In recent months, the subject of enterprise collaboration has come up quite a bit. So has the issue of spending on IT, which everyone seems to agree is on the way up again. Put the two facts together, and it’s likely a number of companies are going to be spending money on collaboration in the next year. But should they?

Actually the question would probably be more useful if it was a given that enterprise collaboration is a good thing, and we were to look at what kind of collaboration packages enterprises should be considering.

The problem here, according to Gartner (news, site), is that, before even looking at that, enterprises need to articulate what exactly they want from enterprise collaboration and, more fundamentally, what enterprise collaboration is all about.

This will be one of the issues that Gartner will be looking at its Portfolio Management and IT Governance Professionals conference in London next week. Just to get the ball rolling, it has outlined five considerations around collaboration software that are worth looking at, even if you’re not considering going to the summit.

In a nutshell, Carol Rozwell, VP at Gartner, says business needs to look at collaboration from a business perspective rather than from a technology perspective.

Rather than making technology the starting point, IT leaders should first identify real business problems and key performance indicators (KPIs) that link to business goals,” she said.

So let’s look at the five considerations.

1. The right tools will make us collaborative

A lot of people probably won’t like this. Selecting collaboration tools without addressing enterprise processes and roles as well as metrics and the organization’s workplace is putting the cart before the horse. While technology can make enterprises more collaborative when applications mirror fluid work environments, you have to get the work environment right first before investing.

2. Collaboration is good

While many enterprises rush to implement enterprise collaboration tools including social media, many of those same organizations have not articulated what business problem they hope to solve. Less articulation means less chance of successful implementations, Rozwell says.

3. Collaborating can eat up time

Enterprises need to analyze their workflows to see where key integration points between collaboration tools and other applications should be. If enterprises don’t do that, workers have to continually shift between collaboration tools and applications, which is time-consuming and often involves duplicated content.

4. Most workers can be encouraged to collaborate

Employee collaboration is split between those who like to do it and those who don’t, as well as a large section in the middle who can be persuaded to do it. Deploying a tool is not enough to get people to collaborate; clear goals and rewards need to be offered to ensure everyone gets collaborating.

5. People know how to collaborate

Again, many enterprises believe that providing the tools is enough and that people will then know what to do. They don’t. Enterprises need to offer clear guidelines on how the tools should be used and what kind of results are expected from them.

Ok, so not all of this is about IT. Some of it’s just about how people work and how they work using the enterprise collaboration tools they are provided.

But this, it is arguable, is the whole point of enterprise collaboration software. While it is about the IT behind work, it is also about the people using the IT, a lesson that might be applied across all business software.

Gartner’s two-day summit starting next Tuesday will look at IT initiatives, while balancing the use of resources, and examine how to manage, fund and govern a portfolio of IT investments and projects.