Collaboration has become disposable. Is it a good news ?

As promised I’m adding to the conclusion of my recent post on the future of the collaborative digital work environment.

If I had to summarized what I saw in the one or two last years I’d say that collaboration finally works but not with the tools businesses expected it to. Slack and Hipchat today, Facebook at Work without any doubt tomorrow are as many examples of tools successfully adopted by users. The list of the platforms that eventually won the right ro exist in the workplace, either officially or not but who won people’s mind, is growing day after day.

Enterprise collaboration has become disposable

You’ll tell me that the cases of global roll-out of any of these products are rare but that’s what’s interesting. A an individual level or within small groups, people use what works best for them, for the time they need it.

Sometimes it’s going to last the time of a project, sometimes it will be one shot for a very specific need, for sharing one document, one time, in a very specific context. People do what is the most efficient and simple for them and them switch to something else.  Same use case but different tool in the morning and in the afternoon, or one with colleagues and another with clients, one by project…It does not matter to them.

In short it works.

As a result, information is more and more fragmented and poorly capitalized, no one knows what all the knowledge produced along the process becomes over time. It disappears deep in the different tools, no one knows what is where, what is the right version.

That’s true but that’s a business issue, not an end-user one. Users do what they have too in the most efficient way and then switch to something else.

Turning the knowledge capital into an enterprise asset ? Don’t even think of it !

In the last 10 years there’s not a week when I did not hear something like : “we want to manage our social/knowledge capital as an enterprise asset.

It’s logical. Businesses eventually understood that their intangible assets were key to value creation. Leveraging these assets into business processes is the main driver of performance.



To achieve this, businesses often adopted a strong governance and tried to impose the use of a single platform to avoid fragmentation, ensure information traceability and rentention. Today we must admit that it did not work as well as expected, users having issues to adopt the solutions or the management model being irrelevant regarding to the goal.

And all of a sudden it starts working but in a context in which we can legitimately wonder to what extent intangible assets are management and valued. Things happen but businesses can’t capitalize on them or leverage them.

In other words businesses have to choose between two options :

• manage their intangible capital like an asset but failing at leveraging it.

• a poorly managemed intangible capital, that people leverage but can’t be capitalized or leverage by the organization.

Employees don’t care about enterprise assets

Employees want things that work when they need them and don’t care about this asset management thing.

In the short term businesses seem happy to see more efficient usages pervading in the workplace. In the long terme they lose control on what accounts for a large part of their value and must forget about knowlegde management, building an enterprise memory and leverage this knowledge even after the employee that owns it leaves the company.

Businesses made a choice willy-nilly : let what works live. But is it a choice or something they could not go againts ? Today, collaboration is disposable but it works. But what will be the price to pay because of that tomorrow ?

Photo Credit : Disposable by Sherry Yates Young via Shutterstock

Head of People and Business Delivery @Emakina / Former consulting director / Crossroads of people, business and technology / Speaker / Compulsive traveler
Head of People and Business Delivery @Emakina / Former consulting director / Crossroads of people, business and technology / Speaker / Compulsive traveler

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