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Wikis, Blogs and Collaboration

RaviThere's been a fair bit said about the potential of Web 2.0 based collaboration, on this blog and on a whole range of other forums. Now we are beginning to see some real data showing the business impact that successful adopters of these technologies have experienced, and the results are impressive.

The most recent McKinsey Quarterly article on: "..Ten tech-enabled business trends to watch" contains not only the views of some heavy hitters in industry and academia, but also some quantitative data from US and Global companies and even public sector agencies. Trend No 3, for example, which is called "Collaboration at Scale" describes initiatives that are especially interesting in the context of some of the earlier articles on this blog.

As "knowledge work" outpaces the growth of production or transaction oriented growth, many organisations are experimenting with video and web conferencing, which, the article states, is expected to grow by 20% annually over the next few years. One company that actually deployed video-conferencing and shared electronic work spaces in efforts to reduce travel for its sales staff, recorded a saving in travel budget equal to four times its investment in technology and 45% more customer contacts per staff.

Perhaps most surprisingly, the US intelligence community made wikis, documents, and blogs available to analysts across agencies (with appropriate security controls) Resulting in a greater exchange of information and faster access to expertise in the intelligence community.This must surely eliminate most of the arguments we've heard about the why the academic community cannot embrace Wikis to publish research, or why government and international agencies cannot use Wikis to promote genuine consultation?

The article also supports the view that that technology by itself will foster increased collaboration. (See Colin Lonergan's blogs - Not all Video Conference Options are equal, and Creating a Learning Environment) For technology to be effective, organizations first need a better understanding of how knowledge work actually takes place and how knowledge is created and shared. Motivating people and other organisations with the right incentives, which all too often are not financial, is fundamental. In a work environment, ensuring that the new technologies genuinely reduce rather than add to workload may seem obvious, but is not always apparent in the planning or implementation of such initiatives.