7 signs you are losing at enterprise collaboration

Image by geralt via Pixalbay

I’ve come into more than one technical writing engagement only to found the organization was losing or had already lost at enterprise collaboration. As a technical writer, I’ve always had a vested interest in collaborative cultures and platforms. They help me version, publish, and secure my work which has often consisted of sensitive product information.

Here are some signs your enterprise is losing at collaboration:

1. Job security through obscurity

When you have people that act as the self-imposed gatekeeper to project or product information down to even wielding it as a weapon to protect their own turf you’re losing at enterprise collaboration. Think of it as the senior engineer or architect who is the only holder of critical project information. The only way to access the information is through them because they have a stranglehold over the last known good version of the document.

Ultimately, job security through obscurity is a cultural issue that requires more than just a manager to fix. Teams themselves can do a lot to prevent job security through obscurity from ruining collaboration by establishing collaborative cultures where information sharing is a natural element. Sitting on information should be frowned upon not just by the team lead but by everybody. You instill that cultural norm on an employee’s first day.

2. Shadow IT

Going to the cloud as a collaboration platform is as good as it can get for collaboration for many enterprises. Shadow IT is one way to open the potential of enterprise collaboration for an organization, it can also serve as a sign your organization has lost at enterprise collaboration.

With the right management support, you can use Shadow IT for collaboration inside your enterprise and turn it into a win for collaboration. However, if your in-house collaboration platform is seen as unreliable and as a blocker to work it’s going to be hard to turn back from Shadow IT for collaboration without incredible cooperation from all levels of your organization.

3. Big collaboration dreams. Little or no execution

There can be a whole lot of talk about enterprise collaboration it seems. It sounds great as part of a digital transformation initiative. While it warms my heart to see the executive attention to enterprise collaboration issues The hard part comes being able to execute on that big talk.

So much of winning at technology implementations is to start small and work out. The same goes for enterprise collaboration. I long ago became a proponent of team-level decentralized control over collaboration platforms after seeing collaboration being pushed down to teams as a losing proposition. Nobody is going to care — or know as much about your collaboration pain points — as the people who are doing the real work. Management proclamations for collaboration can lack the perspective of people who just need the basics such as enterprise search and mobile app access to your enterprise’s collaboration platform. The art of crafting metadata is going to be lost on the majority of the enterprise. On the other hand, working search tools and a robust platform not so much.

4. Checkbox IT

I once described a SharePoint implementation to a former manager as imagine if you stopped by my office door one morning and said: “Hey, install SharePoint but I want you to do absolutely nothing else to it.” That’s my definition of Checkbox IT. To add insult to injury, Checkbox IT means little or no platform support either. It’s a sure recipe to drive your users away from collaboration.

Recovering from Checkbox IT’s hold over enterprise collaboration means going beyond just the usual change management. You need to burn your old collaboration platform to the ground figuratively (the brand name) and literally (go to the cloud) until you can then begin the long road to rebuilding collaboration platform credibility back again.

5. Collaboration through proclamation

An enterprise collaboration strategy coming from the top down can work against such an initiative in some organizational cultures. The top-down approach to collaboration can miss some of the pain points

Two things that come with collaboration through proclamation that further tarnish collaboration is centralized collaboration management and people leading the collaboration charge that lack the skills and experience to understand the current state of collaboration in your enterprise. Their focus is showing up on an upper management’s PM dashboard versus genuinely helping business operations. Enterprise collaboration, content management, and knowledge management (beyond just the usual semantics)

6. Employee rebellion

A sure sign you are failing at enterprise collaboration is employee rebellion. It usually takes the form of employees doing anything and everything to work around the collaboration platform you have in place.

Such rebellion can take the form of emailing the team’s technical writer for the latest version of a document. The technical writer either goes into the collaboration for themselves to share the newest version of the document or emails a version they’ve been storing locally on their PC. Managers and executives can especially be guilty of such rebellion — all under the guise of being busy — getting their employees to retrieve documents for them.

Employee rebellion against a collaboration platform is all but impossible to recover from.

7. Lost your day 1 advantage

When your enterprise bungles the launch of a collaboration platform, and users feel the pain as they use it to do their jobs, it’s hard if not impossible to regain user trust in the platform. The day 1 advantage can be hard to gain in the first place with some users anyway since people do carry baggage about collaboration platforms in the first place.

Collaboration for the win

Winning at enterprise collaboration means having a strategy with participation and input from all levels of an enterprise. Coming back from enterprise collaboration failure can’t work without such cooperation.

How are you winning at enterprise collaboration?


Hey there! My name is Will Kelly. I’m a technical writer and content development manager living and working in the Washington, DC area. After spending years focusing on technical and SDLC documentation, much of my work now focuses on thought leadership content and marketing collateral. My articles have been published by DevOps Agenda, Mobile Business Insights, TechBeacon, CNET TechRepublic, and others. Follow me on Twitter: @willkelly.