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Is collaboration the next frontier?

In my opinion, a challenge facing small and large businesses alike is the need to improve collaboration. I hear the question everywhere; "How do I get my team and my company to use collaboration software better?" If you ask this question, at least, you must have some collaboration software!
wheres-the-ROI.jpg

In my opinion, a challenge facing small and large businesses alike is the need to improve collaboration. I hear the question everywhere; "How do I get my team and my company to use collaboration software better?"

If you ask this question, at least, you must have some collaboration software!

In reality, successul adoption of collaboration software, starts with the company culture and the ability of the employees to get on the same page; but it is either enhanced or limited by the collaboration software of choice.

Today, there is an unprecedented intercept between internal (Outlook/Sharpoint; Notes; SaleForce.com) and external (Facebook; Linkedin; MySpace) collaboration platforms.

Social Media style homepages and task feeds in private social communities are competing with groupware, which now runs the spectrum from hosted, to ASP and cloud based.

Every company's culture has already adjusted to one or more of these incomplete environments.

Since few companies are getting the return they expected from existing collaboration tools, they are less likely too venture into this "new Frontier", where internal sites look like Facbook pages and work is distrubuted using friendly posts and followups.

Regardless of where you are on the software map, Here are a few hints that work in every environment:

  1. Publish a roadmap so everyone interested can know when and how existing collaboration environments will evolve
  2. Get everyone excited about the benefits of collaboration behavior.
  3. Start using the existing environment better
    • Appoint mentors/ facilitators to lead by example.
    • Allow private one to one spaces which are not monitored by the company
    • Get high level managers / directors to lead the way

WHAT DO YOU THINK?

I'd like to hear your opinion about the collaboration challenge.

How would you suggest bringing about behavioral change when it comes to sharing and actively participating in discussions?

How much can be taught?

Where does technology limit or enhance the process of changing from passive to active collaboration?

Are there any fairness or ethical considerations?

Comments

A friend of mine read this blog entry and suggested, "Sounds like a PHD dissertation thesis.
However complex, the question remains, Is collaboration ( the ability to share and fully utilize calendars, tasks, etc ) really the next frontier in business communication?"

If so, which is the hardest to attain, human change or technological change to support desired collaboration.


I'd like to consider all view points. Please weigh in. :)

Jim Mitchell
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I saw the question associated with this blog entry; "Do do collaborate well enough to survive?" or similar attention grabbing headline.

In reality, collaboration will happen, regardless of the medium. The oldest collaboration is the "grape vine", which often proves to have uncanny accuracy.

In my experience, the greatest enemy to successful collaboration in the wide range of corporate environments that I have worked with over the past 3o+ years is what is best termed the lack of a recognized 'common cause'. By this I mean that the typical business is too territorial or compartmentalized to cross-functionally agree on the optimum tool(s)/platform(s) and related governance procedures needed to attain a stated goal. In the very few instances where it has worked to date, the collaborative culture predated the tools to such a degree that the tools/platforms were merely set up to mimic the organic collaboration system already in place. This only worked when there was comprehensive buy-in from senior management in actual practice (rather than 'by decree').

In that sense, yes, it is a 'new frontier - complete with frontier politics and unexpected resistances from those who feel threatened that real collaboration may expose incompetence, waste, and (in a couple of notable cases) even fraud.

Real collaboration and suitable tools is the ultimate 'sunshine law' for corporate development. Sadly, I have found that some organizational elements prefer to thrive in darkness.

Therefore, I agree with your concept and with you list of 'hints', but the process will only succeed in organizations that already have an organic collaboration culture in place before they attempt to ad tools to automate the process.

Mr Hamrick-

Looks like we are in violent agreement.

I know that you have a long quality background so you look at organizations differently than most. Considering your perspective, it is not surprising that you would come up with your list of collaboration obstacles, including waste and fraud.

As you know, analytics are starting to stem the tide in the fraud arena.

How do you think collaboration can disciover and prevent fraud and waste?

If Internet changed the lives in 90's, collaboration tools and their adoption will fundamentally alter the way organizations operate.organizations and their decision makers realize this and hence they either have or are experimenting with some or the other form of collaboration tool/software/platform or medium every new day.

The real challenge lies in marrying and aligning the organization culture and ethos along with the subtle but optimum governance (not interference).

i think collaboration is key to success for a distributed virtual workforce. Enterprises have to make all efforts to convert them in to "learning organizations' - learn, share and contribute !

Mr. Chatterjee-

You correctly identify culture and alignment as top priorities.

When the Internet won its uphill battle to become a way of life in the 90s and early 2000s, it also had its laggards. Some were slow to accept e-mail instead of fax, electronic signatures still are hard to digest for some; even the thought of trusting the internet with a credit card number or social security number was once frowned upon.

If collaboration will have another face in the future, what will be the difference, maybe we have identified the next frontier of change. It seems that you assume the software evolution will stay ahead of the human element. It is a good argument, I think we know where the value is and where to invest our time.

I'd like to hear more of your views on governance.

Where is the border between governance and surveillance?

Mr. Sridharan-

Thank you for your thoughtful comment.

You emphasize the three "goals" of collaboration or any collaboration site or software:

To encourage a logical team of co-workers to (1)share their work and their lives in an open and communicative way; so that, they are able to (2) contribute all of their work product in a standard electronic format, within an environment that promotes access to (3) Learning from documents of others, past discussions, and learning opportunities via CBT, meeting re-play and measured learning.

The distributed and virtual nature of our changing workforce offers an unique point in time where leading companies will put the proper emphasis on collaboration... and reap the benefits.

What do you the other readers think? Is the so called "gap" in evolution of certain firms along the collaboration dimension being over blown? Does it really matter if employees continually learn, share and contribute?

Please weigh in!

Hi James,

I'd argue that collaboration is easier than ever before. With the barrier of entry almost non-existent with the amount of free and affordable technology available anyone can access tools for collaboration.

Company culture is absolutely one of the hardest obstacles to overcome. It's important to get buy-in from a high level. Without it, you may just keep spinning your wheels.

One tool that you might find helpful for collaboration--especially video meetings and presentations--is a video meetings tool called iMeet.

Good fodder here for discussion. Thanks for your insight.

Steve

I am truly convinced with your points and have no points to argue with. I am glad that still there are some people who can explain complex topic with the proper flow so that the readers like me can easily understand.

Sincerely,

Ross Finesmith

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