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What is the lesson here for other companies?

If you are a CIO trying to decide whether to buy a product and want to know whether everybody will use it, and if you are going to be measured by whether something you buy starts to be used by everybody, you need to make sure you are measuring the right usage. Dogear, in particular, is not used by a huge number of people, and it is not clear if it would be better if more people used it, which is part of the interesting magic of this. People self-select which tools they use. Probably only 10 percent of the company is actively sharing bookmarks, but because we are [combining bookmarks with internal search results], everyone else is getting a benefit from that collection of bookmarks. 

What qualities will make or break the next big thing in collaboration?

I think it is not about the technology per se, but more about finding technologies that are resilient against controls [by management]. When I first came to Lotus, I was excited [that] anybody could create a Notes database on a server and set up access control in a very intuitive way. Anyone, not a database administrator, could create a place to meet. Slowly, over time, [IT managers demanded more control]. You would have to submit a request to create a database; you would have to submit a request to change access control. As a result, a lot of places [that use Notes] don’t have the “group experience” in Notes, and they just use it for e-mail.

The next important thing will need to withstand the controls that may be imposed on how it is implemented. For example, it is possible that companies that insist on doing small pilots of social software will dampen the viral effect so much that they will never see the benefit and they won’t buy it. Someday the whole world will have social software, but during this whole long phase of evaluation, anyone who is stuck on old styles of evaluation is not going to see the value.

What should the goal of all these programs be?

I have always believed that collaboration is most meaningful when you are really creating something together and when you are sharing your thoughts before they are finished products. If I am only willing to show you something that is a polished document, you might edit or change it a little, but you are not really doing it with me.

People have to trust each other to do that. It is risky to show people your unfinished thoughts. Technologies for a long time could let you do that; people did not always do that. Social software, to the extent that it is helping people build trust and be comfortable with more casual, lightweight communications, could make it possible for more of our attempts at collaboration to be real collaboration.

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Tagged: Business, Business Impact, IBM, Collaboration Tools

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