Better Project Collaboration does not Necessarily Mean Standardizing Solely on a Common Web Platform

28 October 2011
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In a world where the average knowledge worker communicates with his or her stakeholders via email, intranets, extranets, smart phones, and a host of social media and enterprise applications available over the Web, the meaning of “collaboration” can be as useful as it is confusing to project teams that live and die by the information they ingest.  With so many options and means to communicate, developing a collaboration strategy is critical in today’s project environment. You just have to dial back ten years ago and realize collaboration options were quite basic in comparison to today’s world.  Most information was shared via soft and hard copy documents, emails, land lines and faxes.  Today web and mobile applications have created way more powerful collaboration tools that have improved the access and sharing of information.  However with the good comes the bad in which today’s collaborative environments has made project teams even more reliant on their collaboration tools and has created a more complex ecosystem of information to be organized, tracked and controlled.

In our business of selling project and portfolio management software, the most common reason we hear project-centric organizations are seeking a new system is that their current way of running projects no longer meet today’s standard and expectations in accessing and sharing project information with their stakeholders and teams.  In many cases effective collaboration moves beyond the multiple tool sets available and becomes a discussion around finding the “Holy Grail” platform that will consolidate all project information and communication in a single location and still deliver the necessary controls and filters project organizations demand.  The good news is the Web has become that common platform by allowing cloud applications to deliver collaboration capabilities from any PC and mobile device.  Although for many smaller organizations the Web will deliver the capabilities to meet today’s thirst for collaboration, many larger organizations face more complex challenges in which going “All Web” is not an option.  Many of these organizations have heavily invested in technology that has become the standard and is deeply engrained in their business culture.

An excellent example of this can be seen in organizations that are standardized on the IBM Lotus Notes and Domino collaboration platform.  Many Lotus Notes environments go beyond the email and calendaring capabilities typically associated with Lotus Notes.  Due to the maturity to this platform, many organizations have built and acquired many composite applications built on Lotus Notes.  As a result these various applications are easily linked to one another and provide the level of integration that is not as easily achieved among web applications.  In addition, offline capabilities in many project environments are still necessary.  Especially when working in remote areas with poor internet access and within organizations that have very stringent security policies around the access and sharing of information.  Although Lotus Notes does provide the web capabilities necessary, the point is in some environments the Web alone may not be the ideal platform.

The fact is effective collaboration takes on a different meaning from one environment to the other.  In some cases a single Web platform will work, for others a hybrid model of multiple platforms makes most sense, and finally for some (as in the Lotus Notes example) a stacked approach works best in which the Web becomes a complementary extension to the already powerful capabilities of a mature collaboration platform already in place.

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