Five collaboration myths, according to Gartner

It’s been difficult to escape the idea of collaboration in the enterprise recently, whether it’s consumer-focused platforms such as Facebook or Twitter or tools designed for the workplace. These tools range from salesforce.com’s Chatter to Yammer to Jive to Tibco’s tibbr to Moxie Software to Socialcast, recently acquired by VMware.

But where do you start? How do you know what’s best for your business?

"There are five myths that derail collaboration initiatives," said Carol Rozwell, vice president and distinguished analyst at Gartner. "Rather than making technology the starting point, IT leaders should first identify real business problems and key performance indicators (KPIs) that link to business goals."

The five myths Rozwell identifies? The following:

  • The right tools will make us collaborative
    It’s not as simple as that, says Gartner. "Technology can make it easier to collaborate when applications mirror a more intuitive, fluid work style, but selecting a tool without addressing roles, processes, metrics and the organisation’s workplace climate is putting the cart before the horse," its report states.
  • Collaboration is inherently a good thing
    Gartner reckons this is a simplistic way of looking at things and many organisations can’t articulate what benefit they hope to achieve by employing social media to become more collaborative. Gartner: "This decreases the likelihood of achieving a successful implementation. The most successful social media initiatives solve real business problems. The KPI impacted must be real and relevant to the business."
  • Collaborating takes extra time
    Integration is the key to this one. "When IT leaders perform a thorough analysis of the target audience’s workflow to make sure key integration points among applications are identified, they will avoid the common mistake of simply layering collaboration tools on top of existing applications that workers are expected to use. If collaboration and social software tools are not integrated with other critical applications, workers must shift context — which slows them down — or duplicate effort (e.g., cut/paste from one application to another)," says Gartner.
  • People naturally will/will not collaborate
    Changing the culture of a business is one of the most difficult aspects of rolling out a new application, particularly if it is supposed to replace a process that has been in place for a number of years. Gartner says most people will be in a sweet spot between the two ends of the spectrum – those who will and those who will not collaborate. "IT leaders should ignore the reluctant minority and work on motivating the majority of workers who can be persuaded to collaborate when expectations are clear and collaborative behaviours are rewarded," the report says.
  • People instinctively know how to collaborate
    That’s possibly true, but without a clear set of guidelines individuals will be forced into using their own interpretation of collaboration. "A better approach is to clarify what attitude a collaborative individual needs to bring to their work, what abilities and skills they need to master and what personal style works well in a team setting," Gartner suggests.

"Not all processes make the same contribution to business performance. IT leaders need to look for situations to apply collaborative approaches that give the organisation not just a competitive advantage but competitive differentiation," concludes Gartner’s Rozwell. "The most successful collaboration initiatives solve real business problems, aiming to affect a KPI that links to an organisation’s business goals."

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