What Collaboration Can And Can't Fix - InformationWeek

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Government // Enterprise Architecture
09:14 AM
Jacob Morgan
Jacob Morgan
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What Collaboration Can And Can't Fix

Your collaboration vision must be grounded in real problems your business needs to solve.

Before your organization jumps to deploy a collaboration platform, it's important to understand why this deployment is even being considered. In research that Chess Media Group conducted last year, we found that only 19% of organizations developed a strategy before deploying a technology--shocking, but sadly not surprising.

Before we even start talking about use cases it's important to understand some of the common collaboration problems that organizations are faced with. Once we have these broader issues identified, we can begin exploring the specific use cases.

Too Much Time Spent In Email

Employees spend a good portion of their days in their inboxes. What was once an asynchronous communication platform has now become:

-- A glorified chat messaging platform (we send an email and get one back right away!).

-- An intranet where we search for old information or documents.

-- A way to find subject matter experts where we send a series of emails to colleagues who then forward those emails to other people, all trying to find this subject matter expert.

-- A calendaring and event management system where we set up meetings.

-- A note-taking solution. (I've been in many meetings where people literally type their notes in an unfinished email to be sent to all attendees.)

We use email for things which it is not efficient. This causes us to be overly dependent on email while wasting a lot of our time.

Jacob Morgan's The Collaboration Organization is a comprehensive strategy guide on how to use emerging collaboration strategies and technologies to solve business problems in the enterprise. It has been endorsed by the former CIO of the USA, CMO of SAP, CMO of Dell, CEO of TELUS, CEO of Unisys, and dozens of other business leaders from around the world.

More by Jacob Morgan

Inability To Find Subject Matter Experts

Traditionally if an employee needs to get find someone, for example a colleague who may be familiar with marketing positioning in Japan, they would need to send out an email. That person will then send out an email and so on and so forth until hopefully that subject matter expert is located. You end up with a whole team of people emailing each other, all trying to find one person! This technique needs to stop: it distracts many people at work and it's just no longer necessary.

Difficult To Find Content

It's so easy for us to use Google to find something nowadays isn't it? Then why is it so hard for us to find a document or piece of information within our enterprise? Employees spend around 30% of their time at work just looking for information they need to get their jobs done, that's more than one full day per week. For those of you thinking, "Hey, we use intranets," let's be honest--in most cases the intranet is where content goes to die and never be seen again.

Information Duplication

This happens A LOT! One employee will work on something only to find out that someone else either already did the project, or started it, or has information which could have been used in that project. Basically we see employees creating and re-creating the same content not knowing that it already exists. Of course this can lead to a lot of tension and frustration in the workplace--and many more emails.

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Andrew Staples
Andrew Staples,
User Rank: Apprentice
10/10/2012 | 6:15:47 PM
re: What Collaboration Can And Can't Fix
Sounds like a lot organizations are experiencing premature collaboration. There's a site for this issue: www.prematurecollaboration.com

Deb Donston-Miller
Deb Donston-Miller,
User Rank: Apprentice
10/3/2012 | 11:24:41 PM
re: What Collaboration Can And Can't Fix
I think you bring up a really important point regarding the ease of use of email--or, if it isn't inherently easy to use, we are so experienced with it that it seems easy. And I also agree that social networking technology can be difficult to use, and I would add that it can be intimidating for some users. Email rightly or wrongly has become demonized, but I wonder whether we shouldn't be thinking harder about how to integrate email conventions--at least to some extent--into social networking platforms. That would perhaps bridge the gap for reluctant users.

Deb Donston-Miller
Contributing Editor, The BrainYard
Antonio Stradivari
Antonio Stradivari,
User Rank: Apprentice
9/29/2012 | 2:03:21 AM
re: What Collaboration Can And Can't Fix
@jacobm: Some good points, but one more suggestion: it is completely unnecessary for employees to e-mail files to themselves to make these available at home or elsewhere. I use Windows Live Mesh, which holds the documents folders on my office desktop and personal laptop in synchrony (in near-real-time), so when I use my laptop at home it automatically gets all the previous updates that I need from my office machine (and vice versa). Similarly, I spend about $100 a year on a remote web-enabled shell account on which I have set up a personal CVS repository to store files, which I can access from home or work, and potentially from anywhere if needed. For certain projects this is invaluable and I can retrieve earlier versions of documents easily. I wish companies would make such resources available to all, and that their use would become part of corporate work practices. This would cost very little and would yet save lots of time and increase productivity.
Richard Rashty
Richard Rashty,
User Rank: Apprentice
9/28/2012 | 2:00:28 PM
re: What Collaboration Can And Can't Fix
@jacobm, I agree with your Post. Over the maturity cycle of Collaboration and Social Business Technologies, I have noticed until very recently a mindset of ignoring the inherent complexity present in these technologies. There are 2 specific dimensions I see as the crux of the problems impacting organizations that started on the journey to becoming a Social Business and more collaborative.

1) Using Social Technologies are NOT SIMPLE. It requires much more tacit effort to engage and collaborate. Take email for example. We heard how Social Technologies will replace email. I say NOT for a long time, maybe never!

Email is SIMPLE, Email is EASY, Email is PREDICTABLE..

2) The benefits of this enhanced Collaboration, Co-creation, and driving business value has almost totally focused on the Organization's benefits. This is a CORE mistake from the technology vendors. The Focus MUST be on "The Me". How does these emergent technologies help "ME" do my job, solve MY problems, improve MY personal brand?

Today, we see these Collaboration/Social Business Vendors now shifting on both these dimensions in merging existing collaboration processes into Social Technologies to help "Me" learn a new way to work, and Ease My Pain.

I have a blog post on this specific point

User Rank: Apprentice
9/27/2012 | 7:00:58 PM
re: What Collaboration Can And Can't Fix
An article totally to my heart! Companies tend to haphazardly implement technology. They need to be clearly aware of what they seek from a technology, and keep comparing actual results with expectations.
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