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Author Topic: Does your workplace group collaboration tool "suck"?  (Read 2519 times)

IainB

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Does your workplace group collaboration tool "suck"?
« on: October 31, 2011, 08:04:01 AM »
I was prompted by this post in Techrepublic.com: You think you use SharePoint but you really don't
...to enquire of DC Forum members what experience they had of using SharePoint to its fullest extent, or whether their use was of a "SharePoint that sucks" - or some other group collaboration and/or document management system that "sucked" - that was constrained by poor deployment (implementation and configuration).

I have had experience of client organisations where there were:
  • "Collaboration tools that suck" like this, and also the odd "superb collaboration tool integration".
  • SharePoint/Groupwise/Lotus Notes  implementations where you could be forgiven for thinking that a specific implementation had been so bad, it couldn't have been made worse even if the IT people had tried to make it worse.

The most egregious examples I have come across have probably been poorly-implemented integrations of Microsoft SharePoint + Microsoft Office + Internet Explorer. This sort of thing generally costs the organisation a lot in terms of productivity losses, dysfunction and wasted time/money - costs that are potentially avoidable.

I am curious: What has been your experience of this, and with which systems? What do you see as the likely causes of a good or bad implementation?

Renegade

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Re: Does your workplace group collaboration tool "suck"?
« Reply #1 on: October 31, 2011, 08:30:32 AM »
I have limited experience in this area, but it's certainly a point of interest for me.

I used an issue tracking system for a large project and it worked well. The only problem was getting people to use it.

I've used Exchange in one environment where everything went through Outlook. I hated it. It was little more than clutter. Almost infinite folders and incredibly complex structures were simply horrible to use. Tracking documents was not fun.

On the more general topic of tools, I've found that lack of education leaves people frustrated, which leads to low productivity. i.e. Training helps.
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urlwolf

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Re: Does your workplace group collaboration tool "suck"?
« Reply #2 on: October 31, 2011, 08:32:10 AM »
Google apps is a fantastic solution, IMHO.
I wouldn't use anything else.

capitalH

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Re: Does your workplace group collaboration tool "suck"?
« Reply #3 on: October 31, 2011, 08:51:43 AM »
Google apps is a fantastic solution, IMHO.
I wouldn't use anything else.
The chances of that happening in most corporate environments = 0

Although we have GroupWise and SharePoint purchased - we use shared network locations for collaboration. And lots of e-mail.

40hz

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Re: Does your workplace group collaboration tool "suck"?
« Reply #4 on: October 31, 2011, 08:55:30 AM »
I have two clients that are currently using collaboration/CRM tools quite successfully. In both cases it works well because all employees have been given to understand that if something (i.e. service history update, client issue, budget, meeting notes, project document, etc.) which is supposed to be in there isn't, then whoever was responsible for dropping the ball would be fired.

To Superboy's earlier point, the effectiveness of these things are totally dependent on people consistently using them.

In the case of my clients, hanging a sword over people to use the system seemed to do the trick until it became habit.

Like Gerry Weinberg said: In the end, *every* technical problem comes down to a 'people problem.' And if it doesn't - check again.

-------

FYI: one client uses SalesForce and the other a super tricked-out version of SugarCRM in case anybody's interested.

Note: Neither was inexpensive to implement. Both dropped in excess of $75k getting their systems exactly right.
« Last Edit: October 31, 2011, 09:05:59 AM by 40hz »

IainB

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Re: Does your workplace group collaboration tool "suck"?
« Reply #5 on: October 31, 2011, 04:12:34 PM »
... Techrepublic.com: You think you use SharePoint but you really don't
This post (above) by Scott Robinson seems to be pretty much spot-on in terms of it holding true to my experience of good and bad collaboration tool deployments/implementations.

And the above responses in this thread are quite informative:

User experience, buy-in and productivity:
  • Adoption of the tool or getting people to use the system was the major problem. (@Renegade)
  • Lack of training in the use of the collaboration tool causes user frustration and low productivity. (@Renegade)
  • Enforcing the use of a collaboration tool as the mandatory central filing system is effective in getting people to use the tool. (40hz)
  • There are likely to be few technical problems to uptake. (@40hz: In the end, *every* technical problem comes down to a 'people problem.' And if it doesn't - check again. Gerry Weinberg.)

Effectiveness:
  • Use of old/"wrong" technology as tool(s) for collaboration does not work well. (@Renegade - they used MS Outlook/Exchange as the de facto collaboration tool).
  • The effectiveness of such tools is directly dependent on the extent to which people consistently use them. (Superboy via @40hz)

Good tools to use:
  • Google apps. can provide "a fantastic solution". (@urlwolf)

Use of old/"wrong" technology as tools for collaboration:
  • Continued use of old/"wrong" technology as tools for collaboration, despite having one or more "proper" collaboration tools implemented. (@capitalH - they used shared network folders and Outlook, though GroupWise and SharePoint were already deployed).

So far, not only has my experience matched what Scott Robinson commented, but also the comments by DC forum members above.
And the quote from Gerry Weinberg is entirely in line with process management theory/practice per WE Deming. (There's even a diagram that can be used to explain why it is true.)

It looks as though, despite collaboration tools being fairly common, the state or success of the various implementations/deployments might leave a lot to be desired.

If there was some kind of common factor that worked to make it difficult for us to properly implement/deploy these systems, my guess (from experience) is that it would probably be a lack of focus on the definition of the process which the collaboration tool was supporting, brought about by too much focus on the tool/technology itself.
For example, suppose you bought a rechargeable powered hand-drill for each employee in the organisation, to be used in their work, but did not actually define the circumstances (who, what, when, how, which and why) under which it was to be used. That should screw things up pretty well.