How to get the best out of your collaboration space

Having made the case in earlier blog entries for providing a collaboration space for your staff and users, I’d now like to share some tips for making sure you get maximum benefit from this approach.


Motivate people to use your collaboration space

Obviously, it’s not enough to provide the collaboration space – you need to make sure people have a reason to use it in preference to their own collaboration media, or to traditional support channels. They need to be able to work the way they prefer – getting advice fast, in their own language and from their own perspective – and get extra benefits that aren’t available from other forms of collaboration.
The main incentive you can offer is that when people are collaborating in an organized space, they can get access to previous discussions and accumulated knowledge. To make that easy, the space should be split into topics, so that people can quickly find discussions and experts relevant to their issue. You can also make it clear that users are free to discuss their personal devices and apps and get help from other users, with the blessing of IT.

Look for ways to recognize users’ contributions and skills, for example through “top 10” leagues of the people who have provided the most helpful answers this month. This kind of incentive might seem trivial but it can help to make a collaboration space feel like a community.



Give users a say (and listen to what they’re saying)

Too often, the IT function is seen by the business as a barrier to meeting business needs. By using collaborative spaces in the right way, it can be seen as a facilitator instead.
Promote the collaborative space to users as a place to talk about what they want from IT. Once they know they have a say in proposing and planning services, they will be less likely to go off and find their own shadow IT solutions to business problems and more likely to engage with, and use, what you provide.

Your IT staff should be involved in these discussions primarily to listen rather than to talk. This is an opportunity to gather valuable information about user needs: information that can be used in planning as an essential complement to the usual projections of user numbers and so on.



Encourage your IT staff to use the collaborative spaces too

IT workers can get all the same benefits from collaborative spaces that end-users can – and more. To start with, users’ collaboration frees IT staff up to focus on activities that are both more skilled and more satisfying, such as tackling the really difficult technical challenges. Also, instead of working in isolation on their assigned tasks, your technicians can identify people with relevant experience (who might in some companies be on the other side of the globe) and then solve problems in a virtual group.

Knowledge sharing is also at least as relevant for your IT workers as for your end-users. This can be a natural by-product of online interactions (for example, discussion threads that can be archived for later use). You can also set up specific initiatives to create shared knowledge, for example holding “virtual meetings” to brain-dump and record what a group of experts knows about a particular topic.
Finally, the collaborative space provides an ideal medium for your Change Advisory Board: virtual meetings are much easier to organize than face-to-face ones, particularly when everyone is busy or in different time zones.

Have you got any tips for getting the best from collaborative technologies? Please share them below, or email me. Next time I’ll talk about what to look for in a collaborative service desk solution.


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