Think thrice when setting up your collaborative tools

Collaborative tools are an essential asset of your communication department. They will dramatically enhance your efficiency in 3 ways:

  1. content reliability: make sure that all contributors on the project work with the latest version of each document
  2. content alignment: allow collaborators to stay aligned on the same core and peripheral content
  3. foster common focus: as team members virtually work around “one desk”, they tend to stay focussed on the initial goals and stay closely involved in the project’s evolution.

Think Structure Data intelligence has known a tremendous evolution over the last years. Full-text search, tags, metadata and complex search algorithms allow you to find about everything everywhere. So why bother about information structure? But that’s the point: you don’t want to find everything, you want people to work with the right information at the right place at the right time. It is highly recommended to structure your collaborative content in perfect harmony with the processes you are using in your communication department.Take time to think about your processes and the information needs at each step of the process. Build your information structure around your processes. Eventually, you can add other technologies on your systems to allow other ways of data retrieval. Think Sharing Beside from allowing your teams to share the same content, your collaborative tools should also allow you to share the content with other stakeholders of the communication project, both internal (management, content providers, approval instances,…) and external (agencies, copywriters, designers,..). Two major attention points at this stage for choosing your collaborative tool:

  • can you manage the access rights to parts of your information for each (type of) stakeholder with the adequate granularity? Quite often you don’t want to share all of the project information with all stakeholders.
  • does the Information Security Policy of your organisation allow you to share data on the company’s system with externals, and if yes, what are the conditions? If not, is it possible to put the data outside your company’s systems, in a rented environment? This has to be checked from the beginning with your IS department.

Think Mobility Depending on the way your department is organised, you will have to take in account mobility. If your team members are working from home or from other places outside the company, do they have a comfortable access to the collaborative environment? We all tend to be lazy by nature, so if you don’t offer an efficient way to access and work in the collaborative environment, people will naturally tend to work with “local” copies of the team’s documents, and thus break the benefits of your collaborative set up. Despite the hype, overall connectivity still is a problem, at least in some parts of Europe, so take into account that people might not always be connected to the internet while working on your project. If this is the case in your situation, consider tools that offer a good offline – online synchronisation of your data.


by Xavier Huysmans