Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Collaboration doesn't have to equal cost and complexity

A mistake I've seen many organisations make when considering online staff collaboration systems for staff is trying to achieve perfection at the get go - building systems from scratch or investing in high-cost branded technologies that requires significant time to implement and can be expensive to operate and develop.

More prudent, in my view, is to find a cheap way of satisfying the basic requirements while delivering quickly.

This helps get collaboration (the goal) underway and allows the organisation to progressively develop its understanding of what staff need with a low upfront investment and instant benefits. In other words, a low cost pilot - helpful in the development of detailed business requirements for a future system.

So how can organisations achieve this without expensive servers, months of development and hordes of testers?

In many cases organisations have strict 'environmental' rules - restricting the applications staff can use and websites they can access. These rules are in place partly to protect internal data and partly to protect an organisation from its own staff and their possible activities, introducing malware or other nasties into the organisation.

Using a web environment it is possible for even business users to configure several low cost servers and provide access to tools - within or outside the firewall - while shielding the network from harm.

The tools themselves are low cost or free, drawing from open source communities (tools such as MediaWiki and PhpBB), public online tools (such as Blogger and Ning) and fully featured solutions (such as Wordpress or Confluence - available via Govdex).

So if your organisation needs a quick solution for a blog, wiki or other collaboration tool, consider whether it is possible to run a low cost pilot before investing in a long-term solution

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