Culture & Competency

Jed on Collaboration (Redux) – SMB, Department, and Enterprise

Earlier this week Jed talked about collaboration in the enterprise, in an article on CMSWire called Enterprise Collaboration: What Does It Mean to You. I commented on his post a few days ago, but I’ve been thinking about something else he said in the article:

What about ‘Enterprise’? This word has a number of meanings, but in our context, it means a “business venture, organization or a company”. So, we have suddenly gone from smaller teams and work groups consisting of many teams to introducing the concept of collaborating across the whole enterprise! Easy, right?

Wrong. Nothing is ever that simple. Therefore, I thought I would borrow a definition that is used in the reports produced by the world class analysts at The Real Story Group when they talk about software deployment scenarios:

– SMB — A Small to Medium Business: a single firm in a single location with up to 500 staff

– Department — A single department within a larger enterprise, ranging from a small number up to 1000 staff

– Enterprise wide — A highly distributed (likely international) enterprise with more than 1000 employees

Using this terminology we can see that you will still need to very specific if you’re writing your business case for senior management or preparing tender documents. By enterprise collaboration do you mean a system (including technology) that is really for teams or groups to use to work together, but that will be deployed enterprise wide (i.e. across the whole organization) or do you really mean a system that will enable all employees across the whole enterprise to collaborate with each other?

As you can see, depending on what you want, you will need different strategies, policies and guidelines and different tools or tool sets.

My Comments
1. I really like the work Tony and the others do at Real Story Group. It’s good stuff, and I recommend their collaboration report and SharePoint report to the people I deal with.

2. The size of the business is not the best indicator of what they need from the capabilities of collaboration tools. An “SMB” or “Department” is likely to have requirements for team/project collaboration capabilities, community collaboration capabilities, “everybody-together collaboration” capabilities, and so on.

3. The key phrase in what Jed’s borrowed above, in my view, is “software deployment scenarios.” Depending on the size of the organization, the specific decision factors about which collaboration technology / software to purchase change; some factors that are very important for enterprise customers are irrelevant for some SMB customers.

4. I wrote a report in 2000 on this – which I never published – but it talked about how software requirements change as you move up from an individual, to a team/group, to a department, to an enterprise, to a cross-enterprise situation. For example, directory integration is irrelevant for an application used by an individual, somewhat important for a team/group, and more important beyond that.

5. In summary, yes, there are differences about what’s important for collaboration technology when you are in an SMB, department or enterprise situation, but the difference is less about specific capability requirements and more about decision factors influenced by a wider software ecosystem.