2014-05-June-Adkins-Mark.jpgIn my 25 years covering and analyzing the vendors and end users in the collaboration space, I have never run across anyone with the title of Chief Collaboration Officer. Nor do meet many people who have the background in collaboration to support the title.

So what does a Chief Collaboration Officer (CCO) do? 

I spoke with Dr. Mark Adkins, the CCO at a collaboration vendor called ThinkTank. We used ThinkTank to conduct the interview.

ThinkTank is an outgrowth of a meeting facilitation or GDSS (Group Decision Support Systems) I worked with about 20 years ago called GroupSystems. GroupSystems has gone through many iterations since then. Dr. Jay Nunamaker started the company at the University of Arizona while doing some seminal work for the Federal Government with a grant from IBM.  He formed Ventana Corp., which in 1989 became GroupSystems.com. The group moved to Colorado in 2000 and created a web-based version of ThinkTank, which was based on a client/server model. As the internet infrastructure got more sophisticated, they began to offer their software as SaaS. Some government and military installations still required the on-premises versions.

A Background in Collaboration

Adkins worked with Jay’s group in Arizona in the 80’s and holds a Ph.D. in Communications. He worked for IBM after graduation, then Gestalt software (acquired by Accenture), and then to Accenture for seven years. At Accenture he focused on XD (experience design) agile scrums and developing custom collaboration technologies for specific Accenture government clients. This included delivering software for a 24/7 operational environment at the Air Force Fighter Command, working with the Navy on a collaboration room deployed on the Battleship Coronado first, and then on ships throughout the fleet. He also worked with the UN on Humanitarian Assistance Planning.

Adkins has worked on a variety of large scale, enterprise-wide engagements across organizations with 10,000 people. Many of these experiences were multinational, so he has experience in dealing with many of the cross-cultural pitfalls in collaboration.

A CCO in Action

In Adkins' words a CCO “is a dedicated resource to make collaboration a part of the daily doings of a company.” Collaboration usually gets assigned to a CIO or an HR person as an ancillary duty -- not as a critical function. A 2010 Harvard Business Review article by Morten T. Hansen and Scott Tapp described the need for the role of CCO to encourage enterprise wide collaboration. CCOs see collaboration challenges cutting across all roles in an organization. In general these ancillary positions do not support gamification or mapping collaboration to critical processes.