With lots of interest I’ve been watching the web 2.0 worlds evolve and gradually replace our notion of collaboration. It’s been even more curious to watch this evolution in support. We are infatuated with forums and communities – how to establish them, what to do with them, how to leverage their content, and that this is where and how collaboration happens. For sure, forums and discussion groups are places where great things happen:

  • Where questions are asked and (maybe) answered
  • Where extended discussions happen
  • Where members use the collective knowledge to make purchasing decisions
  • Where participants can become part of the social fabric and extensions of the company
  • Where the community collectively grow the extended a body of knowledge

But this is a specific kind of collaboration. If you have to produce work … If you have a software system down, a prospectus to deliver, if you have a significant insurance payment to approve or challenge, you need tools that help you get the work done — and collaboration is a supporting activity in that endeavor. If you go into support centers that are anything but ultra high frequency centers, most of the time is spent producing resolutions to questions or problems. Communities, IM, email are not the best tools for this. We need collaboration environments that allow us to work on our problems, but support awareness and presence information, and interaction tied to the work product so we can more easily collaborate ON the work and perhaps maintain a history. The point is that while communities are empowering in many situations, the biggest chunk of time in support is spent on creating new answers and solutions. Here, collaboration is intended to support the work, not the thing we are doing.

In the right configuration, wiki’s might be a solution. Most are text based, but a few, Socialtext and Jive are beginning to support more forms of work — spreadsheets, presentations, and code and with presence information, groups, reputation and discussions tied to the work build into the wiki. We have a long way to go, but by looking at the main activities inside support organizations, we can see what activities need to be supported and that we need to broaden our notion of collaboration.

What is your experience? Are you using these new tools in an innovative way? Let me know…