Research Report: The Virtual Public Sector

Five keys to collaboration

Unfortunately, there is no surefire formula for ensuring the success of an online collaboration initiative. Organizations need to develop their strategies and choose their tools based on the specific requirements of their users—and they need to let their strategies evolve as requirements evolve, rather than locking themselves into their original visions.

That said, here are five basic ways that IT managers can improve the odds of their success in building a collaboration ecosystem.

1. Have a strategy and a goal.

Don’t assume that collaboration will take care of itself and that all you have to do is introduce the tools and solutions and users will take it from there. As with any emerging technology, you need to understand what you are trying to accomplish with collaboration software, how it will affect organizational workflows, and what payoffs agency executives will expect from the collaboration initiative. Establish objectives for the program, and that will naturally lead to the technologies you will use to best accomplish those objectives.

2. Effective change management is crucial.

Recognize some users have a difficult time with change. Make sure you partner with vendors that take that into account and also that recognize the importance of integrating with your agency’s legacy systems. Tools should be easy to use but also must provide government-grade security. Consider employing dedicated collaboration analysts who can drive the adoption of tools for various lines of business.

3. Have an education plan.

Don’t expect users to simply pick up collaboration tools and start using them effectively. That includes educating them about the value of sharing information that than holding onto it. In most cases, given the history of agencies, this will be the de facto situation, and users need to understand what collaboration means for them and the agency. Show them the benefit of sharing, then show them how the tools support that.

4. Be as flexible as possible.

This speaks to how you prioritize your choice and use of cloud and mobile for collaboration. You need to allow people the flexibility to collaborate from many different locations, on a range of different devices, both personal and corporate, and using a variety of apps. IT management can’t veer too far towards locking down devices and apps, because then it will be difficult for users to collaborate freely.

5. Manage, but with a light touch

In many ways, collaboration is a different animal from many of the IT related activities that agencies are used to managing. It needs a certain level of governance, for sure. For example, you want to make sure that employees are not misusing the tools. Also, you need to make sure people are civil in their collaborations. By and large, however, collaboration generally works best when it is free-flowing and not subject to any onerous rules and procedures. Aim for guard rails and guidelines.