A vital message that all collaboration technology suppliers should be delivering to business customers is that they must deploy collaborative processes and tools with a clear method; otherwise, chaos is likely to ensue.
I realize the tone of that sentence is melodramatic, but the signs are well in place that collaborative approaches to management, along with increasing requirements to “stay connected” not only with e-mail and IM, but in blogs, micro-blogs, wikis, and business social networking sites and knowledge management portals, have the potential of driving people to distraction.
I mean that literally. A requirement to participate in collaborative processes, for measurable metrics to be put in place to encourage employee participation, is seen in many quarters as the key to implementation of a successful collaborative business environment. This is true enough, and fair enough. The potential downside, however, is that executives and employees may find valuable time taken up in collaborative pursuits—council sessions, videoconferences, blogging, answering queries from virtual team members—that significantly cut into time required to execute functions. Worse, they may find it difficult to find time to think, analyze, prepare, and remain focused on the task at hand.
This is not to suggest that collaborative processes and tools should be avoided; rather, they should be deployed with the proper acknowledgement that existing processes and actions need to be accommodated. Basically, something has to give. Becoming active in online communities and other collaborative endeavors cannot be thrown over the wall to simply create a larger pile of stuff to do on top of what executives and employees already have to do.
Collaborative processes and tools inherently require a change in work modes and behavior. This is never easily done. Collaboration technology suppliers must, therefore, incorporate a healthy dose of professional services—in the form of industry-specific workflow consultation and best practice advice, for example—with any solution they sell if they intend to have happy customers.