Collaboration? Why?

It seems most technology intended for the enterprise is either being tagged with "social" or "collaboration" monikers these days. We understand the need to put new labels on things to grab attention, but both of these are being vastly overused and in many cases, misused.

Why does it matter? Because customers don't need to be confused by undifferentiated products. They've got enough on their plates. If the enterprise market is a $500B opportunity, then there is plenty to go around. The customer should be able to easily figure out how your product intends to create value for them, rather than being lumped into the highly undifferentiated "collaboration" market.

We're not keen on social, because organizations have always been "social" enterprises. People working together to accomplish something not possible as individuals, is the whole point behind creating an organization (you can get a richer description of our position here). This doesn't even account for the confusion caused by the adoption of "social" by enterprises that aim to provide a double, or triple, bottom-line.

And for collaboration? Why could we possibly have a problem with including collaboration in the description of a technology solution? For starters, collaboration in and of itself isn't the outcome people are looking for. Working together is a noble idea. But to make sense, collaboration must generate results. That is the outcome we're looking for.

(figure from IBM Global CEO Survey, 2012)

Dismantling silos and bringing people together are both great. And maybe that's all these "collaboration" systems do, so they may be aptly named. Let's put the focus on what we're going to deliver, rather than focus on how we're going to deliver it.

Secondly, collaboration isn't the best way to generate some results. There is good collaboration, and bad collaboration. If you want to read an excellent book on Collaboration, Morten Hansen has written the definitive book in our view.

"What is the difference between good and bad collaboration? The answer I provide is a set of principles I refer to as disciplined collaboration. It is an answer to a simple question that confronts us all, whether we are business executives, nonprofit leaders, government officials, politicians, mayors, doctors, lawyers, or church leaders: how do we cultivate collaboration in the right way so that we achieve the great things that are not possible when we are divided?"

Collaboration can be thrilling and powerful when it is disciplined and focused on creating the right results. Otherwise, collaboration might just be a path to increased cost and frustration.

Enter your email address:

Delivered by FeedBurner