Notes Toward A Collaboration Experience Methodology

Notes Toward A Collaboration Experience Methodology

Notes toward a collaboration experience methodology.

Even with the wealth of collaboration tools available, and the pandemic-forced need to use them every day, most organizations do not understand their collaborative work. Some may participate in vendor-specific surveys when implementing a tool, but those often concentrate on limited workflows that would favor the vendor’s technology. As organizations seek efficiency and effectiveness in entrenched WFH scenarios, understanding and documenting collaboration experiences will become more important.

Distributed work will likely lead to reimaging many workflows. Modeling distributed work will benefit from a systematic and easily shared way to document that work. This simple methodology can help individuals and organizations better understand how they work together.

Unlike a more traditional process or workflow, collaborations may include multiple iterations between individuals or teams that result in incremental deliverables or updates, rather than completed tasks or deliverables. Collaborations often get lost in traditional workflows, hidden behind individual tasks, such as “create content.” This methodology is designed to capture the more subtle interactions that lie beneath those tasks. 

The illustrations offer a wireframe that can be drawn on a whiteboard, in a drawing tool, or just as a sketch on paper or on a tablet. 

Each collaborative interaction should document the wide range of attributes listed below. This should be done so the diagram and the documentation are either on the same page or closely related via a database or other method of association.

The Business Case for Documenting a Collaboration Experience

  • Discover the communication and coordination between people, identifying the intent of the interaction.
  • Capture who does what, shares what, and needs what or needs to know information as they go about getting their joint activity done.
  • Better understand what devices support the interactions and where they are when people are participating.
  • Identify the information that supports the collaboration, whether shared, co-produced, or used by individuals so it can be more formally captured and retained.
  • Document the roles people play—both formal and informal—so organizations and their leaders can better understand the actual work people do.
  • Get a better picture of the hidden organization of teams, so they can be better structured, managed, and motivated.

A collaboration experience methodology diagram
Example of a collaboration experience methodology diagram for content development. Elements on the drawing are listed below.

Collaboration documentation elements

  • Name. Give the collaboration a unique name.
  • Role. Describe the people involved in the collaboration, their roles, and their organizational placement.
  • Relationship. Identify the type of collaborative relationship(s): Manager, customer, partner, internal, supplier 
  • Reason. Describe the reason(s) the collaboration takes place: Communication, learning, coordination, decision making, information gathering, information exchange, etc.  Reason is synonymous with business purpose.
  • Data. Name the data that initiates the collaboration or supports its outcomes.
  • Documents. Which documents are affected by, or integrated with the collaboration? Include any notes about the content organization, lifecycle, or format that would affect the ability to facilitate the collaboration, or generate the desired outcome.
  • Processes. Name the processes affected by or integrated with, the collaboration.
  • Repositories. Which repositories are involved in the collaboration (sources and destinations).
  • Extent. What is the reach of the collaboration (processes, physical sites, other organizations, participant mobility, etc.)?
  • Applications. Name the applications that are used in the creation or review of the original content.
  • Devices. List all of the devices involved (build a library of device capabilities as new devices are discovered).
  • Integration points. Which business applications, line-of-business systems, or other transaction systems intersect with this collaboration.
  • Key Performance Indicators. Name the KPIs that might be affected by an increase in frequency or quality of collaboration. Include causal relationships that will link the performance of the collaboration to the business metrics.
  • Incentives. What incentives are in place that will support and encourage collaborative behavior in relationship to this particular collaboration (if any)?
  • Formal Agreements. Name any formal agreements, such as service level agreements (SLAs) directly related to this collaboration and the parties involved in the collaboration.
  • Social norms and other social elements. Name any significant or unique social norms and other social elements related to the collaboration. Include items like meeting practices and management style. 
  • Maturity.  Describe how long this collaboration, or similar collaborations, for instance, the same type of relationship, but with another partner.  Tool use in different circumstances does not count.
  • Lesson learned. Describe lessons learned and process feedback will be captured. How is process improvement implemented?

It is important to use this type of methodology not only to define the interaction and Supporting technology, but to create a document that itself works as a trigger for a collaborative dialog around the meaning, value, and content associated with the area being modeled.  

The Collaboration Analysis Process

The Collaboration Analysis Process

Document strategic objectives and identify strategic processes.

Create an inventory of collaborations that support strategic goals, along with other collaborations that may be strategic, but not tied to a process.

Document each collaboration.

Identify like collaborations.

Colidate collaborations where possible.

Identify overly complex collaborations.

Rationalize and simplify tool portfolio.

Improve collaborations through the application of new technologies.

Measure the performance of collaborations and continue to improve over time.

This methodology provides a way of capturing the fundamental descriptors of collaborative interactions. 

The inventory process describes a basic sequence of steps that would be helpful in documenting and evaluating a collaborative interaction. The success of a collaboration, however, cannot be determined solely through this documentation. Document collaborations as a way to understand the scope of interactions that take place, and through the inventory, the number and types of collaborations that take place both internally and between companies. 

Time will likely constrain efforts to document collaborative interactions. Because of this, the highest valued, most visible strategic collaborations should be targeted early in the process to ensure they receive the attention they need to save time, increase serendipity, reduce tool portfolio costs, and deliver better experiences.

This work will not only better clarify the collaborative efforts between teams and individuals within the organization, it will help capture and refine agreements between organizations, reconcile behavioral styles between the participants, and educate those involved.

Random collaborations will continue to take place. Those do not require documentation. Strategic collaboration, however, requires the same attention to detail as formal processes and transactions. If it isn’t visible, it cannot be improved. The identification and inventory of collaborative interactions provide organizations with a new lens for understanding work and improving it.

For more on collaboration from Serious Insights, click here.

Daniel W. Rasmus

Daniel W. Rasmus, Founder and Principal Analyst of Serious Insights, is an internationally recognized speaker on the future of work and education. He is the author of several books, including Listening to the Future and Management by Design.

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