As I have previously discussed, crowdsourcing is another category of social networking and so the tools supporting this are also social networking and team development tools.  I have also previously suggested that you focus on free tools in building this capability across your collaborative network because it will encourage adoption of the tools by your partners.  It is especially important to take into account the adoption and use of tools by your partners because the success of your crowdsourcing depends on the adoption of the tools by your partners.

Social networking and team management and support tools is currently in a robust state of discontinuous change requiring flexibility and imagination to support the needs of your partners and your efforts in achieving value from your crowdsourcing efforts.  This translates into expecting the loss of tools and expecting, and planning for, the loss of or need to replace tools.  Using my own experience in using tools to capture and even share discussions I can say that sometimes this can be very frustrating.  The selection runs the gamut from robust tools that provide both free and subscription based plans to very simple notes tools. 

Another important aspect or feature of tools is the ability to support, access and update from multiple platforms simultaneously.  In my opinion, this is the most important feature requirement.  There are many tools that may profess to provide this capability but many of these tools don’t deliver on that promise.  An interesting point to this requirement is that tools that charge for the service are not necessarily more capable in supporting this feature.

Where does this leave you though from a tools perspective?  There are two types of tools in this group;

  1. Tools that support content collaboration such as Dropbox or Google Drive.  These tools provide the platform to share and collaborate on documents across platforms and are free to use.
  2. Tools that support the social networking and team management such at LinkedIn, Google+ and Evernote.  These tools all provide the ability to connect and communicate to a group along with a robust notification and participation capability through email or smartphone apps.

I feel it is important to understand and classify the capabilities of tools so that you can evaluate the tools against your process and people requirements.  It is very easy to get lost in the tools evaluation process and lose sight of the objective and requirements you are trying to support.  Remember, the sequence of execution is critical to the success of any effort, focus on process first, then the people that will use the process and then you can be the most successful in selecting the technology and tools to support your requirements and deliver your objectives.

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?