Before I begin, I need to start out with two little housekeeping items:

  1.  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.
  2. 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:

  1. Does the company have an active blog?
  2. Who blogs?  Does the company allow different kinds and levels of employees to represent them?
  3. Are they on Twitter?  As a company?  As employees?
  4. Do they monitor their brand online?  If I post something about them, will they hear me and tell me they did?
  5. 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.
  6. 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?
  7. Do they make their roadmap visible?
  8. Could I ever reach a C level executive if I needed to?
  9. 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?

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10 Comments

  1. zoe

    congrats on your first post! doesn’t it feel good?

    z

  2. Veronica Giggey

    Thanks Zoe, completely forgot about the two spaces when retyping it. Still exciting.

  3. Tom

    Hi Veronica,

    Great post. You gave a lot of links that are really useful and your final insight is stated very succinctly.

    I hope you can give me an assist. Who was on your original list and who was on your final list?

    Thanks

  4. Veronica,

    Congratulations on your first blog post. You raise good questions and you’re right. The most important question when evaluating a vendor is “do they practice what they preach?”.

    Another question to ask when selecting a collaboration tool: what is the objective of using the tool (what does success look like?)?

    Melany
    @melgallant

  5. Veronica Giggey

    @Melany – thanks for adding to the discussion, measuring your objectives certainly needs to be part of your planning, so you can correct any decisions and implementations.

    @Tom – glad you got some useful information from it. Right now we are running a formal pilot for one the tools. I’m planning on following up when we make our choice. I’ll be happy to help any way I can, so I’ll pick this up with you.

  6. Veronica

    Congratulations on joining SMG; a great move. Couple of points.

    I have been advising organisations on how to buy recruitment software and the underlying principles are the same. I have a free report, buying an ats, which you are welcome to have. It takes a light hearted approach to choosing software and you may find some of it useful.

    Collaboration means so much to different people and in looking for social media tools in the UK (most are from the US) I have come across Huddle (http://www.huddle.net/) which looks very good; more about collaboration so maybe worth a look?

    Hope that helps.

    Peter

  7. Veronica,

    Congratulations on a great first post! I think these are questions that we need to ask of all vendors. Unfortunately, a lot of businesses are still not there yet. I know my own local vendor list would be down to zero potential vendors. It will change in time and it’s social media champions like you and SMG that will help to make that change.

    Looking forward to more great posts and information!

  8. Veronica Giggey

    @Peter, thanks for the link to Huddle. I really like how they offer a free instance for charities. Certainly worth a closer look. If you still have that report, I would like to take a read, you can send me a note at veronica.giggey (at) socialmediagroup (dot) ca

    @Beth, you’re right about having to ask questions like these to all vendors. I’m thinking vendors in the social media and collaboration spaces, need to set the bar and these questions need to be asked before making a purchase, and that you can ask them now.

  9. Hi Veronica

    There is an interesting survey may may want to check out from the Human Capital Institute.

    The Human Capital Institute is conducting a new study on leveraging social networking & web 2.0 collaboration tools in enterprises. website: http://www.humancapitalinstiture.com

    To begin the survey, just follow this link:

    http://www.custominsight.com/start/?csnweb:FVS4EBVMB

    Brenda Benedet

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