Collaboration Tools in the Workplace


There's a lot of interest in collaboration tools in the workplace.  Groupware, of course, is the granddaddy collaboration tool and provides some important features (scheduling being at the top of the list) all on an email platform.  Recently other, richer collaboration tools such as Groove have made a splash. 

We did an experiment a few months back with a tool from a company called Bluestep.  Bluestep started out as a non-profit vertical ASP called MyAssociation.com and built a pretty good, centrally hosted collaboration tool---something their vertical was crying out for.  The software is well done and has a good feature set.  We wanted to see what these richer collaboration tools would do for us so we started a pilot and used them for several months in some different settings.  Here's what we found out:

The only place the tool really caught on and gained traction was in groups that couldn't meet face to face regularly.  So, for virtual groups spread out all over the state, it was a win and people learned to use it.  For closely knit offices the tool languished despite heavy executive buy-in and what I consider to be an honest attempt to make the tool work.

The bottom line is that while everyone agreed that there would be benefits from using the collaboration tool, the product didn't "hit a nerve." 

I don't think this bodes well for people expecting tools like Groove and Weblogs to take the enterprise by storm.  Indeed, using the Bluestep tool couldn't have been easier (nothing to install or manage) and yet people wouldn't take the time to click on a link each day and participate---at least not if they could still walk across the hall instead.   Groupwise may be as much as we're ready for right now.