Quick Thought on Expanding Collaboration
Collaboration between two people, or across small teams is relatively easy. There are dozens of great tools out there, free and paid, to help you to share content, edit simultaneously, start up threaded conversation, and so forth. And if you upload a document into that system, search is going to be fairly simple.
Collaboration across a large, geographically-dispersed team is somewhat more complicated. Organizations need to think about synchronous and asynchronous communication, online and offline access, retention rules and compliance. You may upload dozens, hundreds, thousands of documents a day using dozens of different content types, team-based and company-wide taxonomies, files of varying sizes and complexity, some with structured taxonomy — but most without clear metadata associations, spread across various lists, libraries, sites and silos.
Collaboration just got a bit more difficult.
Community is easy when it’s just two or three people connecting on a regular basis. When product companies demo their features or talk about primary user scenarios, they tend to focus on the small team activities because 1) most people, even in large organizations, tend to collaborate within small circles, and 2) its just a much easier story to tell. On a small team, you can simply pick up the phone and have a conversation, or send out a web meeting invitation and pull 4 or 5 people in to discuss an idea, develop a shared plan.
The wrong approach to improving collaboration is to either reduce the amount of content being shared, or make it painfully difficult for people to use the system. Sure, there’s always a need to purge the system for outdated or bad content, but it’s usually replaced just as quickly. And making your system less functional just ensures that people will go around it to get their work done. More is better. More tools and capability, more content.
In my experience, offering people a wide range of options for collaboration is the right approach — allowing people to use the tools that best fit their needs means they are more likely to connect and share with others. It’s also important to make the process of adding content to the system easy, so that key workloads are moved out of email and local file shares. By expanding the pool of content — and then focusing on providing strong search tools, the greater your chances of finding the right content to meet your needs. More collaboration options means more end user engagement, and more user engagement means more content. Of course, this means there is a greater need for filtering, tagging, and organizing your content – and stronger management tools.