Variety in collaboration tools is not a curse!

According to a recent article in ZDNet, "… enterprise collaboration is exciting again." The reasons given for this include:

  • Low friction "chat" solutions are making collaboration easier in the enterprise.
  • New collaboration tools come with apps that simplify integration with other enterprise systems.
  • Collaboration tools are proliferating and this complicates adoption of a universal enterprise collaboration platform.
  • This last factor can generate to more "Balkanization" -- and less collaboration.

Add to the above the need for internal groups to collaborate with external groups and it's understandable why a fallback tool for collaboration continues to be good old email -- which everyone agrees is pretty much an awful tool for collaboration.

Despite the above, I'm still optimistic about the future of enterprise collaboration based on the use of tools that make it easier to share information among groups that are permanent as well as those that form spontaneously. I doubt that we'll ever get 100% adoption of a single collaboration platform. That is just the way things are. We need to accept that.

What may be emerging is that the steady improvement and availability of easy-to-use collaboration tools does increase the likelihood that incompatible collaboration networks will be formed. At the same time, ease of adoption makes it easier than ever before to form -- or disband -- collaboration teams.

This "low friction” nature of emerging and proliferating collaboration tools should be managed as a strength, not a liability. IT departments should develop and manage policies and processes that take the need for flexibility and variety into account.

Some collaboration tools may be good in situations where the need for structure and flexibility varies. Other tools may be better for supporting collaborative content creation. Still others may have better data handling and visualization features when the object of collaboration is making data more useful.

The reality is that collaboration can take many forms. The sooner we acknowledge this the better. We need to always be on the lookout for how best to simplify learning about new tools and for ways to simplify moving from one tool to another.

Above all we must not discourage people from working together productively and creatively in ways they are comfortable with!

Dennis D. McDonald

Independent management consultant living in Alexandria, Virginia. Plans and manages digital strategy, collaboration, data conversion and construction, system development, and technology adoption projects. Experience working with public sector (e.g., CMS, EPA, Veterans Affairs, NIH, World Bank, National Academy of Engineering) and private sector (e.g., Catalyst Rx, General Electric, Jive Software, AIG).

Latest posts by Dennis D. McDonald (see all)

Leave a Reply