I have previously discussed that successful crowdsourcing across your collaborative partners depends on ease of access and use.  It is important then to identify tools that can easily be implemented and used across your network that are free.  I focus on the free tools because they provide an opportunity to experiment with your methods, practices and developing a framework before investing in  tools and technology.  I have previously advised many times that free collaboration tools are an optimal method to ‘try before you buy’ in your collaborative framework development.  This method allows you to turn your framework development methodology on it’s head because of the impact that a tool’s cost and methods play on the decisions.

Taking the cost of the tool out of the equation allows you to focus first on your own process before selecting a tool.  In order to have the greatest opportunity for success you must focus on Process, People and Technology in that specific order.  Taking the cost of technology out of this equation allows your focus to remain where it belongs; the process and the people.  In addition, taking the cost out of the technology acquisition allows you to make quick decisions and just as quickly discard bad decisions in your framework development and implementation. 

Process and framework development and implementation is an iterative process, it is very much a lean development process that must initially allow for and support quick and sometimes drastic decisions.  Taking the cost of software out of the equation allows you to move through this process in the most beneficial manner.  Think about it, if you’ve made the decision based on early analysis and decision to spend on a software tool you are less likely to discard that purchase, even if you find out later that the purchased tools do not support your best practice methods.

Another, and probably more important factor supporting the use of free tools at least initially is the acceptance and participation of your partners and especially your extended partners.  Since you have no control over your partners’ decisions to purchase and implement tools the cost is an important factor in their decision making process.  All in all, the acceptance and implementation of free tools is much greater than any decision requiring spending funds and especially funds that would support a soft return. 

Remember the crowdsourcing practice does not present a hard return on investment, it really presents the promise of potential value.  In this economy it is extremely difficult to expect your partners to spend on this type of soft return without a pilot to confirm the potential.  Therefore it is critical to the growth and expansion of your crowdsourcing collaborative effort to develop a low cost method to participate.

And now for the audience participation portion of the show…

How do you incorporate the different methods of communication to support your collaborative network needs and objectives?  Do you have a formal maintenance communication plan that your partners have participated in developing?  How does the informal communications methods impact and support the formal communications?  Have you developed an evaluation plan for your communications methods, a type of continuous improvement process for your communication methods and communications plans?