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PHOTO: Neil Thomas

Collaboration is a high-level, catch-all term that refers to the plethora of ways people work together and the different tools they use to do so. In the case of digital workplace tools, collaboration usually means some kind of dedicated workspace and a set group of people who have access to it, but a collaboration tool could refer to a one-on-one email thread as much as it could an enterprise-wide social network or a single dedicated Microsoft Teams space. Collaboration practices and the associated tools will also differ from organization to organization, and from division to division.

The term “collaboration hub” is also ambiguous. Any definition is likely to focus on it as some kind of go-to central resource that supports collaboration across the enterprise. It could be anything from an area of the intranet to a persistent toolbar that links to the sites an employee needs to access. For some of the “in-a-box” intranet vendors a collaboration hub tends to be a central area with a capability where users can request sites and access a list of spaces.

Whatever form your hub takes, I like James Dellow’s observation that “a useful collaboration hub, in theory, is about removing friction from collaboration.”

A collaboration hub should, therefore:

  • Support optimum usage of different tools with appropriate guidance and resources.
  • Help drive findability so users can find the tools, sites, spaces and communities relevant to them.
  • Support any governance guidelines in place to help drive successful collaboration.

Of these, governance is particularly important, with several ways a collaboration hub can potentially support that.

Essential Elements of Collaboration Governance

At Spark Trajectory we frequently discuss the importance of governance in underpinning successful intranets, digital workplaces and collaboration platforms. One of the most popular assets in our governance workshop and workbook is a comprehensive list of all the elements and controls we consider essential for intranet and digital workplace governance. This covers both operational governance — concerning the everyday running of a platform — and strategic governance — addressing the  longer-term direction and decision-making.

This list of controls is extremely handy for anyone planning a collaboration hub, because it allows you to design your hub in ways that either reflect collaboration governance or directly support it. Here are some of the key governance controls associated with collaboration and how a collaboration hub can support them.

Site Register

A site register lists all of your collaboration sites (regardless of platform used), the owner of each and the purpose. While an up-to-date site register is an essential asset for central teams to successfully manage the collaboration platforms, publishing it as a browsable site directory (excluding any confidential sites) where employees can potentially request to join a space is a strong way to encourage adoption and ensure sites are purposeful. It can also help avoid site duplication.

Related Article: 5 Levers of Digital Workplace Governance

Actor Roles and Responsibilities

At Spark Trajectory, we refer to anyone involved in digital workplace roles as “actors.” In terms of collaboration, these are the site owners, administrators and community managers. One of our governance controls for the central team is an “actors register," but we also think it's essential to have formalized “actor roles and responsibilities.” This allows different people associated with collaboration know what they are expected to do in their role, their commitments, their rights on the platform and so on. Having these formalized and documented helps drive accountability and gives clarity over activities. Making these prominent and available via a collaboration hub encourages adherence.

Site Request Process

Some digital workplace teams proudly state they have no central site request process in place — anyone can set up a site. While it’s true this freedom does not limit collaboration, the result can be a very rapid proliferation of sites with duplication, poor findability and sites that never get used. The wrong tools may be used for the wrong purpose. Ultimately a difficult and time-consuming clean-up exercise is needed (we suspect this is inevitable for many Microsoft Teams roll-outs).

In our view it really helps to have a site request process in place, where someone completes a form that gathers enough information to support a central register, ensures the right collaboration technology is used for the right purpose, allows for approval if needed (good for avoiding site duplication) and so on. The collaboration hub is the obvious entry point to request a site. 

If you do choose to go down the self-service route, make sure you have a process in place to help you clear up the inevitable mess. 

Related Article: Governance Propels the Digital Workplace Forward

Standards and Controls

You’re also going to have various policies, standards, rules of engagement and guidelines that reduce risk on your collaboration platforms and optimize use. The place to store these is on your collaboration hub, baked into your learning resources to support the best use.

Governance Matrix

In our vision of the digital workplace, the governance matrix is a clear view of who is accountable for different parts of your digital workplace. A collaboration hub should make it clear who is responsible for the tools, processes and services associated with collaboration, as well as your expected security, navigation or brand requirements. Break down each logical block of tools with a RACI matrix. Rather than worry about who “owns” something consider: to whom do you escalate? Or who do you consult when there is going to be a change?

Other Governance Elements

Other governance elements are also relevant, for example having a clear consultancy request process, where teams can request help with setting up the right collaboration tool, as well as clear matrix on what tool to use when. 

Related Article: Cracking the Digital Workplace Governance Code

Embed Governance in Your Collaboration Hub

Some teams feel a little reluctant about governance, but it is essential for the smooth day to day management of your collaboration platform. Yes, sometimes teams get overzealous applying too many rules, but governance can be a light touch and efficient — it helps rather than hinders collaboration.

Your collaboration hub or central resource is there to help your users, your site managers and your digital workplace team get the best out of the tools at their disposal. Injecting sensible governance into your collaboration hub is the way to go.