As you may or may not have heard, Google officially pulled the plug on its collaboration/communication platform this week. Wave won't be missed because, well, it was never really liked all that much, but also because its most popular components will be injected into future solutions. Meanwhile, experts are buzzing about why a concept as popular and efficient as collaboration can still be difficult to adopt. 

Waving Goodbye to Wave

Long story short, Wave was hyped up way too much. By the time people actually got their hands on the platform, most of the roaring excitement surrounding it had fizzled down to a dull rumble. 

Next came an attempt to fit it somewhere in the enterprise. The result? Square peg, round hole. In fact it was never completely clear which audience Google hoped would take Wave under its wing, and so, accordingly, none did. 

"Wave has not seen the user adoption we would have liked," said Urs Hölzle, the Senior Vice President, Operations & Google Fellow, in Google's official announcement. "We don’t plan to continue developing Wave as a standalone product, but we will maintain the site at least through the end of the year and extend the technology for use in other Google projects."

Whether or not scrapping the platform and tearing it apart means a stronger, upcoming social network offering from Google remains to be seen. 

If Collaboration Were Easy, We Would All Do It

While the reasons Wave didn't make the cut in the Web 2.0 world are one thing, the platform's failure in the enterprise two-dot-oh context is something quite different. 

What makes collaboration so difficult? Apparently, several things:

"Collaboration is more than a word or even an idea," said Carl Frappaolo, co-founder of Information Architected. "Many individuals speak of collaboration as if it is a single business process or approach to communication and networking. Much of this attitude stems from the popularized viral adoption of social computing Web 2.0 tools. This is not the case for Enterprise 2.0, the application of collaborative tools within the firewall."

According to Democrasoft president, Richard Lang, it's the lack of a moderator that does solutions in: “Despite best intentions and the best product, an online community will only be successful if there is a motivated person (the Moderator) who is committed to making it successful, on a day-to-day basis," he said

It's About Culture

Furthermore, this is not a one size fits all solution; everyone has different needs. Like we said earlier this week, how and why collaboration is encouraged and implemented depends on the types of problems a business is trying to solve.

"…there are many challenges as well as opportunities in implementing Enterprise 2.0," offered Ross Dawson. "This is both due to cultural issues, but also because changes to processes and structures are required to tap the full potential of these approaches, and organizational change is never easy."

If you're wary of such organizational change, but know it's needed, it's best to start slowly, and from a simple angle. Here's a recap of the tips we collected earlier this week for encouraging participation:

  • Mark Morrell, Intranet Manager for BT says start small, start cheap and build for tear down. 
  • Start with easier projects just to get the balling rolling, then move on to bigger projects that involve more people.
  • Encourage your most adverse employees to participate. They have the most potential for building a following.
  • Make sure your employees love what they do, then provide tools to help them do it better.
  • Consider the size of your organization. An enterprise's collaboration needs are much different from those of a small organization, which means different barriers to adoption, different cultures to consider and, ultimately, different tools. 

The 'Real' Enterprise 2.0

Deb Lavoy, the director of product marketing for social media at Open Text, brought the recent shifts in the enterprise down to an intrinsic level: 

"The 'real' Enterprise 2.0 is not a technology or marketing plan, but the reinvention of the enterprise itself," she said. "It's a rethinking of the structure, process, culture and even, in some cases, the very purpose of the enterprise." 

Among her six pivot points for fundamental change in the enterprise, is, of course, collaboration. 

"...we are developing a more effective model of the organization, one in which collaboration plays a major role," she continued. "We know that a collaborative team is magical, with endless energy and focus, able to tackle any objective. The strengths of collaborative team members are amplified and their weaknesses diminished by the virtue of their collaboration." 

Her four hallmarks of a collaborative team are as follows: 

  • Shared mission: Without a common goal, it is nearly impossible to form an effective team.
  • Mutual respect: This is not about who's better. The team members must not be questioning each others competence or trying to demonstrate their own.
  • Trust: Mutual respect enables trust that allows for frank discussions and debates, focusing on the issues, not the people.
  • Commitment: Commitment to both continual improvement and to each other.

When it boils down to it, collaboration in the enterprise is having a tough time because it's adding contradictory flavor to the command and control we're used to. As Lavoy says, it is "a shift from thinking that everything must be reviewed, decided and divided to the idea that the organization can collaborate, learn, contribute and, hence, address more and harder challenges."

Further, it's a shift that's not going away. Tools like Wave might crash and burn, but in the end they're just helping us learn what to contrast our way against, once we find it.