Is Collaboration Strategically Useless?


One of the beauties of collaborative tools like wikis, blogs and social nets is that workers can use them without IT's support--or approval. That makes them even more attractive.

The problem is, that doesn't make them valuable.

CIO Insight's hard-hitting research report on collaboration finds an extreme disconnect between the high percentage of companies using some of these tools and the strikingly low number of IT executives who deem them strategic. (We put this issue into clearer focus here.)

In fact, most of the collaborative tools rated most strategic were those that fell under IT's oversight.

To be sure, collaboration has enormous potential for strategic success. A younger, more tech-savvy generation has entered the workforce, bringing new techniques and tools to get the job done. And survey respondents rated the tools high for productivity and decision making.

But until their strategic value becomes clearer, should some CIOs to dismiss them, or at least take a wait-and-see approach?

No--at least not if they want to turn off these younger workers and miss the chance to make a major business breakthrough.

Still, it's easy to see why some are hesitant. And until these tools prove their mettle (beyond being cool new toys), that reluctance could grow.

Sound off: are collaborative tools strategically valuable to your company? If not, what needs to change?


4 Comments for "Is Collaboration Strategically Useless?"

  • Rhea August 26, 2013 10:49 pm

    This is my response to Chris Chant in suamrmy Politicians need to be intelligent about understanding the issues to help the CIOs and UKplc? Government CIOs need support in achieving the desired result of being the intelligent buyer . That will include the use of cloud but more importantly they need to understand exactly what they are buying into. There is hope just recently someone in government summed it up neatly need to leave our previous tooling agnostic approach by specifying tooling capabilities holding back from mandating specific toolsets . Some may puzzle what this actually means.HMG has in the past been the unintelligent buyer by just going through the procurement process to place a contract but not understanding the capabilities in the toolsets that will eventually deliver the solution. This in particular applies to software which is now dominated by 4 suppliers which is always bad for innovation. So it is important that buyers understand such capabilities to choose capabilities that can help reduce costs now and in the future. For example agile software where core code does not change, no code generation or compiling but can builds any custom solution thus makes investment future proof and achieves value for money (VFM). The final part to that statement refers to the fact that under EU rules you are not allowed to specify any particular vendor. So the blindingly obvious is the need to become intelligent to understand underlying capabilities and articulate them with out naming the supplier.The issue is how is this to be achieved? I think there are two key areas that need to be addressed; how to gain the knowledge and how to distribute such knowledge.Gaining knowledge goes to the core of how we in UK are so poor at supporting our innovators. Politicians make great play of R&D indeed just recently Universities and Science Minister David Willetts made great emphasis that place bets on tech research for growth. Well yes but is this not a cost until it is exploited? Not only that from idea to commercialisation is about 5 years and can be 10? Another mistake by politicians is that they do not differentiate between Tech SMEs and SME generally when they expect 25% of HMG contracts to go to the SME sector. So take comfort CIOs being the unintelligent buyer goes right to the top! It is from the top direction is urgently needed to set the framework to help the CIOs at the frontline.This needs politicians to first recognise that real innovation is likely to come from small tech companies (STC) and therefore once their product is ready for market so is proven to deliver VFM they need to have a defined route to the UK’s biggest buyer HMG. At this point an assessment for relevance and benefits can be quickly assessed and thus the knowledge build begins. If the capabilities and outcomes can be effectively used in government contracts of what ever type then these can be articulated (just as I did with agile software) and this knowledge is then distributed to all involved parties to help CIO make good decisions, procurement understand what they are buying and service suppliers be aware of the buyer’s expectations. This will be a central resource that STCs can use It is highly inefficient to handle at departmental or local level.This is not difficult nor costly but the benefits could be significant not only in VFM achieved but UK at last tackles a serious gap in helping our home grown STCs at a critical stage in the life cycle of development of real innovation. It is from these STCs that new British globally players can emerge. If HMG buys into innovative products then it makes it 10 times easier to export. So CIO you are an important player in this vital action for UK plc. But first politicians need to recognise the issues and then appoint a person responsible to implement action that will help you achieve your demanding goals.

  • Jon Unger March 28, 2008 8:10 pm

    For collaboration tools to really work in the enterprise it will need the backing of management starting from the top level. The CIO will have to make it clear to management that technical resources need to allocate time to developing content and materials. Being an outside consultant, I often see many different corporate cultures, and with each company, sharing knowledge is different. Some organizations prefer not to collaborate and let internal politics take departments down the path of competing projects that accomplish the same goal. Within some departments there are technical resources adverse to sharing technical knowledge. Their fears are often that if they share the knowledge over a blog or wiki that their job will be outsourced to India or China. For many companies, the culture for social knowledge sharing isn't quite there yet. The top-level management will need to begin building a sharing environment before the subject matter experts begin to share.

  • Jon McAdams March 19, 2008 12:45 pm

    As noted in previous forums, the problem is one of both definition and appropriate management. Social networking and collaboration are terms that are being loosely applied to many very different activities ranging from collaborating on scientific research to online chatting about topics of personal interest. Technology changes and shapes behavior. When a new information technology becomes available in an environment, it's important to develop ways to use that technology appropriately. Most organizations have policies, training and communications to inform employees about appropriate "on the job" behaviors and activities. These should include guidelines and training about the appropriate use of any new information technology. How to use collaborative tools (that are rapidly become a part of every-day behavior) within a specific organization will depend upon that organization's culture and policies, the results of pilot projects, and the bottom-line benefits that the new technology can offer. Organizations may need to experiment with many social networking and collaboration options, including workgroup collaboration, online conferencing, communities of interest, online meetings, and do this both within and across various stakeholder groups. Doing this will obviously require a high degree of planning and cooperation involving key stakeholders throughout an organization. It's another (and perhaps a less obvious) way that new collaborative technologies are breaking down organizational "silos." Collaboration isn't just about managing new types of IT. True collaboration involves a radical restructuring of group behavior. It may be helpful to think about collaboration tools as having the same potential for enhancing the ability to take action and increasing the availability of useful information within and between organizations that the Internet has started offering to individuals worldwide.

  • Ed Dodds March 19, 2008 11:21 am

    The problem for the CIO is that collaboration produces new ideas -- ideas which they do not have the budgetary authority to implement. They realize they are being set up for failure. Later, when the remainder of the C-Suite is questioned at the stockholders meeting or investor calls about why collaboration wasn't used or why it failed, the CIO will predictably play the role of the scapegoat. Collaboration without budgetary prcoess alignment and financial transparency is a non-starter.

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