Defining ‘Good Collaboration’

What is "good collaboration"? I think most people would agree that good collaboration is an essential ingredient for any organization that wants to improve efficiency, encourage innovation, help people better connect and share, and ultimately help the business reduce costs and increase revenue. All good things, yes, and you probably don't need to think too hard about how collaboration could help you accomplish those things.

imageBut there is no single way to collaborate. Some organizations are very email-centric, while others are increasingly relying on social. Consider Nationwide Insurance, which was Microsoft's poster-child for social collaboration (highlighted extensively after Microsoft's Yammer acquisition) and how they use social for just about everything, only more recently expanding to SharePoint. Regardless of your "modality" of collaboration, by experimenting with collaboration styles (the people-aspect of the equation) and with the technology, processes can be greatly simplified which can then provide huge cost savings through efficiency and productivity improvements.

Collaboration technology now comes in many formats. I would say that the ways in which we interact — in both our personal and professional lives — have changed dramatically over the past decade due to technology advances. There are wikis, blogs, and social networking, file and document sharing, Q&A tools, expert identification, knowledge transfer, instant messaging, web/video conferencing, and yes — even email, the grandfather of modern collaboration tools.

One consistent pattern across these various modalities of collaboration is the idea of creating a "community of practice." In SharePoint 2013 the Community Site was introduced, providing a forum experience to help promote open communication and information exchange by enabling people to share their expertise and seek help from others who have knowledge in specific areas of interest. You find the same patterns of communities out on the consumer social networking platforms, such as Facebook and LinkedIn, and even within Twitter, where a hashtag or Twitter ID may designate a shared interest, allowing people to congregate and connect.

Within my company (Beezy) we have a number of tools and platforms in use around which we collaborate and create communities, including SharePoint and Office 365 (where we use the Beezy solution to develop communities), Yammer, Jira, SalesForce, and even within file sharing tools OneDrive for Business and DropBox.

With all these different ways to collaborate it has never been easier to share knowledge, ideas, share documents and communicate both within and outside the organization. We are constantly reviewing our own internal collaboration habits and validating whether or not we are practicing "good collaboration." Part of that is because we are an ISV, building social collaboration tools on top of SharePoint, but also because we care about solving this problem for our customers. If we're not using our technology, why would we think our customers would use it?

By regularly reviewing and discussing how your organizations is using the technology you have in place today, you can make adjustments and develop best practices.

That's right: to determine whether or not your current collaboration practices are good (efficient, optimized, providing value), you need to collaborate with your team and share knowledge and experiences. Funny how that works.

Christian Buckley

Christian is a Microsoft Regional Director and Office Servers and Services MVP, the Founder & CEO of CollabTalk LLC, an independent research and technical marketing services firm based in Salt Lake City, Utah, and CMO of revealit.io, a blockchain-based video technology company.