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Best Practices

Best Practices in Collaboration

By Deb McClanahan, BroadBandHR Consulting

Many companies are looking at collaboration as a way to gain more productivity from their initiatives and their people. Successful collaboration efforts need an infrastructure that makes sense for the size and scope of the collaboration. An IBM unit with 54 locations may need a much more robust collaboration infrastructure than a 200-employee company with three locations. Because these methods also typically involve cross-functional teams, you need to establish some grounds rules and metrics at the beginning.

Focus on the following areas when championing collaboration in your organization:

  • Tools
  • Common process
  • Access

Tools

To ensure the collaboration process is crisp, it is a "must" to have easy-to-use tools to support the initiative. Tools such as Google Doc's, Base Camp, Pandesa, Sharepoint, and PlanView or Project may help. Other organizations find that they also need virtual communication ability as well — using Cisco's TelePresence Conference system or HP's OpenCall media tool represent the next generation of video conferencing that has the feel of being in the room with remote meeting participants.

The critical factor is to match the scope of the project with the tool. If the tool is complicated, people will reject it and may reject the process. While all tools claim to make the process easier, make sure that some employee evaluators are involved in the tool selection process. Also consider an adaptable infrastructure that can grow with you and that may provide a robust, yet easy-to-use solution.

Common Process

The use of a common collaboration process helps keep everyone on the same page. Specify the common elements of your process up front, keeping the number small to allow for local variations. The best collaboration initiatives are consistent without being restrictive Global organizations need to implement lean, lithe collaboration processes that apply equally well throughout the company.

Access

Include everyone who needs to be involved in the process and tool usage. While this may seem obvious, many companies ignore this simple truth. This means 24/7 access to the online tools (or something approaching this level of access).

Summary

Even if you've been involved in a major collaboration effort in the past, a regular, thoughtful review of your client's collaboration processes will both accelerate and improve the results. Following these best practices also ensures that key personnel are actively involved in key efforts.

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