Collaboration – Should We Learn From History?

Hello again, it has been a very long time since my last external post. Sorry about that! I have plenty of excuses as to why, just none that are worthy of expressing. I was sitting down the other day, reviewing some of my industry RSS feeds, reviewing a few tweets for those I follow and spent time reflecting on my team's work in collaboration space for our internal Intel employees.

Industry experts, analysts and somethat say they are experts - point out their "right answers" to collaboration (which are blogs, wikis, social networks to name a few). Makes me stop and wonder, are those folks looking back at history of collaborative tools? Or are they focusing their energy on "the shiny new thing." Let's look back for a moment - do we think that collaborative tools are something new? (they really are not). Look at the past improvement attempts, like email. Here at Intel email is still the big collaborative tool. Would we say that was a success? If so, why improve it? It definitely has filled a gap for quite sometime. Many folks still use it - a lot (just go on vacation for a week and don't check your email to see how much). Some folks have move to Intelpedia (our internal wiki) for posting content. Intel's wiki use has taken off over the past 2 to 3 years. Maybe five years from now - we might look at wiki's in the same vein as email. What is next up? How will we feel about that one in ten years? We are being challenged to deliver new collaborative capabilities - which to me are solving the same set of problems that have been around for quite awhile (with a few new issues added).

While it's important to avoid locking ourselves in the past, or letting the past bias our view of current or emerging tools, it is extremely important not to forget the history of collaborative tools and the complex problems those tools attempted to address. The Web 2.0 vendors need to really look long and hard at those problems and use cases - rather than shining up something new (that meets some of needs). I come across challenges everyday when speaking to many Intel users and teams. When I attempt to get a better understanding of the problems that they are telling me, they point to a solution that they have seen. Some shined up version of something that could work, maybe.

Shiny objects always get someone's attention. We ran into a recent challenge around micro blogging at Intel. Many Intel folks are on Twitter (sbell09 for me) and this is great for external stuff. The questions comes down to, "Am I sharing something externally that I should not?" That question started internal use of Yammer - for the Intel group only. Grew to over 400 users. Many folks saw some value, others not but it all comes down to what you put in. A variation of the Twitter question was asked, "Is Intel IP secure?" Yammer is externally hosted. Someone pointed to why don't we just set it up internally within the firewall? That very weekend someone did just that.

We must not forget that these new technologies are not perfect. We must also not forget that the individual behavior changes that will come with these tools - is going to be a big change. That change must come with improvements to getting work done, quickly and securely.

What challenges do you face? Do you folks remember history? Do they care? How do we stay ahead?