Can better collaboration lead to better IT?

collaboration.jpgIt is well-known that collaboration tools in the IT space are rapidly on the rise and industry analysts expect this rise to continue into 2012.  Currently, there are several standalone collaboration solutions (e.g., Jive, Yammer, Telligent, Socialtext, Salesforce Chatter, etc.)  as well as established IT Management providers (e.g., Computer Associates, Oracle, ServiceNow) embedding collaboration in to their existing enterprise products. The question is: can collaboration help IT organizations perform better?


IT today is built around well structured processes, such as incident management, that often require very unstructured discussions, over email or IM, in order to complete. These side conversations are typically disconnected from the actual IT processes, thus most of the knowledge shared in the communications is lost once the incident is closed. In other cases, there are unstructured activities that take place within and between silos, such as dev-ops, that often must pull in outside contributors. Again, organizing these fragments of information is a difficult and often unfulfilled task.

 

Perhaps the key to better IT efficiency, typically time to resolution, is to connect the structured IT processes with their unstructured conversation counterparts in a more organized fashion. In this construct, all data passed around the organization could be fed into a single system of record, where all interactions, no matter where they originate, including IT applications, email, chat, etc. are all monitored and archived.

 

Taking this concept further, this system could benefit from several distinct features, including:

 

An integrated product ecosystem: Any collaboration solution must offer an open platform, allowing for seamless integration with any IT product or environment. The key is to enable this solution to weave its collaboration capabilities into existing IT workflows and processes, reducing the cost and headache of learning a new application and preventing users from disrupting the flow of their existing work.

 

Context-based conversations:  One of the limitations of IM, email and even forums is that they require the initiator to provide all the relevant background about the issue at hand. To overcome this limitation, all conversations in this tool should automatically include detailed context about the issue at hand by importing relevant objects (e.g., defects, incidents, reports, etc.) directly into the conversation for participants to review as part of their discussion. The result would certainly be greater efficiency, as participants wouldn’t need to go back through an email chain or piece together artifacts from multiple applications; everything would be in one neatly organized place.

 

Integrated People finder:  Organizations frequently struggle to find the right resources to resolve an issue. By integrating a “smart” people finder capability, experts and colleagues relevant to the context could be automatically recommended and added to the conversation with a single click. Getting the right people together more quickly would certainly speed up the time it takes to extract the right information to finish a task.

 

Alert notification and multiple access points: When it’s critical for certain individuals to contribute to a conversation, alerts should be generated when new posts are added to the conversation and continually sent out to the “required” participant until they answer.

 

Further, responses to the conversation should be supported via email and chat. Participants should be able to contribute to conversations without having to log in to the application directly. Similar to the need to integrate this solution into existing IT applications, users shouldn’t have to learn to use a new communication tool in order to collaborate.

 

Knowledgebase:  As stated previously, any conversations that takes place must be centrally archived and added to a constantly growing internal knowledgebase. Advanced search capabilities would then allow for easy access to this information for future reference to solve new issues faster.

 

The name of the game in IT is efficiency. While creating blogs, checking newsfeeds, and commenting on profile posts is a fun distraction in the social networking space, IT professionals need tools to help get their jobs done faster and with less headaches. Perhaps the comfort most employees have now with engaging in online conversations can be harnessed into a new tool to help organizations operate better.

Comments
PaulMuller | ‎12-25-2011 06:34 PM

Max - I replied to your post as part of my "top 12 for '12" here http://h30499.www3.hp.com/t5/Discover-Performance-Blog/1-Social-IT-IT-management-as-a-team-sport/ba-...

 

Be interested in getting your thoughts.

system integration solutions(anon) | ‎01-13-2012 09:25 PM
nice commect , informative.
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