I’ve been doing a lot of thinking recently about collaboration and collaboration tools. It’s clear that there’s a huge unmet need for this capability, but a lot of confusion about how best to introduce these tools to organisations.
What is equally sure is that just providing the tools and hoping for the best will make the situation dramatically worse, not better. So to avoid this, I’ve been exploring a possible model for how best to introduce collaboration tools. Here is a summary of my thoughts so far:
- Phase 0: FragmentationAs the usage of collaboration tools grows in an unmanaged an unconsidered way, so does the “fragmentation” of information. Key information is divided into ever-smaller spaces, locked up out of broad use, generating considerable information management and knowledge management problems. (This is not a search problem.)
- Phase 1: GardeningThe starting point is to identify an overall owner for the collaboration tools, and to put in place simple governance, policies and management. Rather than trying to restrict usage, the approach is one of “gardening”, helping to guide usage , connect the dots and identify best practices.
- Phase 2: Business solutionsThe next step is to identify key (and common) needs, and build solutions that are tailored to meet them. In this way, clear user needs can guide how to bring together different solutions (wikis, blogs, lists) into more coherent solutions. Possible targets include project collaboration, teaching or e-learning, collaborative authoring, communities of practice or research.
- Phase 3: Rich networksOrganisation-wide collaboration will only be achieved with the silos are broken down between different spaces. This involves recognising the difference between “inwards” and “outwards” facing spaces, and putting in place processes for sharing and linking between them.
- Phase 4: CoherenceThis is the end goal, where there is coordination between the collaboration spaces at all levels, accessed through a personalised portal-like interface. The lines between different “tools” is blurred, creating a single working environment. (There’s a lot to be done before anyone can reach this state.)
The idea behind this simple model is to give a “roadmap” for organisations confronted by the growing demands for collaboration tools. Not proscriptive, it aims to help “shape” the adoption of these tools, ensuring that common pitfalls are avoided.
I’ll be writing more on this over the coming months…