In the last decade, organizations went from locked down, process-driven corporate portals that provided a digital version of the collection of binders on the shelves within most cubicles, to an ad hoc collaboration mecca. Now end users can pick their own devices, which apps to install and data might come from a server under your desk, in a building across the street, or from a data mart sitting half way around the world. The point is — organizations have options when it comes to building a collaborative enterprise to help them build the right set of features for their corporate culture, and to align their social and collaborative activities with their business objectives.

The problems with most collaboration solutions, however, have little to do with the underlying technology. That is not to say that the technology is perfect, but the real issues that businesses are facing with their collaboration platforms has more to do with the underlying business planning around these five issues:

  1. End User Adoption.
    The purpose of your collaboration platform is to enable end users to work more efficiently and effectively with each other. The key to getting users to adopt your platform is to lower the barriers to collaboration. The more rules you put in place, the less likely employees are to use the platform. You need to consider compliance and security issues, for sure — but you should design your system with the end user in mind, working closely with your “power users” to identify the system must-haves and to test key end user scenarios. The more you involved your end users, the more likely they are to accept the end result.
  2. Governance.
    The more difficult it is to manage a platform, the less likely your leadership team will support the expansion of the platform. Be clear on what you need to measure (data retention, permissions, usage patterns), how these metrics are captured, and the management roles and responsibilities at each level (leadership, administrators, team leads, etc). Your initial governance model doesn’t need to be perfect, but include a solid change management process and your model will evolve and improve as you learn from the system activity.
  3. Transparency.
    One of the key benefits of a collaborative platform is in helping teams connect and share content and activities where before there had been data and work stream silos. How you manage your collaboration platform — from engineering activities, to risk management and compliance audits, to the overall change management and IT ticket prioritization — is essential to your ongoing success. People don’t like to be left in the dark. Share what is happening within the platform so that people have a clear understanding of what works and what doesn’t and share their feedback and experiences. What a crazy idea — use your collaboration platform to improve the quality and performance of your collaboration platform!
  4. Business Alignment.
    The tools you deploy should enable you to improve upon key business processes. Your platform should enable quicker, more detailed collaboration between co-workers, partners, and customers, allowing you to do more, and do it better and more accurately. This also goes back to end user adoption — the better and more clearly you can align how your platform works to how your business works, the happier your employees will be. Good collaboration streamlines business, through things like workflow and process automation, forms and wizards to walk you step-by-step through data entry and by putting social activities at the center of everything you do, so that your content has better context, and is more searchable, more findable.
  5. Cloud.
    And finally, there is the question of where and how the cloud fits into your particular solution. You may not have to make a decision on how to move to the cloud today, but that day is coming soon. The very features your end users are salivating over may be accessible only through web-based tools, requiring you to integrate or, at the very least, to surface them through your on premises environment. Start planning for this now and have fewer headaches later. Understand what can be moved to the cloud, while allowing you to move some costs from CAPEX to OPEX budgets, but keep in mind your governance, compliance and security requirements.

Your collaboration platform is the hub of how your information workers connect, share, and get work done. Planning is the key to success and having a strategy for each of the above issues will help ensure your collaboration environment is solid, meets and beats your end user requirements and supports your growing needs.

Are there any other collaboration pains at your business? Let me know in the comments below!