Before I begin, I need to start out with two little housekeeping items:
- This is my first blog post. I’m not telling you so you’ll take it easy on me, I’m telling you because it’s a special day for me and I felt compelled to acknowledge it.
- I’m a project manager at SMG and as far as jobs are concerned I think I got one of the good ones. I get to work in an industry I’m passionate about, with one of the leading firms and the most innovative clients. The best part is that it will only get better from here.
OK, now moving on to what I actually wanted to write about…Picking an internal collaboration tool. Even though I have been working in an industry which is anchored around online communities and relationships, I never had to go through the process of picking out and internal collaboration tool.
This is because I started my online community career working for two different vendors. Both of them offered great tools which worked well inside and outside the firewall. So there you have it, internal collaboration crisis solved.
Back to the present – at Social Media Group we have outgrown our current solution and being a remote worker myself, finding a new one is a priority. For starters, I found some definitions and lists I like on Jeremiah Owyang’s posts on collaboration and white label social network. Turns out there are more than two vendors out there! I don’t even know what it is I’m looking for; solutions range from project management tools, to shared docs, CRMs, wikis, communities, spaces. You name it and it’s out there!
Now what do I do? Like any normal person, I asked my friends on Twitter. Unfortunately all that did was broaden my list and confirm that the majority of these tools are good enough. So, I applied our own best practices, took a step back and instead of focusing on the technologies I focused on our objectives and requirements. I tried answering the question, “what does internal collaboration mean to SMG?“ Let me tell you how hard that is, without a good tool! In any case, we got it and were ready to pick from what was still an incredibly long list. I scratched some names off by asking questions I borrowed from Groundswell’s section on evaluating new technologies. This is slightly a different context, but some of them still applied, like; “does it shift power to the employees?”, “does it make it easy to generate enough content?” and “does it integrate with other tools I’m using?”
OK, but my list is still too long.
That’s when it hit me. This isn’t about the tool or even about the requirements (OK, it’s a little bit about the tools and little bit about the requirements…but there’s more.) Making this decision is about committing my time and my company’s data to one vendor; who can I make such a commitment to?
Here are the new questions I began to ask:
- Does the company have an active blog?
- Who blogs? Does the company allow different kinds and levels of employees to represent them?
- Are they on Twitter? As a company? As employees?
- Do they monitor their brand online? If I post something about them, will they hear me and tell me they did?
- Do they provide a place for people like me to connect? A developer forum? A practitioner community? I need to know what others are doing with the product.
- Do they listen to their customers? Are they active in their own communities? If I have suggestions on features, will they honestly listen? If not, will they tell me why not?
- Do they make their roadmap visible?
- Could I ever reach a C level executive if I needed to?
- Are they really thought leaders or just trying to sell me something?
…and like any good list, this can basically be summed into one point – Do they practice what they preach?
Finally, a short list of options! How did you make your choice?