The Dual Core of Collaboration

By Christian Buckley posted 03-31-2013 22:35



Back in the mid-1990's I went to work for the phone company as a technical project manager, managing many of the front-end applications into our data warehouses, and at one point was tasked with building out a team portal and working with our technical writing team to move all essential content and templates into an easily consumable digital format that roughly mapped to our organizational project management methodology.


At my first startup (my own company, which I co-founded while in business school), we attempted to create a knowledge management platform that used software configuration management software as its core, allowing us to build very complex databases of connected data points. The idea was to help organizations identify patterns in their work, more readily share content and experience based on those patterns, and then automate business process management -- all in the name of improving collaboration. What we found, however, was that tightly structured collaboration was a tough sell -- both to end users, and to venture capitalists. But I have to admit, we created some cool stuff. Way ahead of its time.


At my next startup (this time I went to work for someone else), the idea was to create a flexible, easy, and ad hoc collaboration platform that would work side-by-side with very structured, security-focused product lifecycle management (PLM) platforms, which were designed for high-tech manufacturing firms. What we saw was that these companies needed a way to push content and designs (the design and manufacture of an MP3 player for example) outside of their own PLM system to collaborate with partners, vendors, and design firms who did not otherwise have access to the PLM platform behind the firewall.


A couple years later, I got involved in a deployment of an early version of SharePoint while consulting. My customer wanted a flexible and easy platform for sharing tasks, calendars, and documentation -- they wanted to provide a single platform for team collaboration.


And now with the expansion of social collaboration platforms, organizations are developing a new breed of platforms and end user tools that once again seek to improve the collaboration problem: getting disparate teams and users to talk more, work together, learn from each other, and share.


What is the common thread beneath all of these systems? Content and Search.


Content, because all of these solutions seek to improve the creation of, accessibility to, and context of data and knowledge within your organization. It may take the form of a Word document, or a list, or a project plan -- but it's all content. And it need to be found, discovered, consumed. Search is at the core of almost every function of your collaboration platform. The two are inseparable. You can have all the content in the world, but if you cannot search through it and find what you need, what's the point of capturing it? And what does it matter if you have the most powerful and dynamic search capabilities in the world if you don't have content?


No matter what flavor of collaboration you are considering -- structured PLM, enterprise content management, publishing to your public-facing website, mobile tablet-based capture, or simple team-based collaboration -- you need to  understand your requirements for content and search. 

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