There are a whole host of cloud based collaboration tools available that are free or low cost and will support the needs of the collaboration community.  These tools will provide the capabilities to support the needs of the community and will also also provide the on-going support and enhancements to improve the tool capabilities without the necessity of any community member to spend time developing or maintaining tools.  The identification, evaluation and selection of cloud based collaboration tools should however follow the same selection methods as any other software tool and most importantly the tools should support the process and methods defined by the community. 

Tool selection for the collaboration community can be a little difficult because of the nature of the community itself.  It is important to collaborate with the community members and elicit both suggestions for tools and evaluation of the potential tools.  In fact I think it is important to elicit input and suggestions from new members as they join the community to first identify any methods they may already use to collaborate and also any tools that they may use to currently support their collaborative efforts.  Since the collaborative community is a federation of members and the community does not have a research budget it is important to take advantage of all avenues for identification and research that are available and one important avenue is the tools that have already been identified and are being utilized by a community member. 

There are some basic requirements for collaboration tools capabilities and usage that can be met by many different tools.  These basic requirements are:

  • Communication between members - to provide capability to share communication threads among community members to support conversion threads based on topics.  This is similar to email and may be initially supported through standard email.  There are tools available that support these requirements through a segregated chat model using SMS text messaging for instance.
  • Collaborative workspace for documents - to provide the capability to collaboration in the development of work documents, procedures and processes.  This supports the file sharing and maintains the version of documents for development and also for recovery of prior versions.
  • Project management to support collaborative initiatives - to provide task identification, assignment, status updates and issue reporting and resolution.  This supports the cross organization assignment and management of project tasks and is critical to effective management and the delivery of your collaborative initiatives.  In addition these tools can also be used to support collaborative process execution and management.

The cloud based tools industry is a volatile industry and this must be taken into account in the selection process.  In addition, there is no requirement and there is very high probability that your community will end up using a variety of tools from a variety of software vendors.  One key strength of cloud based tools is the open nature of the tools and the ability to mix and match tools based on the requirements.


And now for the audience participation portion of the show…

ECommerce will have wide ranging impacts on both the retail and manufacturing sectors.  How can you focus these abilities to improve the consumer's experience?  Improving the consumer’s experience will require a re-evaluation of the sales channels, the manufacturing channels and practices and the supply chain channels and practices from the raw materials to the consumers’ homes.  In order to ensure and maintain success in this new reality you must harness the tools and capabilities in many new areas.  How can you support these continuously changing requirements?