Technology pundits, consultants, and academics often see the latest online technologies, Generation Y, Work/Life Balance are the drivers for online collaboration but it takes more just one of those elements or fads to drive collaboration. It really is about the total culture of so I’ve found during my time as a contract technical writer.
Corporate culture has to promote online collaboration in order for it to be successful. It gives employees the space and tools for success to collaborate with their coworkers, contractors, and external customers.
Some integral elements of a collaborative corporate culture include:
Come and Go as you Please Schedules
If your company is doing a seat check every morning in their cubicle farm, you don’t have a corporate culture conducive for much online collaboration.
While “face time” is more about management insecurities, today’s workforce runs at a different pace with alternative work schedules, telecommuting, offsite contractors, and a myriad of employee personal commitments can foster what I call a Come and Go as you Please schedule.
However, to be fair, while I take a poke at management, it takes the right kind of workforce to make this sort of schedule work. It’s about people who are vested in the project, the organization, and their team to make it work. These are the people who work and location are not mutually inclusive
Having online collaboration tools in place backing up this culturally accepted work schedule means these workers are never out of touch and accessible for meetings and other collaborative efforts.
When important project documents, schedules, and other data reside online – not in an email inbox or local hard drive – workers can access it whenever and wherever they are. Mobile technologies like tablets and smartphones open up potential accessibility even further.
Few if any Knowledge Archipelagos
An old IT contractor friend of mine once coined the term “Knowledge Archipelagos.” This is where employees hoard institutional knowledge whether it be key documents on employee’s local hard drives or in their heads much like an archipelago of islands.
Job security through obscurity can feel like a safe harbor to some in todays down economy but it cheats an enterprise organization, their projects, and clients. Organizations that have a central repository off local hard drives and individual’s email inboxes don’t have knowledge archipelagos meaning that you don’t have to run down somebody to get access to their information.
Sharing of project artifacts and corporate information online is integral to a collaborative corporate culture. This only happens with management sponsorship, leadership by example, and
Presence beyond Cloth Dividers
I once had a client consider that if they could see my presence online via IM or social media regardless of the hour or day that I was available to discuss work topics.
While this attitude may seem invasive to some, it can make you more conscious your personal online time after hours. However, to communicate with the client’s overbooked technical staff, I routinely went online after hours. It was their preferred method of contact and I didn’t want violate their corporate culture.
Having a presence beyond the corporate office is also part of having a collaborative corporate culture.
Technical Employee Base
Through my career as a contract technical writer, the organizations I saw excel at online collaboration had a technical employee base which shaped corporate culture in their own right. Age was never a discriminator in this regard.
A majority of them were early adopters and lived their working days and nights online. Their needs and work schedules fed into corporate culture and had a direct influence into the acceptance of online collaboration in the corporate culture.
A truly collaborative culture requires a supportive management team that wants their workers to be accessible to each other through multiple channels and realizes that traditional working modes won’t attract and retain the best talent.
It also helps if these managers are early adopters and are champions for online collaboration and the benefits it gives to workers.
Another quality of supportive management is that they aren’t shy recruiting employers or contractors outside of commuting distance from their nearest office.
Collaboration is Culture
It’s the corporate culture that drives collaboration not some newly minted liberal arts graduate.