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Analysis

New Social Collaboration responsibility at Bloor
David Norfolk By: David Norfolk, Practice Leader - Development, Bloor Research
Published: 2nd March 2013
Copyright Bloor Research © 2013
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My name is David Norfolk, I'm responsible for [{page:Enterprise Development:Development}] (including [{page:New Development:New Development}]) and [{page:Governance:Governance}] at Bloor; and I'm also now taking over responsibility for [{page:Social Collaboration:Social Collaboration}] technology from Roger Whitehead.

I've known Roger for years, since the introduction of Lotus Notes and Groupware. I think I may even have invented the term Workgroup Computing when I wrote "The Book of Workgroup Computing" Apricot Pc Magazine, ISBN 1858700159 / 1-85870-015-9 EAN 9781858700151) back then; and Roger was one of my sources. I have immense respect for Roger's knowledge and insights in this field (many of them are still available on this site).

I take a fairly broad view of the Social Collaboration topic; which, for me, includes (at one end of the spectrum) "enterprise collaboration" - the technology-enabled ability to exchange and receive information seamlessly across departmental and organisational boundaries. This enables organisations to transact business in today's mobile and agile marketplace and is related to the development of "collaborative teams" in technology-based businesses - I still think that Tom DeMarco's and Timothy Lister's "Peopleware" has relevance here, as recommended reading.

Nevertheless, I think that the emphasis needs to be on Social Collaboration; not only because achieving this, either internally or with individual customers etc., markedly enhances enterprise collaboration.

One characteristic of implementations of "collaboration software" is that they often don't deliver the benefits originally expected - and this is largely due to dysfunctional people issues and management failures (including the choice of the wrong KPIs), rather than to any technology failures with the software or its design. Social collaboration needs to be worked at and involves cultural change; just buying and installing Microsoft SharePoint, say, won't deliver much general collaboration by itself, let alone a social collaboration culture or collaborative teams. However, a top-down vision of a collaborative culture might well be facilitated with the appropriate choice of collaboration software - which might turn out to be Fuzed, or Huddle, or even SharePoint.

Two things need to be stressed: first, that too early concentration on ROI may kill a collaboration culture before it can get going (which isn't to say that you shouldn't measure KPIs and anticipated outcomes); and, second, that resources must be available for education and achieving buy-in to the collaborative culture at all levels. Top management buy-in to the collaborative vision is particularly important: I still remember one of the very early Lotus Notes success stories which was then cancelled by the CEO saying, in effect, "I don't care if this Notes thing is cost-effective and makes the business work better; I simply don't want my minions knowing stuff and collaborating amongst themselves without me and my managers being in control and doling out information to them as we think necessary".

Social collaboration, in our context, is only worthwhile if it contributes to better business outcomes (which can include increased staff or customer loyalty and morale). These outcomes must be measured and monitored; and collaboration software should be seen as an enabling technology for achieving them.

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