Culture & Competency

Ephraim on Collaboration: "Collaboration 1.0 at the Heart of Enterprise 2.0 Success"

Ephraim reminds us of the necessity to get the basics right with collaboration, even with Enterprise 2.0 tools in the mix:

Let’s call a spade a spade: Enterprise 2.0 means collaborative and social web tools. Make it more complicated if you have to, but this is the heart of it. Modern web tools bring people to the forefront and enable collaborative work like never before. The technology is basically catching up with our needs and becoming more human-centered.

In a growing trend, folks are starting to replace “Enterprise 2.0″ with “collaboration” when pitching social intranets and the like to executives. This is really about collaboration. But collaboration isn’t about software.

Good collaboration results in more effective use of social, collaborative tools. But with poor collaborative practices these new tools provide very little value. You’ve seen teams that have a wiki but still write reports by emailing documents back and forth. You’ve seen online discussions that produce no valuable outcomes. You’ve seen micro blogging streams that are inane and useless.

If you want to succeed at Enterprise 2.0, you’ve got to get good at collaboration.

In his blog post, Ephraim:
– Says that structure (processes, roles, expectations) are important to collaboration – a “lack of organization” won’t cut it.
– Collaboration is about (1) people, (2) working together, and (3) shared goals, and then lists 7 very valuable questions to ask / contemplate / answer in a collaborative endeavor.
– Argues that company-wide discussions on blogs and forums, social networking, micro-blogging, and expertise finders “aren’t collaboration.” Mmm … not sure I fully agree.
– Lists 6 “foundations of effective collaboration” – about shared goals, collaborative processes, and cultural requirements. It’s a good list to think through.

Ephraim finishes with:

Bottom line, if you want to succeed at Enterprise 2.0 you’ve got to be good at people management. All the foundations of good collaboration have to do with managing people.

Software vendors won’t tell you this and consultants might not either, but if you have poor people management, you’re SOL. You’ll see only marginal value from your Enterprise 2.0 investments and your efforts at innovation won’t go very far. Implementing a social intranet will be an uphill battle. Getting adoption of collaborative tools will be a slow, painful process.

My Comments
1. I have spoken with Ephraim a couple of times. We had good conversations. I like the work he’s doing – I count him among my friends and colleagues.

2. There are good pointers about effective collaboration in his post. Make sure you read it.

3. Per above, where Ephraim “ … argues that company-wide discussions on blogs and forums, social networking, micro-blogging, and expertise finders “aren’t collaboration.” Mmm … not sure I fully agree” – he’s why I don’t fully agree. Collaboration does not imply the use of specific tools and technologies – to use Ephraim’s three criteria, it’s about (1) people, (2) working together, for (3) shared goals. So …
– People across the company could discuss particular goal-directed issues on blogs and forums; I would say that’s collaboration.
– People could use a micro-blogging tool like Yammer or Twitter to share updates on a particular project. Instead of using a discussion forum or email per se, they could use a micro-blog to collaborate. I think it’s very possible, with a few clearly defined rules, to use a micro-blogging tool as the backbone of a collaborative project.
– Social networking and expertise finders, in as much as they’re about profiling people’s skills and abilities – yup, they’re about opening possibilities for collaboration, not collaboration per se.

2 replies »

  1. Thanks for responding with these great points Michael. You and others have brought great challenges to some of the points I made.
    One of my primary goals is to make it clear that social technology does not equate directly to collaboration. When I say “micro-blogging is not collaboration” I mean that in-and-of-itself it isn’t collaboration. The software tool is not collaboration. I use wiki pages that I keep private, so the wiki isn’t collaborative. Folks have to figure out the human elements in order for use of the tool to be really collaborative.
    But I totally agree that micro-blogging can play a very useful role in collaboration.
    Regarding company-wide blogs & forums, your right. And I am. 🙂
    Often collaboration is most successful within teams that include a leader, clear roles and ways of holding team members accountable. A company-wide blog could lead to “lite” collaboration around shared goals, but wouldn’t lead to the kind of intensive collaboration that really gets stuff done.
    As always I dig your ideas and perspectives. I’m enjoying our online conversation (which I wouldn’t call collaboration!).

  2. Ephraim, thanks for your comment above. In the last two paragraphs, however, you introduce additional dimensions to your definition of “collaboration,” and as a consequence start to exclude particular things that your initial definition does not.
    So actually, I think we are collaborating. You and I have the same goal (whether we have that explicitly or implicitly), we’re working together through a conversation, and we’re both people.