The expanding global economy makes marketplaces more competitive than ever, which means that businesses have to be more efficient and valuable to keep the lights on. Government entities and non-profit organizations also feel pressure to innovate and offer more valuable services to the public to remain relevant. In this shrinking, interconnected world, great ideas and work can come from anywhere, and organizations need to adopt tools and practices that take advantage of this powerful trend.
In fact, what mental labors employees perform, and how well they perform them, is the most important management issue for any organization: deals get closed, solid contracts are negotiated, problems are solved, new products and services are invented, projects are finished, teams are organized, processes are improved and even consumer behavior changes when employees do their best where their skills matter most.
> Empowering Knowledge Workers through Open Collaboration
And nowhere is this more powerful than in the field of knowledge work. In fact, Thomas Davenport, a business process consultant and president of Information Technology and Management at Babson College, says, “It’s already apparent that the firms with the highest degree and quality of knowledge work tend to be the fastest growing and most profitable.1 The bottom line is that organizations that empower their knowledge workers and build powerful teams will thrive. Management’s goal should be to align employees’ skills with their objectives, and then give them the vision, tools and guidance they need to achieve the company’s goals.
Many tools already exist to help knowledge workers do their work, but all of them have shortcomings that leave users and the IT teams that support them hoping for more. Personal productivity software, e-mail, company Web portals, telephones, express postage services and other tools are all useful, and they often serve to increase collaboration and productivity; however, it has become increasingly clear that even better tools exist to enable more effective collaboration. And more effective collaboration leads to greater organizational success.
Novell Teaming and Novell Teaming + Conferencing deliver an integrated suite of services that helps team members work together better. These tools include teaming workspaces, personal spaces, global search, work flow automation and online meetings. With this new, open collaboration solution from Novell, knowledge workers will achieve more by having access to the right information, colleagues and collaborative tools. Teams will be more effective because they’ll be made up of the right members with the right skills, knowledge and motivation. Team members will have a clear understanding of deadlines and milestones, expected outcomes, and other contributors involved in the effort. Workers will also have more consistent access to more useful knowledge, which will boost their productivity and the quality of their work.
> The Need for Tools that Work the Way People Work
Improving the productivity of knowledge workers should be management’s most important goal. After all, knowledge workers control the organization’s most important means of production: their minds. Providing them with the right set of tools to improve collaboration has a powerful effect on the organization’s bottom line.
No matter what their style, knowledge workers have to make sense of information available to them, then create something new and valuable for the consumers of their work. Given that every team has a diverse set of workers, each with a different style, one of the challenges of collaboration software is helping users be more productive without getting in their way. Davenport says, “Collaboration work is perhaps the most difficult to improve in any structured way, because this type of work feels very iterative and improvisational to those who do it.2 In other words, collaboration software needs to work the way people do.
A blend of the right methods and the right tools helps you and your organization create and empower effective teams, streamline their processes, and collaborate beyond organizational boundaries.
> Creating Value: The Story of a Radio Spot
To illustrate the importance of this concept in accomplishing daily tasks, consider the situation of an actual Novell customer: a radio station in the United Kingdom that needed to create a new advertisement for a customer. Even a project as simple as this requires clear expectations: knowledge, skills and talents from a number of individuals, effective collaboration tools, and the flexibility to work in the most productive way for the team members involved.
The process begins with a meeting between Nikki, a sales representative from a local radio station, and a local garden center manager. During this meeting, Nikki convinces the manager that her team can create a radio spot to increase traffic in his store. After the sales meeting, Nikki meets with Ian, the station project manager, to discuss putting together a demo ad for the store. Using his own contacts, Ian hires a local freelance songwriter to come up with a tune and some lyrics.
Once the lyrics and musical notation are done, Ian sends the information as an e-mail attachment to a performer in the United States. When the song is recorded, the performer sends an e-mail with an MP3 attachment back to Ian. He plays the jingle to Nikki, who asks for some changes. After a few volleys between the US and the UK, the jingle is ready. Nikki plays the jingle for the garden center manager, who likes it and signs an order for the radio spot.
Developing a radio spot shares elements of every project of any scope in any industry: an expected outcome, ideas and existing art, a group of participants with a variety of talents, a deadline and interim milestones, a project manager, a need to know how the project is doing, the potential for process automation, a need to share knowledge in a more open way, and smoother ways to collaborate. And though the end result in this actual case study was a satisfied customer and a completed project, Ian knows that the station could do more projects more efficiently with a better set of collaborative tools. He identifies the following shortcomings with the current tools and process:
- A way to bring all of the people involved—prospect, talent, sales and management—into a single place online. Juggling e-mail attachments makes it hard to keep track of the latest work, and turns Ian into a filing clerk. He’d like to have one place to keep all of the work related to a project, and control versions and access there.
- A means of tapping into a broader network of talent. Having access to more composers and performers increases his creative capabilities and production bandwidth.
- A way to track progress against milestones and see how the project is doing. He’d also like a central place for tasks, milestones and appointments related to a project.
- A better way to meet and collaborate with talent, no matter where they happen to live.
- A simple means of letting everyone involved know who else is working on the project, as well as a way to collect and aggregate team opinions on topics relating to the project.
- A way to automate repeated tasks to increase consistency and reduce friction. He sees the potential to use the same process to churn out hundreds of radio spots.
- An easy way to search for similar projects that have been done in the past. If a manager previously did a radio spot for a garden center, he’d like to leverage that content and experience.
> An Introduction to Novell Teaming and Novell Teaming + Conferencing
Novell Teaming addresses these issues with the following features—all of which enhance individual productivity, team effectiveness and organizational success:
- Teaming workspaces are a simple and powerful means of bringing together the people, information and work to handle undertakings of any size. You can nest workspaces to handle any arrangement of projects and sub-projects.
- Folders reside in workspaces and contain the information team members need. File shares provide a simple means of controlling document collections and versions. Forum folders house team knowledge in the format of threaded discussions, blogs or wikis. (See Figure 1.) Calendar folders contain team appointments. Tasks in task folders describe action items team members need to perform. Milestone folders track milestones with start and end dates, and can be derived from task folders. Photo album folders facilitate the collection of images. Surveys are also folders, and provide a means of collecting and aggregating team ideas and opinions.
- You can create personal workspaces that contain file folders of information you have produced or collected, blogs or wikis of things you’re currently working on, and a record of what you’ve done in the past, including your education. Personal workspaces are a means of incorporating social networking tools into an organization, which helps managers and team members find candidates for projects they’re starting.
- Each workspace includes a list of team members. Novell Teaming lets you form teams from multiple organizations. Team members can see everyone who is involved in the project, and the workspace manager can set access control rights for each member.
- A global search tool lets you quickly find information in almost any format, in any workspace. Online chats, discussions, documents, attachments, or any other information posted in a workspace is easy to find and use. The search tool also helps team leaders find talent by searching for information in personal spaces. (See Figure 2.)
- Work flow automation provides a means of automating work processes to increase productivity and decrease errors. What’s more, work flow automation allows the real experts—the team itself—to easily create customized work flows that can be used as templates for other projects. You can link work flows to items in different kinds of folders.
- Information in teaming spaces is accessible through Web browsers; Novell Teaming works with Liferay, an open source portal system included with the product. All Teaming components are compliant with the JSR 168 standard. You can also access information in folders through the WebDAV protocol, making it easy for users of productivity applications such as MS Office and OpenOffice to find information in workspaces with the Open dialog. You can also publish contents of forum folders through Really Simple Syndication (RSS).
The real-time conferencing features of Novell Teaming + Conferencing help distributed teams communicate and collaborate more frequently and affordably. Key features of the real-time portion of Novell Teaming + Conferencing include:
- A Conferencing client, based on the open source Pidgin project, runs on Windows and SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop 10 to let you meet online.
- Meeting management makes it easy for you to schedule or call online meetings as needed. You can see meetings you’ve scheduled, meetings you’re invited to, and also create new meetings.
- Instant Messaging and Chat provide the electronic equivalent of a hallway conversation. You and the other members of your distributed team can get quick answers to questions without the time delays typically associated with e-mail, phone messages or other traditional forms of communication.
- Presence lets you see who is available for discussion, who is in a meeting, and even shows who is talking. Novell Teaming also has presence indicators by member items, showing whether someone is online and available for a meeting.
- Application and Desktop sharing lets you share content; browse the Web; and conduct real-time reviews of presentations, spreadsheets, documents and more. (See Figure 3.)
- Whiteboarding lets you communicate with each other using drawing tools, allowing for richer interactions.
- Voice support lets you talk to each other during online meetings. Voice over IP (VoIP) is available with Novell Conferencing by means of a soft phone included in the client.
> Open Collaboration and the Power of Networked Teams
All of these capabilities give substance to the concept of “open collaboration,” but it isn’t just a term for a powerful new set of tools. It also describes a way of working to increase team effectiveness and organizational success. This blend of the right methods and the right tools helps you and your organization create and empower effective teams, streamline their processes, and collaborate beyond organizational boundaries. Better ideas come from a broad set of diverse minds than from a small team of like-minded peers. In fact, Philip Evans and Bob Wolf, two senior members of the Boston Consulting Group, point out that some of the most effective teams work as self-organizing networks, rather than as rigid hierarchies. They explain that in these networked teams, “Over and over, ideas are formulated in tight, testable packets; they are communicated with minimal attenuation through established, direct, person-to-person connections; and where links are absent, widely connected leader-practitioners create them as needed.” This process leads to “continuous, radical innovation.3
To achieve this level of agility and effectiveness, Evans and Wolf recommend deploying pervasive collaboration technology, and “keep[ing] it simple and open.” At Novell, we agree. Open collaboration tools can help teams replace inefficient, outdated paper-based methods with streamlined online processes.
There are dozens of different ways to put Novell Teaming and Novell Teaming + Conferencing to work for your organization and increase its success. Novell’s model for open innovation also provides a way for your organization to set its own agenda, instead of being driven by proprietary software vendors. With the ICEcore open source project, customizations of these products can be shared with the community and incorporated into subsequent releases of Novell open collaboration products. Take a look at some of the hottest issues in your organization and you’ll see that Novell Teaming and Novell Teaming + Conferencing can address them through more effective people, and more efficient processes, and collaboration as it was meant to be—open.
Make it Work for You
Following are some possible applications of Novell Teaming and Novell Teaming + Conferencing. Use these ideas to spark your own thinking about how to enhance individual productivity, team effectiveness and bottom-line success in your organization.
- Project and program management: Project leaders and team members use a workspace to store all information related to a project: milestones, tasks, due data, work in progress, expected outcomes, ideas and more.
- Sales team management: Manage competitive responses by placing all background material, goals and boundaries and work in progress in a single workspace. Track contacts, leads and deal pipelines.
- Customer satisfaction through quality assurance: Ensure that services are of a consistently high quality by conducting inspections. Inspectors review a checklist of items related to quality and safety, then place their findings in a workspace. Management reviews the aggregated findings and determines appropriate actions to take.
- Supplier management: Manage relationships with suppliers. This is especially useful for large purchases of complex products. Organizations can coordinate information with their suppliers, in effect creating networked teams consisting of internal members and supplier companies.
- Customer relationship management: Track customers and their satisfaction with products and services.
- Community of Practice: Help employees find answers and suggestions on how to handle challenges they are facing. Increase problem solving in the organization.
- Case management: Help case managers track their cases, status and action items. Help senior management understand overall how well case loads are being handled.
1 Davenport, Thomas. Thinking for a Living: How to Get Better Performance and Results from Knowledge Workers. Harvard Business School Press: 2005.
2 Davenport, Thomas. Thinking for a Living.
3 Evans, Philip and Bob Wolf. "Collaboration Rules." Harvard Business Review, July-August 2005: 96.