I find that many reports from large consulting firms are like pablum; no grist and easy to swallow by the masses. However, this McKinsey Report on Using technology to improve workforce collaboration actually held my attention.
The authors describe how companies can see large savings by using web technologies for collaboration (not a new concept). For instance, Cisco saved $100 million by mandating the use of web technologies which reduced travel and the need for face-to-face meetings. P&G increased its use of collaborative web technologies and in addition mandated that 50% of new product development come from outside the company. This resulted in shorter product cycle times and increased innovation. Good examples from very large firms. You now have two more data points to throw into an ROI discussion.
The report includes an interactive graphic that shows profiles of typical knowledge worker roles and then suggests collaborative tools for typical tasks. Some of the key tools include shared workspaces, wikis, and document sharing [I’m not sure why the fax was included as a collaborative technology though]. There are 12 role types described but I think we will see more hybrid roles such as community manager, which would be an amalgamation of aspects from several roles: instructor, manager, counselor. The graphic is a good model to start discussions but I would not recommend being limited to the 12 roles without further research and observation of your own workplace.
The report also discusses waste in collaboration, and while it is important to understand the potential costs, I wouldn’t want to eliminate all “waste” or you wouldn’t have any opportunities for what Jane Hart calls accidental serendipitous learning.
Overall, there is much food for thought but the recommendations are a bit too structured and could be taken to a level that actually decreases collaboration. You can get a lot of benefits by just using networked collaboration technologies, without implementing structured business process re-engineering and sucking the life out of work communities.