Enterprise collaboration is about tapping the latent knowledge and information of the enterprise to connect people, processes and content. In the Web 2.0 world, you may recognize this as “Crowdsourcing”. In the Enterprise 2.0 world, this is the heart of enterprise collaboration. However, buzzwords and abstract concepts are better understood if illustrated. So, let’s take a look at two project collaboration scenarios involving the same manager. 

The first scenario is the world of today -- the manager and his team living in an email, shared drives and spreadsheet world. The second scenario is that same manager in a world where enterprise collaboration and the tools that provide it are used. These scenarios are fictitious, and any relation to real-world experiences is coincidental (but intended).

Siloed Steve

Siloed Steve oversees a marketing team that creates content for their partner ecosystem -- brochures, web content, sales demos, etc. Steve has been approached by the corporate sales team to put together a marketing program to promote a new product to their partners which will be launched at their annual sales kick off meeting in 6 weeks. Steve’s team will be responsible for creating product brochures, call scripts, website copy, business whitepaper, presentations for the kickoff event and pre-launch partner training webinars.

Steve immediately schedules a meeting via email with his team to inform them of this new project. He assigns each team member with tasks and asks them to update a project spreadsheet he created -- the one he will email all of them after the meeting.

After the meeting, each team member begins collecting the information they need to complete their tasks. However, they aren’t sure where to start or who they need to contact. They think the product management and sales team could provide some positioning, key messages and competitive information, but they rarely interact with those groups directly. They decide that the company’s employee directory will be a good place to start. They end up making some phone calls and sending some emails, but haven’t been able to connect.

Over the next few weeks, Steve’s team has made little progress on the tasks. Steve is frustrated because he has to continually update the project spreadsheet, but he had to sort through his already large inbox to find all of the versions each team member sent him with their individual updates.

Steve has to get more involved, so he uses his manager title to pull the sales and product management teams together for a meeting. Overall, feedback has been sporadic, and has come via email, face-to-face meetings and phone calls. There is no central location to store and manage all this feedback, so the feedback review process has added more time to the overall project.

Three weeks out from the event, Steve is in panic mode. His team members have completed what they could, but more information is needed and more collaboration needs to take place so that everyone agrees on messaging and content. It doesn’t help that Steve’s manager is pushing hard for an update every day, and Steve just can seem to provide enough information regarding progress. He hasn’t been able to update his “master” spreadsheet in about a week.

Social Steve

Now envision Steve working in an environment where enterprise collaboration is the norm in his organization. Steve has the same meeting with his team regarding the content that needs to be created for the sales kickoff. Just prior to the meeting, Steve created a project team space in Oracle WebCenter and invited each of his team members to participate.

Furthermore he has asked his team to invite anyone else they need to participate in the space -- even their partners. During the meeting Steve has told them all the project information has been placed on the project wiki where each of them can find their individual tasks. He asks them to place all content in the company’s content management system, and then to link those from the wiki.

The team members gather additional information from the contacts they have already made through the company’s employee portal via instant messages. The team members also have RSS feeds pulled into their personal dashboard where they monitor feeds from Twitter and partner blogs that talk about the general state of the market and the need for a product like theirs.

All these sources help to provide the team members with the information they need to create a compelling sales message and to highlight the key benefits of their product. This all happens centrally and in a way that they can efficiently multi-task this project with the rest of their daily tasks.

As the team members each create their sales kick off content, they contribute their content in the team space. Because it is backed by a fully featured enterprise content management system, full versioning, workflow, rating and feedback mechanisms are already in place.

This contribution progress triggers activity stream updates for team space member and an automatically emailed notice to other members on the team, as well as sales staff, that it is available for review. As others edit the content, these revisions are tracked. Each time a team member accesses the content from the project wiki, they are assured of getting the most recent and up-to-date version.

The team’s communication with key partners is easy. They receive feedback and incorporate ideas into the sales materials via the space’s integrated discussion capabilities. Additional feedback comes through the company’s partner portal, which offers the same social collaboration capabilities including blogs, wikis, RSS feeds, real time communications and activity streams. The partners are kept abreast of the coming product launch activities and they have the ability to participate and provide feedback where needed.

From Steve’s perspective, he monitors and tracks his team’s activity from his manager’s dashboard. Not only does this provide an at-a-glance view of all his teams activities, but he can also monitor his team’s budget which is pulled directly from the company’s financial system. Steve’s management view in the team portal also provides a calendar so Steve can quickly click on dates leading up to project completion and be aware of key delivery dates.

Steve still feels compelled to conduct weekly status meetings, but these are short health check events where he can provide “air cover” for the team as they work towards the kickoff event. Steve makes sure that his management has access to the roll-up reporting and activity feeds that he uses and he checks in with them to ensure their comfort with the progress of his projects.

Because Steve and his team were able to more easily connect with company experts as well as the partner community, the content produced was agreed upon before it was shared at kickoff. This ensured that it was well received. Social Steve and his team received extra kudos for their work. They increased their personal and team visibility across the organization. Steve is ecstatic!

Summary -- What Life Would You Rather Lead?

The scenarios describe the two extremes of how managers could interact and lead their projects. In Siloed Steve’s case, there was a serious disconnect between manager and team member, team member to team member and overall team to the other employees and external partners that could help them complete the project.

This disconnect was perpetuated by the over use of email and the fact that it was used as a repository for information instead of what it was designed for  -- a messaging and notification system. Team members had limited means to interact and reach out to the sales and partner teams, which meant that little feedback was available for the content they were producing. Without the means to do so, Steve and his team were not able to break out of their silo.

Social Steve fully utilized the available enterprise collaboration tools to successfully manage the sales kickoff project. His company’s collaborative portal system let him utilize an activity and relevant information dashboard that gave him the overall view he required.

He didn’t have to worry about numerous status checks with this team as all project status information was available from the wiki and any updates to that page triggered a notification in his dashboard. His team members were able to take advantage of the collaboration technology to pull together external and internal information which helped them complete their tasks.

They were also empowered to make internal connections with the sales, product management and partner teams to obtain feedback on the content they were producing. Those teams were willing to participate because it was easy rather than invasive. Instant messaging, quick comments and convenient awareness made this engagement possible.

Jason Lamon, Sr. Marketing Associate at Fishbowl Solutions, contributed greatly to this post. Thanks Jason!

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