this to employees.\u201d Organizations with a good internal communications group should use it, in conjunction with IT and the human resources group to actively push the use of collaboration tools, he says.\nModeling Behavior\nLeaders also need to model behavior with regard to enterprise collaboration tools\u2013 while recognizing the use and adoption of such tools by employees, Holtz says.\nAt the end of the day, IT organizations need to ensure they are delivering collaboration tools that employees actually will use. Deploying a tool simply because it is free or came bundled with other enterprise software is a recipe for failure, Holtz says.\n\u00a0\u201cIf employees don\u2019t see value in it from the start,\u201d he says, \u201cthey are not going to use it at all.\u201d\nYour IT team can save time, money, and sanity with an integrated collaboration suite. Get the free eBook to learn more.