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8/24/2006
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Ready, Set, Collaborate!

I am often asked by clients what they can do to prepare for a more collaborative world.  Each company, of course, faces its own unique challenges as we enter an age of real-time collaboration and knowledge sharing, but there are certain issues that companies can address in order to ensure preparedness.  Let's take a look.
1.)  Is the company ready to move from the industrial age to the knowledge economy?  This may sound simple, but it is decidedly not.  Most organizations are heavily dependent on industrial age management techniques and mindsets, attributes not generally compatible with knowledge work.  How does one get ready (beyond reading my book, Managing the Knowledge Workforce)?  The answer is that this is really an evolutionary process - change doesn't happen overnight.  It may be easier if a company produces software or content than refrigerators, but almost all organizations are steeped in industrial age processes.

2.) What tools are presently in place?  Although anyone reading this column probably sees the world as having enterprise-strength instant messaging and oodles of collaborative workspaces, such companies are the exception to the rule.  Although instant messaging is in use at over 75% of companies in the U.S., the percentage of companies with enterprise-strength deployments of IM is minuscule.  

3.) Do knowledge workers have access to the information they need?   Sometimes, with online search capabilities such as Google, which deliver 564,768 results upon request, it seems that everything one needs is available on line.  But that is illusory at best.  Most information systems are still ssiloed.

4.) Can someone work from anywhere?  In today's world, the ability to work anywhere is key - and this again is somewhat illusory with so many BlackBerry and Palm devices in evidence at any airport lounge.  Ask anyone there how to get key sales data and the likelihood is that he will respond "send an e-mail to a subordinate requesting it" rather than be able to look it up himself.

5.) Do we have even the beginnings of a true Collaborative Business Environment (CBE)?  Collaborative Business Environments are platforms that supersede the traditional desktop metaphor and go beyond the portal concept to create an online workspace that facilitates knowledge work.  Using a common interface, CBEs provide access to the tools the knowledge worker needs on an on-demand basis.  They bring people together, both synchronously and asynchronously.  The CBE increases knowledge worker productivity by providing access to, and delivering, information where and when it is needed.  Companies that build solid and well-structured CBEs will leverage their people and knowledge while creating environments that facilitate the ability of people to work more effectively.

Is your organization ready to collaborate?  I'd like to know how far along you are.  E-mail me with your story at howfaralong@basex.com.

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