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Tips For Collaboration

Think you’re ready to implement a workforce collaboration initiative? Beyond addressing the human factors that can make or break collaboration systems, companies should spend time identifying the right tool and system to use.

September 25, 2011
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KEYWORDS collaboration

Here are a few tips:

Start with the end in mind. Deciding which collaboration system to use and how to set it up depends on the aim, said Josh Bernoff, principal analyst at Forrester and author of Empowered. For example, Salesforce Chatter is good for collaboration in an account-based system, such as sales or customer service. If system fidelity is important, Microsoft SharePoint integrates with familiar corporate software and systems like Microsoft Outlook and Office. If innovation is the aim, systems like Imaginatik are designed for sharing and vetting ideas.

Integrate with existing systems. Whatever the aim, collaboration systems should integrate fairly seamlessly with existing corporate tools and systems, particularly email. Companies that have dispersed or global workforces should also make sure the system works with smartphones and other mobile devices.

Make it familiar. Consider selecting a corporate collaboration system designed like consumer sites and services such as Facebook and Twitter. “That actually is reassuring to people,” Bernoff said. “It helps them to take what they’ve learned in their other social networking … and take advantage of it in this new corporate environment.”

Don’t look for immediate return. Some companies expect all employees to be on the collaboration system right after a launch and mistakenly look for immediate ROI, said Dan Pontefract, senior director and head of learning and collaboration at Telus. Instead, look at the collaboration system as an evolution of existing communication and collaboration tools.

“We didn’t ask about the ROI when we put a telephone on people’s desks in the 1940s and ’50s,” he said. “It was just there and it became a tool and people began to figure out this is the way to communicate. We didn’t ask what the ROI was of corporate email when we put corporate email in the 1980s and ’90s.”

“We know it is an inherent part of the workflow. Not a replacement of face-to-face, not a replacement of the phone, not a replacement of the photocopier, not a replacement of email, it’s complementary,” Pontefract said. “It’s a wonderful addition to the arsenal.”

Mike Prokopeak is editorial director of Talent Management magazine. He can be reached at

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