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Is Collaboration a Process App or a Content App?

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Phil Wainewright: Collaboration and social business applications have typically revolved around content management, email and document applications. But we're now seeing a new generation of collaboration apps, such as Salesforce Chatter and SAP 12Sprints, that are more focused on business process and decision making. Where should collaboration live?

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  • It should bridge both content and business process management, and the reason for that is that the act of collaboration should be a "process" - and the output (or what you are collaborating about) is content.

    Typically collaboration has been a content focused processed, which is correct, as you typically collaborate on a contract document for example. But the actual collaboration itself is a process in its own right, and typically sits within another process (an example again would be contract generation process). So, lets not try to assign where collaboration lives, rather accept that collaboration spans a number of areas, in this case, process and content...

  • Collaboration is definitely a Process App. It is actually both, that is required to drive the business. What 12sprints and Chatter showed is the way to reflect the process that exists anyway, in a business software. Chatter is better in the sense that it is related directly to a specific document while 12sprints is a tool that you could incorporate to the business document with it's API.

  • It's both - or neither, depending on how you look at it. Part of the reason that collaboration is starting to become so hot now is that people are finally recognising that it is not an entity in its own right - we don't "just" collaborate, we collaborate in order to achieve something. The "practice" of collaboration is always part of a process, it's just that the technology has always been standalone, so people have had to manually connect the dots. Now the technology is finally starting to put some of those connectors in place, and this makes it much more usable and practical.

    Of course, content is a major output of collaboration too - but then that content is usually part of the process too.

  • Collaboration is an entity in its own right and must not, in my view, be bucketed into Process or Content. However channelizing that collaboration towards a purpose specifically an overall Business Process or towards collaboratively creating content is what creates value in the Business context.

  • Collaboration is about helping people inside and outside an organization work together, find the information they need, and get work done effectively and efficiently.

    If the people collaborating are doing it for some form of repeatable outcome, this tends to bias the collaboration requirements towards at least some form of business process. If the reason for collaboration is more of a one-off project, there may be more value in the sharing of tasks, activities and documents in a workspace. It depends on the application and the needs of the people.

    In my experience, I've seen collaboration be used to handle repeatable processes purely because formal business process management tools were just too complex to be implemented, or the time required to analyze all the requirements was just too great. In that situation I believe that there is a middle ground between collaboration and process that can help streamline workflows without burdening an organization or team with huge development efforts. Collaboration tools just don't get the concept that people have roles in a business, and work doesn't have to flow between one named person and another.

    Phil Ayres
    http://www.consected.com

  • Semantically speaking the term collaboration would be identified as a some form of process in managing interaction. From a technology view what has been presented as solutions in the collaboration space have become hybrids of a process with the outcome possibly being some form of information/content outputted.

    These two disciplines combined with a repeatable practice or methodology could make the argument that collaboration fit into a service design blueprint of solutions. You have actors, communication/interaction, sequences of events, with a proposed outcome.

  • I'm a little late to the party on this one but I had a couple of conversations with analysts last week about social BPM and this seemed closely related.

    The interesting thing about those conversations is that they are trying to fuse concepts from two different perspectives. On one side you have structured, disciplined BPM approaches and on the other side you have the wild west of social media.

    The analysts are representing each camp as well. To the BPM side collaboration enhances process as you guys have mentioned above. The social side is a little less clear.

    I had the opportunity to get an early view on some thoughts. The concept is still pretty raw for them. It will be interesting to see where it ends up.

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