Collaboration – What does it mean?

by Josh Warcop

We used to understand the word collaboration. Now the buzzword is everywhere claiming this tool or that tool will help you ‘collaborate’ better. Many of these tools may help your business, but how do you evaluate the need, the use cases, or the value?

You could start with financial modeling such as CAPEX vs OPEX vs TCO/ROI/NPV/IRR and all of the stuff your executive team will love. All of that is important, but what if you started with people modeling? How do your mobile workers interface with your customers and your internal teams? How do your internal teams interface with each other? Then ask if all of this possible without confusing employees under the weight of 10 collaboration tools?

The not so simple answer is first you need to get an understanding of how your knowledge workers share their knowledge and what type of knowledge it is they are sharing. Is it verbal or written communication, document sharing, business intelligence reviews, or just socially? Do you need to do any or all of that with your customers?

Traditional collaboration tools have meant e-mail, phone, and web sharing. Now it means all of the above in one tool no matter what device, where you are located, or who you’re with. Some paraphrase this as mobile and secure first collaboration.

If you set out to find services and technologies that address the core needs to your employees and customers you’re going to end up with a well adopted and thoughtful solution. Adoption rates are low among newer collaboration tools and it will be up to you to find, test, and adopt those these tools for your business. Be very aware that knowledge workers and information worker teams will find their own collaborative solutions if you’re not providing a good fit.

Collaboration tools and strategies vary from company to company so you’re going to need to invest in a company and strategy and not directly a tool. Collaboration is very ‘walled garden’ so you’re going to need everyone in the same garden to get the best out of a product. If you start splitting teams and strategy across platforms or products you’re going to split your employees.

Collaboration isn’t just a buzzword. It defines how people interact with other people and data. It’s impossible to summarize all types of collaboration with one tool so steer away from a tool based approach. Be open to suggestions from employees and customers when it comes to interactions. You’re going to need flexibility when it comes to collaboration so be prepared to adopt and adopt again.


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