Governance & Process, Social & Cooperation

Where should collaboration sit?

…… Part of The Basics series. First published in March 2009 ……


Should collaboration sit inside or beside the intranet?

I recommend placing collaboration within the intranet landscape. That’s to say, making the intranet the front door into collaborative spaces (even if they are built on a different technology). This reinforces the role of the intranet as a business support tool and makes it easier to blend information and collaboration.

Should the collaborative spaces be distributed or centralized?

Should they be scattered throughout the intranet, that is to say, integrated into different work areas or sections that are nearest the people using the spaces? Or should they be grouped together in a larger area under the title of “collaboration” or something along those lines?

Proximity to users is important. That suggests that the distributed solution is best. However, making the spaces centrally visible has the advantage of raising their visibility. When we don’t know where to place something in an intranet, we often say “It doesn’t matter. It can go anywhere and people can link to it.” True, but risky. This can create confusion for users, and of course will create broken links at some point.

I believe it matters very much where you place the collaborative spaces. I recommend that large organizations create a dedicated area where these collaborative spaces “live”.

How high up in the navigation should the “Collaboration” area be placed?

I often recommend that it exist at level 1 in the navigation, thereby becoming part of the global navigation bar. This makes the statement that collaboration is important for the organization. There is a “Collaboration central” concept much like some organizations have a “Blog central” area.

I’m currently working with an organization who is considering make “Communities” one of 4 entry points into the intranet. The other 3 are: Reference documents, an HR-related entry and an “About the organization” entry point.

This organization already has a fairly large amount of communities-driven work and projects. They want the intranet to help reinforce and lead the organization towards generalizing this way of working.

Who owns collaboration?

There are different things to be owned.

First, there needs to be a framework: a toolset and guidelines. Although I strongly believe in leaving space for experimenting and playing with new technologies, I also have seen that unless the enterprise designates specific tools for specific collaborative needs, there is a strong risk of creating “collaboration silos” because of the diversity of tools.

Guidelines need to be defined to ensure that there is a procedure (as light as possible) for opening new spaces, an owner for the new space and when and how to close the space.

This framework will be created by a central team, most likely business, communication, IT and sometimes HR people.

After that, ownership passes to the business, functional and project managers. In short, whoever is leading or facilitating the collaborative space.