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Gartner: Five IT Collaboration Myths



June 3, 2011 By

Collaboration initiatives fail because IT leaders hold mistaken assumptions about basic issues, according to Gartner Inc. IT leaders should determine which of five factors -- technology, roles, process, metrics and workplace climate -- to change to achieve successful collaboration projects.

“There are five myths that derail collaboration initiatives,” said Carol Rozwell, vice president and distinguished analyst at Gartner. “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.”

The five collaboration myths Gartner has identified are:

1. The right tools will make us collaborative -- Technology can make it easier to collaborate when applications mirror a more intuitive, fluid work style, but selecting a tool without addressing roles, processes, metrics and the organization’s workplace climate is putting the cart before the horse.

2. Collaboration is inherently a good thing -- Many organizations can’t articulate what benefit they hope to achieve by employing social media to become more collaborative. This decreases the likelihood of achieving a successful implementation. The most successful social media initiatives solve real business problems. The KPI impacted must be real and relevant to the business.

3. Collaborating takes extra time -- When IT leaders perform a thorough analysis of the target audience's workflow to make sure key integration points among applications are identified, they will avoid the common mistake of simply layering collaboration tools on top of existing applications that workers are expected to use. If collaboration and social software tools are not integrated with other critical applications, workers must shift context -- which slows them down -- or duplicate effort (e.g., cut/paste from one application to another).

4. People naturally will/will not collaborate -- Depending on their level of cynicism, people believe that humans naturally collaborate, or naturally don't. While there are individuals at each end of the spectrum, most are somewhere in the middle and can be encouraged to collaborate under the right conditions. IT leaders should ignore the reluctant minority and work on motivating the majority of workers who can be persuaded to collaborate when expectations are clear and collaborative behaviors are rewarded.

5. People instinctively know how to collaborate -- Without a set of expectations about what it means to work collaboratively with others, individuals will be forced into using their own interpretation of collaboration. Few organizations have a clear set of guidelines that describe how people should interact with each other to produce optimum results. A better approach is to clarify what attitude a collaborative individual needs to bring to their work, what abilities and skills they need to master and what personal style works well in a team setting. It is also critical that managers demonstrate the behaviors they want their employees to mirror.

“Not all processes make the same contribution to business performance. IT leaders need to look for situations to apply collaborative approaches that give the organization not just a competitive advantage but competitive differentiation,” said Rozwell. “The most successful collaboration initiatives solve real business problems, aiming to affect a KPI that links to an organization's business goals.”


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