The Future State of Collaboration


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Originally published in Winter 2010 edition of the Public Manager.

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The Future State of Collaboration

  1. 1. The public sector must start planning now for collaboration needs of TECHNOLOGY the future.The Future State of Collaboration by bill annibell The title of the Bob Dylan classic “The Times They Are a-Changin" may be an appropriate theme to describe the expected shifts in collaboration portals not only within commercially focused organizations, but also within the public sector. A variety of factors—including innovation initiatives, branding requirements at a multitude of levels, and the need to create community- focused, externally facing portals to enable transparency—are diving these shifts. In addition, the increased demands that Generations X and Y end-users will place on IT moving forward as they transition into senior levels of public-sector management will affect future collaboration use and models. IT managers should begin planning now to meet the future demands and requirements of collaboration portals. History People have been collaborating in some form or another forever. The concept is not new, nor has it changed all that much throughout history—at least until recently. Certainly, technology has changed how we communicate, but collaboration is a different story. Email is the 800-pound gorilla in the room that has undermined many collaboration projects within organizations. This is not to say that the existence of current collaboration portals is a fallacy. They do exist. Far too often, however, the collaborative portal’s original purpose has morphed into document repositories, and they have become an ineffective mechanism for driving broad content to end-users. The original intent of a truly dynamic, collaborative environment is often lost in a less-than-real-time user experience that fails to bring role-specific, pertinent data to the end-user. The Public Manager | WinTer 2010 11
  2. 2. Traditionally, collaboration portals on to ensure that only the best ideas Personalized sites that offer business-have been labeled intranets, portals, bubble to the top. Crowdsourcing is focused Facebook and MySpaceteam sites, and so forth, where an empowering technology and cannot functionality will become the norminformation could be shared among be overlooked. Workers will demand it and the jump-off point to otheremployees, contractors, team members, moving forward. parts of the portal. These sites willand even cross-agency (think enable individuals to showcase theirextranet). Although these models Brand Awareness work and connect with like-mindedhave had varying levels of success, Once upon a time, branding a individuals within the organization.they often have been plagued by poor collaboration portal was as easy as With the advent of such sites, subjectplanning, design, and implementation, ensuring the logo was placed at the matter expertise will evolve organicallyand therefore, poor adoption. top of a webpage. As organizations and in a grassroots fashion. within the public sector become External users visiting public-Innovation more brand-aware, collaboration sector sites will expect personalization Although not all organizations are portal requirements will shift. Brand as well. Visitors will look for wayscreated equally, many have become awareness will continue to be about to share profile information asincreasingly aware they have been identification, but it will also be externally facing portals develop and citizen engagement matures. This functionality will ensure content as content delivery becomes more focused, the internal, is finely focused and appropriately distributed as external end-users enter end-user brand will become the focal point of entry into the portal. future collaboration portals. Personalized sites that offer business-focused Facebook and MySpace functionality Community and Transparency Today, collaboration often happens will become the norm and the jump-off point to other outside of firewalls, and future collaboration portals will be forced parts of the portal. to address this requirement. Self- registering community portals willliving in the dark ages with regard about managing both internal and become more prevalent in the future,to effective use of collaboration. external perception. with interagency collaboration leadingMechanisms for unleashing innovative For organizations to influence the charge. Many agencies will requireideas will take the forefront within perception, content will need to be the establishment of communityfuture collaboration portals. more dynamic, increasingly targeted, portals with academia and the private As organizational innovation and measurable by useful analytics. sector to achieve their missions.processes mature, the need for Gone are the days of manually Common collaborative tools willtools—both old and new—will updating static pages. True content be required, including those thatbecome paramount. For example, management functionality will enable blogging, discussion forums,wikis are tools, long in tradition, that become a necessity to ensure that video, and persistent chat. Learningare most often leveraged by multiple focused, relevant, and role-specific management system functionality,end-users for sharing and expounding information is delivered to internal including whiteboards, audio andon ideas. Demand for wikis will and external users. This content video conferencing, and desktoplikely increase as organizations will be measured and analyzed for sharing will also be standardbecome more innovative in their usability and relevance to ensure requirements. Integration with acollaboration approaches. perception is managed effectively. variety of social media technologies, In addition, crowdsourcing As content delivery becomes more including the likes of YouTube, Flickr,capabilities will be required so ideas focused, the internal, end-user brand and Twitter will become mandatory.from the masses—both externally and will become the focal point of entry The Open Government Directiveinternally—can be captured and voted into future collaboration portals. has hastened transparency, and12 WWW.ThePublicManager.Org
  3. 3. externally facing collaboration portals to their impatient and growing user-will conform or be left behind. These base. A variety of public and private TECHNOLOGYportals will be forced to evolve from cloud-based technologies will beunstructured data repositories, required to meet such demands. ITsuch as, to ones that offer managers will have to respond to ever-both structured and unstructured changing requirements in a far moredata services that can be accessed agile way than they may be used to.via web services and application-programming interfaces. The Future End-users will demand tools that The future is now. The patienceenable them to “mash-up” data within of public-sector collaborationthe portal itself. Analysis, integration, portal users is growing increasingly Announcingand reporting tools will need to be short. Innovation, brand awareness,integrated into the collaboration community building, andportals to appease non-technical end-users. Semantic search will become transparency are the driving forces behind the many expectations being our newthe norm, so individuals can quicklyand easily find what they are looking placed on public-sector IT managers. As Generations X and Y assume podcast seriesfor regardless of whether they typed senior leadership roles within the Interviews with industryin the correct search term. public sector, they will not only leaders and influencers, require changes, but also demand including:Generation Gap change regularly as technology evolves. As Baby Boomers begin to IT managers must be prepared to Preston Tim Brown,retire from their senior government respond far more quickly than ever Manager, Grant Thorntonpositions, they will be replaced by before, which requires a flexible, agile Richard “Rick” Koonce, Certified Executive CoachGeneration X and Y workers, both model that is capable of adapting Matt Peters,of which seem to embrace change. rapidly to an agency’s mission needs. CLO, Defense IntelligenceMany claim that these generations— Agencythe creators of Twitter, Facebook, Christine Rush,and Google—expect diversity, learn Assistant Professor of Publicfrom video games, and communicate Administration, Cleveland State Universitywith peers via text messaging andinstant messaging. They are quick A full calendar of interviewsto adapt to the latest technology planned for 2011and often look forward to see what Visit The Public Managertechnological advancements are on online to listen to the latestthe horizon. They are well aware of interviews offering newtheir personal brands and the impact perspectives and deeperit has on their future. understanding of the diverse If a technology to make their jobs challenges facing today’smore efficient is not available to them, public managers.workers from these generations willfind one and leverage it regardless Bill Annibell is a director of technology and chiefof whether it is approved. Typically, technology officer of Sapient Government Services. WWW.THEPUBLICMANAGER.ORGthey do not stand for status quo in He has deployed a variety of collaborativethe realm of technology, putting a technologies within the private and public sectors 111035.98110significant strain on IT managers in the United States and abroad. Contact him atresponsible for delivering such tools The Public Manager | WinTer 2010 13