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3/29/2006
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The Collaborative Business Environment Model

One way smart companies are preparing for the knowledge economy today is by building Collaborative Business Environments (CBEs).  Collaborative Business Environments are workplaces which supersede the traditional desktop metaphor and serve as the nexus of knowledge sharing, collaboration, and the organization itself.  

Using a common interface, a CBE can provide access to the tools the knowledge worker needs on a minute-by-minute basis.  It can 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.

Well-designed CBEs leverage people and knowledge while creating environments that facilitate the ability of people to work more effectively.  

This fact is not lost on senior executives at some of the world's largest (and smartest) companies.  Mike Wing, vice president for strategic communications at IBM, said, "Today, the knowledge worker who makes a difference is less a knower than a learner and applier. We should be long past congratulating ourselves for the simple epiphany that intellectual capital is better than physical capital. The key now is innovation -- it's the only way to stay ahead of the tsunamis of commoditization and globalization. Yes, it's important to have unique, differentiating expertise. But you have to be able to combine, use and evolve that expertise in a radically dynamic market."

One way of accomplishing what Mike Wing notes is through a CBE that is accessible by everyone within an organization, such as IBM's W3 On Demand Workplace.

A Collaborative Business Environment can be a well-thought-out portal, but a portal is not the only platform upon which a CBE can be built.  The term portal may be misleading, as it means many things to many people.  The most common use of the term comes from the consumer world where a portal is generally thought of as a Yahoo-style Web site with access to almost any activity one can do online, including news, e-mail, instant messaging, and making travel reservations. In the corporate world, however, the term portal has several meanings, including application specific (such as an HR portal), and an enterprise portal (e.g. an internal corporate Web site that aggregates and distributes resources, applications, and information).  The Lotus Notes client is another platform which can be used to build a Collaborative Business Environment.

Next time we'll look at how Collaborative Business Environments actually improve productivity.

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