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Creating a collaborative work environment in 2011

Organizations' #1 priority in 2011 is to increase collaboration, according to a new CMSWire poll. It found that about 32 percent of companies are aiming to build stronger internal collaboration practices, tools, and culture in the new year.

This goal has also frequently come up in our conversations with our customers over the past six months or so. Many of our customers who are interested in Enterprise 2.0 want to build more collaborative working environments to improve the productivity and efficiency of their teams, wherever they might be located around the world.

Yet while many companies believe they need to increase collaboration in 2011, they know little about what that really means or entails, or how it applies to their business. Here's an example I have used in the past to bring some clarity.

Consider a business unit that is gearing up for a new product development cycle. It has a product backlog, a list of features that have been envisioned for the new release. This backlog is being built and maintained in an internal E2.0 tool (a Social Knowledge Network) that allows product ideas to be collaboratively developed and product knowledge to be widely socialized.

However, before the organization commits development resources to any specific feature, it wants to ensure that these features are a priority with the customer base. Therefore, the organization uses the Social Knowledge Network to seamlessly expose the top 50 internal product ideas to customers and receive feedback and reactions.

After receiving customer feedback, the product management team notices that customers have focused their priorities in the emerging trend 3-D widgets. Based on this feedback, the product management team is able to use the Social Knowledge Network to determine if any other R&D has been done on 3-D widgets, and whether the competition has introduced features in this area.

To their delight, they find there is quite a bit of new research in this area, and the company actually owns a lot of intellectual property around 3-D widgets. In addition, they are able to determine that the competition has not released any 3-D widget features. So they are able to focus the entire release on this new feature and begin building a marketing campaign around this emerging capability.

This shows that internal collaboration or external collaboration is only part of the story. Collaboration among all constituents, inside and outside the firewall, can lead to innovation, discovery and more effective business practices. And effective collaboration also leverages an organization’s current knowledge, rather than pretending that it does not exist.

Had the team chosen to collaborate using different tools and in different ways, the synergies between the internal thinking, the external preferences and the internal knowledge/expertise would not have emerged. Gaining insight from two collaborative silos is not likely to happen. How can product management link a marketing Twitter campaign aimed at building the brand with an internal R&D wiki? It can’t.

So when considering how to improve the efficiency of an information-centric project or business unit, don't stop at solutions that focus solely on external relationships. Consider how to span external and internal relationships, and how to leverage your current knowledge assets. This type of system will enable you to compete more effectively in the real world, and build relationships that enable discovery and innovation.



Editor's note: This excerpt originally appeared in an article Phil Green contributed on CMSWire. You can read the full article on CMSWire.

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