Collaboration is a workflow.
CMS Wire, a business-to-business web site that covers technologies used to support customer experience management, digital marketing, social business and enterprise information management, recently published “It’s a big world: Collaboration tools need global reach.”
Contributed by guest columnist Anatole Varin, a director at a firm that makes productivity applications, the post argues that CIOs and senior IT-management executives planning global collaboration initiatives should think carefully about three things:
- Cultural differences can affect how different groups work; an “open” system that works in one place can be a disaster in a more hierarchical environment
- Transparency, open communication and inclusion can be undermined if language differences are not addressed in a meaningful way
- Collaboration without boundaries can drown a work team, even if the first two parts are handled well; systems should emulate organizational structures
A web site that assesses technologies naturally defaults to asking (and answering) the question, “How do we make this collaboration technology work?” There’s a risk in looking only at technology, though. Implementing collaboration across a global enterprise is fundamentally a change in workflow, and it requires attention to process (how people work) and organizational structure as well as the tools themselves.
Varin alludes to process (as cultural differences) and structure (as a natural proxy for how much collaboration a global team can manage), but he tends to assume these two things are fixed. In practice, very few tools can be made to work in a consistent way when there is no “give” in either what people do or how they are organized. The three variables need to be considered as interdependent gears.
This is something that publishers must keep in mind as supply chains becomes increasingly global and open-ended. Systems built for one country or region might look like a source of competitive advantage when scaling to publish in other markets. But unaddressed cultural and organizational roadblocks can quickly strip those systems of efficiency or effectiveness.
Local agreements about things like who enters metadata, what metadata formats matter most, when information should be released, the frequency of inventory updates, how many pages are in a printed book—these seem like details, but they can quickly and sometimes irreparably undermine a systems rollout.
Workflows have always had this interconnectedness, but physical goods covered up some of the problems when mismatches occurred. The wrong metadata on the side of a shipping carton could be interpreted by someone reading the box or perhaps opening it to figure out what books were inside.
As we become more connected, the blended mix of physical and digital content makes it more likely that any gaps in the way that structure, process and technology fit together will appear. That’s the price of publishing interconnectedness. It can be paid, or overcome, by planning for and creating an effective balance of structure, process and technology in each of the markets we work to serve.