Friday, October 31, 2008

The Collaborative Reformation

Collaboration has become the buzz word of the times. It holds out the promise of making all work productive all of the time, an attractive carrot in times of economic crisis. While collaboration tools will improve the effectiveness of existing processes and businesses its true impact and most dramatic effect lies in how collaboration tools can bring about a reformation of business.

Improving the efficiency of existing process works up to a point and indeed most, if not all, collaboration tools are predicated on somehow improving the efficiency of existing processes. The real promise of collaboration tools is how they can help users reform the fundamental processes of businesses. I’m not simply talking about getting rid of layers of approval but the complete overhaul of how new work is brought in, how it is created, how it is charged and how it is produced.

The impact comes from allowing business and users to focus on the work that adds value and streamline and eliminate the non-value add work. Elimination may involve out-sourcing to another business where the particular process or work is their value-add. Think designing cover art for a new book. It is not a value add proposition for a publisher but is a value-add proposition for a designer.

The reformation extends beyond simply managing documents and information to completing the core tasks of the business whether it is a plumber, development agency or a manufacturer. Collaboration services need to be given access to the physical world that plays such an important part in many businesses whether it is tasking plumbers and ordering plumbing supplies for delivery or controlling a CNC machine.

In effect collaboration services need to evolve into a framework within which business operates; a framework which supports agile business processes, modules for specialist features (think CAM control) and management of information within the business. This is the path for development of collaboration services such as Huddle.

The ultimate goal is supporting the ideal of the networked business. A “Business” is a network of smaller businesses using a common collaboration platform with specialist modules from various providers. Business becomes a network of networks in which the collaboration service coordinates activities. It is this that is the root of the dramatic and sustainable change that collaboration services can bring to business.

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