Collaboration 2.0 – A book review


    While not news for many of us, much of what is driving the developments in Collaboration and the developments in collaboration tools is the necessity to create a Virtual Team space (VTS).  Early in the book the authors define 10 trends in collaboration, the most interesting to me is the trend which they call, “Presence Everywhere” – which means being able to detect which involves basically being able to quickly find a person whether they are online or on the phone or in a conference room. A typical scenario as to when this may be useful is given (and I am sure a familiar one to everyone); A and B are working together via web conference and they need C to help solve an issue. Typically one or both A and B will be looking through their buddy lists to see if C is available online, if not both may try calling C via various numbers; office, cell, etc., and if they are finally successful in finding C it may take several clicks of sending links to bring C in to the web conference. IBM is working on their Sametime product to have this type of capability to reach external contacts. LiteScape also apparently has ways to detect the availability of users not only via instant messenger buddy lists but also from your list of outlook contacts and detect their presence via mobile devices.

    If you were not already familiar with the term, the book introduces you to “mashups” as another trend in collaboration. A mashup is the process of creating a hybrid application built from data or functionality found across a number of different applications. An example of this can be seen in a site listing real estate, for example, which uses a 3rd party site or application to provide information about criminal activity in or around the house which is for sale.

    There is no shortage of collaboration tools which the book introduces you to such as TimeBridge which can help you schedule meetings faster, but a great part of the book is the emphasis on the human aspect of collaboration. As they say, collaboration is 10% tools and 90% people.

    The second half of the book takes a look at the human side of collaboration with chapter 7 specifically focusing on virtual teams. A very good point is made at the beginning of the chapter that the challenge has traditionally been how to minimize diversity among the people on teams whereas the key in the future will be to embrace the differences and work with them. I agree with this whole heartedly and would extend this to all aspects of working in a distributed manner, for example – time differences, location differences, etc.

    Chapters 8 through 14 also focus on different aspects of people and processes. A lot of what was written was review on how teams work, it will most likely be review for a lot of people. What I found funny was, for example in Chapter 9 on Interpersonal communication, the author mentions how important Mirroring/Identifying is in building report, but he doesn’t go in to the next step of how you do this when using collaboration tools.

    Chapter 15 is supposed to bring it all together; the human side and the technology side, but I found it a bit lacking. It talked more about the different stages a company may be at in using collaboration tools, and why they may have problems implementing them, but it did not seem to go that step further and talk about how to overcome the actual road blocks to working with distributed teams and actually using the technology. 

    In general this is what I thought was lacking in the book overall; actual examples or case studies of the use of tools and use of team interaction processes to overcome problems. On pg. 194, the authors discuss the work of one of their clients, and I agree it is an excellent example of an operational agreement between two distinct agencies. There is a lot of detail there, however, there are very few other real life examples given in the book. Adding additional examples and case studies, which I have no doubt the authors must have from their consulting practices, would have made the book much stronger. 

    My first thought with this book is that it is especially good for larger companies which are working with a number of collaboration tools, or looking to implement them. However, chapters 1 through 6 which relate to the different technologies that are available, as well as the appendixes listing a number of different technologies, can also be very interesting for smaller firms which are often working virtual from the very start of their existence. As well, for most anyone who reads this book, unless you are a study of collaboration tools you will most likely be surprised at the wide range of tools available and perhaps at what is considered collaboration technology. As far as functionaries who will appreciate this book; marketing folks can certainly get a number of ideas for tools that they can use to do their jobs better, software engineering folks, and anyone who has to deal with remote teams on a daily or almost daily basis will benefit from reading this book. 

    Collaboration 2.0: Technology and Best Practices for Successful Collaboration in a Web 2.0 World –

    Authors:  David Coleman and Stewart Levine
    Published: January 2, 2008




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