We are all part of groups. We need to work together with other people to
accomplish our tasks. These people may be within our company or outside.
This “collaborative” facet of work has not changed since time
immemorial. What has changed are the tools and technologies we use to
The primary collaborative activities that we do are:
- Setting up Meetings: We need to fix up a date, venue and agenda
for meetings, and at the same time check on the availability of all who
need to attend. Given the busy schedules of everyone, this is no mean
- Group Discussion: Meetings are a “synchronous” forum for
discussion where everyone is present at the same time. This is not
always possible. So, a lot of discussion also takes place asynchronously
– through conversations and voice or electronic conferences.
- Writing and Sharing Documents: Memos and proposals are what we
need to write on a regular basis. These then get circulated to the group
for comments. The document is then perhaps revised and re-circulated.
- Tracking and Sharing News: What is happening within the company
and externally needs to be not only tracked but also communicated to the
right people. Every organization has its “reflectors” – people who have
a good idea of what is happening and then share news and their thoughts
on these events.
Embedded in the above are a number of common activities that need to be
performed like communicating with many people, accessing and storing
documents, and sharing and accessing calendars.
As the pace of business gets faster and more information flows our way,
it becomes important to be able to use new technologies to become more
productive and effective. The time we have to make decisions becomes
shorter even as the information that we have to process becomes greater.
In this context, what becomes necessary is to be able to place events in
context, be able to view them as part of the larger picture, be able to
access the right information quickly, and be able to communicate with
the right people – internally within the organization and externally.
From an organization point of view, it is important to capture the
knowledge embedded in its people. Much of this knowledge is “tacit” (as
opposed to explicit knowledge which can be captured in documents and
How can technology work to meet these goals – cost effectively? There is
no dearth of collaborative, groupware and knowledge management solutions
in the marketplace. What is needed is to use existing technologies
effectively, rather than making people learn something new.