Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Collaborative Content Culture: Part 1 - Resistance

I attended a recent webcast with Jeff Mann of Gartner Group and Cheryl McKinnon of Open Text. The topic was enterprise functionality in terms of content and collaboration.

Jeff is a superb speaker with obvious ease in this topic domain; he spoke with an ease based on a depth of expertise.

Several facets of content and collaboration were touched on during the hour-long webcast so it should be obvious that none of these topics were drilled into with any depth but they become a great outline for future posts.

  1. How Collaboration and Community-Building May Give Rise to Insecurity and Resistance
  2. Users Will Find a Way
  3. Social Networking: What's Valuable in the Fortune 500 Corporation?

1. Insecurity & Resistance to Collaboration

Today in the US Technology business it is imperative that IT individuals and the teams they comprise cooperate across responsibility boundaries. Coordinating with business goals has always been a burden with which IT labored but in the era that begun in earnest five years ago or so it became increasingly important that IT teams become segmented in their responsibilities and capabilities. With the passing of Sarbanes-Oxley security, audit, governance and oversight became watchwords that only intensified with off-shoring of IT assets. To maintain previous levels of efficiency IT professionals started finding that rights they had taken for granted were progressively removed to enable corporate officers who would be held responsible able to track resource access and validly state that they maintained strict control over corporate governance. A decade ago, if a developer needed a development version of a database, he would copy the Production data and put it on his laptop or a shared development server. This placed the responsibility on the developer but allowed him to be very responsive to the business owners of the project he was working on. In today's corporate environment, a developer must submit a request to someone with the requisite rights to servers to have a development server/database assigned to him and in some cases submit a subsequent ticket to have the production data retrieved, scrubbed and put onto the development database. Each request usually requires numerous sign-offs and approvals before it can be completed. The governance controls established in this environment means that IT resources must become much more efficient and proactive to continue to be as responsive to their business partners.

It doesn't take much creativity to see that as these types of controls are overlaid across the whole enterprise business users and IT resources alike must raise the level of their professionalism, efficiency and proactivity to keep similar historical project timelines.

Using technology that is already corporate-sanctioned such as e-mail or internal company instant messaging is one way that collaboration is enabled but often times business and IT resources that find themselves under deadlines may feel greater pressure to utilize untested collaboration methodologies due to the overhead of getting corporate approval and buy-in on newer technologies. Sometimes the obstacle to adoption of new methods (citing Jeff here) is a manager's personal insecurity that could stem from fearts that if his direct reports build a higher level of community with their business resources he may either be marginalized, may not have information required by business owners and project drivers or he may find himself held accountable for decisions made that are not in compliance with corporate standards. It was to this level of personal insecurity and resistance that Jeff directed his comments when he stated that:

"workplace failure in the last few years has moved from technical issues to
failure of teams to incorporate or utilize recently enabled functionality
because it may seem to threaten someone's or some team's territory."

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