The legendary James Robertson from Step Two Designs addressed the topic on succeeding with collaboration. This is the really interesting conversation that’s going on at the moment.
- Get ahead of the curve. Collaboration tools are spreading like a virus … they are out there in the organization as a “pilot”. Get moving on this now … taking control and getting some structure in place.
- Recognize when collaboration will work. There are certain pre-conditions for collaboration that need to be in place before giving assent to new tools going out. Two ideas: (a) there is a clear purpose to using it, and (b) a common sense of community — supporting an existing community, or we create a new online community. Eg, “staff buy and swap areas”, “designing new office space” and “project collaboration” often work well. Other things like “designing a new web strategy” and “sharing subject-matter expertise” (eg, communities of practice) are a bit more tenuous.
- Understand where collaboration fits in. Where do collaboration tools fit in with the Intranet, content management tools, and more? See the Step Two three levels of information framework, and in that model, most of the collaboration technology fits at the team level. James said that you need to differentiate at this level between inwards-facing (for use by the team) and outwards-facing (for use by external groups and customers), and that the inward-facing things are the basic place where collaboration takes place. The outwards-facing things are about publishing.
- Establish a portfolio of tools. There is no one size fits all need. Look at … wikis, blogs, discussion groups, forums, team spaces, instant messaging, file shares, mailing lists, and intranet pages.
- Identify an owner for collaboration. You can’t throw it out, and hope that it will just emerge. Should probably not sit in IT.
- Define boundaries and relationships. The unmanaged spread of collaboration tools can be anti-knowledge sharing, because the local group will put their things in their own local space. But they are less likely to share it more widely. See James’s article on this (and my response). You need to create links from the collaboration space to the publishing space, where finalized things are promoted up. James thinks there needs to be a lot more conversation about this area.
- Establish policies and guidelines at the outset. Eg, when you would use one tool vs. another, a defined lifetime for collaboration spaces, quick start guides.
- Start by ‘gardening’. Clean up of spaces that are finished, and promote things that are working well.
- Focus on business needs. What’s the business reasons for driving collaboration spaces? And key business needs should be highlighted in collaboration strategy. Eg, in customer support centers, the ability to more quickly get answers. Don’t pilot it in IT!
- Don’t forget that it’s all about people. Putting in tools does not make people automatically collaborate.
It was neat to hear someone else talking about the things that form the focus of my professional work … and especially someone who has some differences of opinion and advice.