3 key questions to unlock the value of online collaboration

July 16, 2013 by

collaborationreport_picDespite the plethora of sophisticated online collaboration platforms available, including hosted tools which are relatively straightforward to deploy, many organizations still struggle with online collaboration. They fail to get the best value from it or experience patchy adoption, and projects are therefore not regarded as successful. With this being said, there are sites such as SnackNation that may provide useful tips to companies on how to use online collaboration tools better, in the hopes of boosting the team’s productivity.

A new members-only research report from IBF entitled “The Art of Collaboration: optimizing online collaboration for success” suggests that, while there is no magic formula for successful online collaboration, organizations should focus on targeting obvious business value, while formalizing processes and structures associated with collaboration. The Executive Summary of the report can be downloaded free.

Where an initiative is informal, wide in scope and communicated to employees in terms of softer, more abstract, concepts rather than real business processes and benefits, there is a higher chance of failure. The report speculates that this may be a reason why some “social” initiatives are currently regarded as failing.

The report examines four detailed case studies from GfK, The Environment Agency, Lloyds Banking Group, and COWI, refers more briefly to many other examples, and analyses the results of a specially commissioned survey as well as drawing from DWG’s unique bank of historic benchmarking data.

From these inputs, the report poses three key questions for collaboration teams and intranet teams to explore, as well as suggesting useful positive interventions and measures, as detailed here:


By undertaking interventions such as establishing governance structures, organizations can advance collaboration to greater maturity. This will help to embed the use of collaborative tools amongst a wider user population as well as within key business processes, such as onboarding forms and project management.

Other insights from the report and the accompanying specially commissioned survey relate to how collaborative tools are being used and supported within the enterprise, as well as the associated challenges. Key findings include:

  • A range of collaborative tools is being used inside the enterprise, with high take-up of video-conferencing, team workspaces, discussion boards and instant messaging.
  • Less than a third of respondents have installed microblogging and only 14% use an online workspace with workflow for a key collaborative process.
  • Less than 30% of respondents offer a facility to collaborate with external parties.
  • Less than half of all respondents have one function owning “collaboration”, while in 60% IT owns or partly owns enterprise collaboration.
  • Recognized methods of maintaining governance and standards for collaboration, such as ensuring central approval of sites and providing training, are popular.
  • However, only half of all organizations have regular meetings with stakeholders to ensure ongoing governance, and few use automated solutions to maintain standards.
  • Half of all respondents have one or less full-time equivalent non-technical role supporting collaboration.
  • Ad-hoc and informal consultancy or training sessions are the most common forms of support or collaboration.
  • The majority of organizations have dedicated support sites for both end-users and site managers, however less than a quarter have regular meetings with the site manager community.
  • Fewer than 1 in 10 of the challenges around collaboration are to do with technology constraints.
  • Over 40% of challenges are around organizational culture and staff resistance to using new tools, with lack of support from management another major issue.

Download the Executive Summary
The “Art of Collaboration” report is part of DWG’s 2013 Research Programme. The 58-page report is confidential to members. For more information about DWG’s Research Programme please contact Elizabeth Marsh, Director of Research, IBF.

Categorised in: Collaboration, Research reports

Steve Bynghall

Steve Bynghall is a freelance consultant, researcher and writer specializing in the digital workplace, intranets, knowledge management, collaboration and other digital themes. He is DWG’s Research and Knowledge Lead, a benchmark evaluator and research analyst for DWG.

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