How might we collaborate better? It’s a question that will never be answered; you can always co-operate or collaborate more effectively and every situation is different. Yet there are three areas we think should be considered but often aren’t:
- A shared experience
- Multiple collaboration options
- User and community autonomy
Towards a Shared Experience
We believe collaboration is more than messages about Wikis; a truly collaborative environment promotes team working – and eliminates lots of email.
If users are to genuinely collaborate they must all see a view of the same developing situation, rather than each user working in their own disconnected space. Also, if their collaborative efforts are to have timely influence, then this shared view needs to be delivered in real-time – any delay impacts the ability of the group to make a difference.
True collaboration needs more than a one size fits all dashboard; this is an individual, yet shared, experience of the situation. The community of collaborators need to have communal control and responsibility for resolution.
While all collaborators need access to the data that describes the situation or business process, this needs to be delivered in a way that’s personalised by each user; it’s up to the user to decide which tools suit their role.
Therefore the collaborative environment has to ensure that each individual has to access to this data on their own terms, i.e., alongside other data, documents and tools they need to contextualise the situation or move the process forward.
The role of the collaboration platform is therefore one of facilitating the shared experience; creating an environment where data is easily accessible – even if some collaborators are outside the corporate network.
Multiple Collaboration Options
The shared experience described above allows messaging features to become collaboration options – without it, a messaging feature remains nothing more than a way of sending a message, whereas with it, the message has context and relevance. This richness defines collaboration.
So which collaboration option to offer? The answer is those which are most social; the richest and most immediate.
Users find instant messaging or ‘chat’ applications increasingly acceptable and in the context of a shared experience, a useful collaboration tool. It has the advantages of being immediate whilst having just the right level of intrusion; like a ringing telephone, it’s possible to ignore an inbound chat message but most likely the recipient’ll pick it up.
Given the importance of communities (see below) any messaging mechanism needs a community focus if it’s to exploit collaboration capabilities to the full. There’s no no quicker way of exposing insights, resolving incipient situations, or expediting business processes than bringing an entire community into a real-time, shared, collaboration.
User and Community Autonomy
Giving each user a personal perspective on a shared experience means substantial complexity; each user needs the autonomy of a personalised environment so they can get the job done, but also needs the contributions of the wider community.
As communities of users cluster around common interests, it seems logical that the collaborative environment should provide default community dashboard pages that can then be developed by individual users. These users effectively curate the dashboard content and ensure that the community pages will themselves evolve over time as data sources evolve, merge or are superseded.
This gives the communities the autonomy to work with the data that suits them, using the collaboration tools which they find most efficient. Community autonomy also allows new communities to spring up around initiatives, objectives or problems.
Care should be taken around administration of communities, their proliferation and their protection. In particular, the following considerations should be made:
- Administration has to be an end-user responsibility; awaiting IT involvement every time a user needs to be added to a community will lead to delays.
- End-users should be able to create communities as situations require, yet with some oversight from a corporate administrator.
- Communities must have some sort of privacy structure to ensure they stay relevant, corporate intellectual property is protected and confidentiality respected.
We believe that genuine collaboration needs these three components:
- A shared experience, so that each user can bring their unique skillset to bear on a shared issue or objective.
- Multiple collaboration options, so that the best suited can be chosen.
- User and community autonomy, so that the right communities can respond in the right way.
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