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The Four Types of Enterprise Collaboration Deployments


Posted by on November 16, 2012

There are essentially four ways to go about implementing an enterprise collaboration initiative at any organization, each with their own challenges.

The factors that control the four options are: the duration of the deployment and the scope of the deployment (length of time and how broad the deployment is i.e. across a department or enterprise). Other types of special factors may present themselves on a case-by-case basis but are unique, most organizations fall into one of these four deployments (often called pilots) which can be seen below.

Skeptical: Limited by Duration and Scope

This type of pilot is usually deployed by organizations that are not entirely convinced of the value emergent collaboration can provide; in other words, they are skeptical. Sometimes these types of deployments are used so that those responsible for collaboration can say they tried to do it. For example, you might see the product development or engineering department deploy a wiki for a period of three to six months.

The challenge here is that you don’t have the scale that is often required for emergent collaboration to succeed; there are not enough people involved. With only a few employees using something, you are drastically decreasing the potential value that can be achieved, and the activity or use may be a bit underwhelming. Chances are that the employees in the department deploying a pilot project have already worked together or know one another. Without having that network effect in your organization, collaboration is not as effective.

Furthermore, many other benefits are drastically hindered, if not eliminated, for example, cross-department communication or being able to find subject matter experts. Finally, putting a time limit on emergent collaboration is not the best approach, as collaboration is not bound by time and does not have a shelf life.

Reluctant: Limit by Scope, Not by Time

The challenge in this scenario, as was mentioned above, is that you are limiting the potential value of deploying an emergent collaboration tool because you lose the network and the serendipity effect. You have eliminated time as a barrier, but the scope is still a barrier.

This type of scenario is typically seen among companies that are looking to test various technology solutions in a controlled environment, limiting the amount of people involved. Because the scope of this type of deployment is limited, a considerable amount of business value is lost and will not be realized.

Willing: Limited by Time, Not by Scope

The challenge with this type of pilot is gaining adoption for a particular tool and then removing that tool after a certain period. If the organization deploys a tool only to find that nobody is using it, then adoption is the problem that needs to be addressed, and that can’t happen if the entire effort is completely abandoned.

Organizations need to focus on identifying and fixing the problems, not on scrapping entire emergent collaboration projects, that does nothing. With this type of pilot, I mostly have seen organizations that focus on business value testing and use case development as opposed to the technology testing done by reluctant organizations.

Assertive: Unlimited Amount of Time Deployed Across the Enterprise

In my opinion, this scenario really isn’t considered a pilot. If something is deployed without restrictions, it’s most likely not being tested; it’s being deployed fully. Some organizations will deploy something, pay for it, and hope it works out eventually (and will keep paying for it because they have the money to do so). Other organizations make the decision that “this is how we are going to work from now on” and provide the necessary support to help ensure success. Assertive organizations see the greatest value from their collaborative efforts and a maximum serendipity effect.

Ultimately, the decision for going with a pilot or with an all-in approach is yours. I have seen successes with various approaches. However, if you are in the early stages and are trying to prove a business case, gathering enterprise-wide support is clearly not going to be possible (unless this initiative is coming directly from the executive team).

In these situations the pilot is the best approach, and I advocate being a “willing” organization when possible. Some organizations believe that emergent collaboration is not a trial-and-error project but is simply the direction in which they need to head. These organizations typically have fewer budgetary constraints and greater support from the leadership, which means that an enterprise-wide approach is suitable.

Keep in mind that just because you start off with a pilot, that doesn’t mean you are committed; you can just as easily switch approaches as you can evolve into a full deployment. These are just starting points.