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Forward-thinking leaders understand that collaboration is crucial for any organization that wants to be productive, adaptable and creative. Collaboration allows employees to connect with colleagues, share information and ideas, discover who else in the organization is working on the same issues and increase productivity. People solve problems they wouldn’t otherwise have solved, get work done quicker than ever before and feel connected because they are working together toward a common goal. Why, then, is it sometimes so difficult to make the leap from knowing that a higher level of collaboration would be good for your organization to actually implementing it? What tools does your organization need to help facilitate collaboration, and how do you ensure that your personnel will use those tools?

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The key in the corporate environment is to put collaboration literally at the fingertips of employees and to generate mass involvement – which is the only way that collaboration works. You need to eliminate any barriers to entry by integrating the collaboration tools directly into the programs and tools that employees are already using every day. The best way to accomplish this is to look at collaborative capabilities as a series of enterprise services.

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Even if you’ve already invested in enterprise tools with collaboration capabilities that are not going viral, the door isn’t necessarily closed on trying to integrate collaboration services into those tools. You just need to lower the barrier to entry and make it easy for people to collaborate. If you take the time to assess your enterprise, find out which applications people are using today, integrate collaboration services into those tools and work with the users, you will reap the reward of viral collaboration within your organization. You might even start to reap the benefits of the other platforms in your portfolio in ways that you couldn’t before.

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Many products available on the market today offer a variety of collaboration features. How do you select the one that is suited best for your organization? The following set of questions can help you as you begin identifying the products that provide the best functionality match for your organization’s needs:

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1.   Is the product an enterprise-grade application? Enterprise applications are capable of handling increased demand, minimize outages whenever a system failure occurs and support many types of devices used within the organization.

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2.   Does it provide the proper level of security for your organization? A balance of security with ease of use is needed so that users can easily access the environment and the data that they need to perform their job functions.

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3.   Does it provide collaborative capabilities as a service? It’s important that the collaborative solution be a series of interoperable collaborative capabilities that can be integrated into the various applications and web pages within your organization.

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4.   Does it provide both client and server APIs (application program interfaces) for custom integration into existing applications to enhance functionality? This allows your organization to customize applications and integrate the collaborative capabilities with those applications.

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5.   Does it provide social networking and collaborative filtering capabilities so your employees can learn about other people and information that may be helpful to them? It’s important for organizations to use filtering capabilities similar to those used by Facebook and LinkedIn to find friends or colleagues, which helps users identify others that can help solve problems.

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6.   Does it provide connectivity to your corporate knowledge repository so people can find information from the collaboration environment when conducting corporate searches? As more and more activity occurs in the collaborative environment, users will begin to rely on these interactions to help solve problems.

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7.   Does it support collaboration standards such as XMPP (Extensible Messaging and Presence Protocol) so that you can integrate it with your legacy systems? Standards are important, and XMPP is a standard that collaborative environments use to communicate with one another.

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Depending on whether you are just starting down the path to provide collaboration to your organization or you are looking to replace current capabilities that are not being used, you may or may not need a product that provides all of the above features.

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You can learn more about successfully implementing enterprise collaborative solutions in Dynamic Collaboration: How to Share Information, Solve Problems, and Increase Productivity without Compromising Security.

Ray Schwemmer and Rick Havrilla are the founders of CollabraSpace and the authors of Dynamic Collaboration: How to Share Information, Solve Problems, and Increase Productivity without Compromising Security.

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