Collaboration Management as a Competitiveness Tool
Management of professional interactions that happen around all day to day work life has so far been an enduring challenge. The structured work processes are broadly serviced by ever more flexible systems like ERPs and CRMs.
The approach to unstructured work like problem solving, policy formulation, development projects, corrective action decisioning, event planning etc. has been so far left to mail management systems which mostly serve as store and forward communication environments and hence suffice only for skeletal record keeping.
Most of these activities progress through several one on one impromptu phone conversations puctuated by consensus seeking meetings or conferences where in depth examination in a problem solving mode is normally impractical as all relevant inputs are not easily accessible.
Several market players have tried to address this space as document management, content management, interactive portals, or just souped up e-mail infrstructure but would be weak in some respect or the other whether it is communication, file, or context services.
Even if a framework claims to cover all aspects, implementation will remain a challenge. It is doubtful if a one shot deployment as in a structurted transaction processing system can be at all attempted. The underlying processes are too nebulous and everchanging. It may just be a good idea to approach this organically by first providing the base infrastructure and then adding applications as the needs crystallize and successful experiences accumulate.
The cultural angle also cannot be ignored. The written word enforces accountability and therefore there is a comfort zone with verbal interactions. Sophisticated collaboration environments need to be adopted whole heatedly for them to succeed. If the professional environment does not foster mutual trust and respect, it will take more time for people to adopt sytems where all interactions are being recorded for posterity.