Collaboration: The Next Development Opportunity
June 15, 2017

Stephen Hamrick

Today's worker faces a common collaboration conundrum: as new tools proliferate that bring teams together, individual employees are flooded with irrelevant information. In the development community, creating additional efficiency through improved collaboration has been prevalent for some time – through relatively new approaches such as agile and SCRUM, but historically through open source projects and developer forums. But despite the head start on the rest of the corporate world when it comes to collaboration, many organizations function today as they did 15-20 years ago.

Since time is money in the tech world, outdated collaboration is a huge missed opportunity. How can developers improve their approach to collaboration? Here are key ways for developers to improve interaction for greater speed and efficiency – not only in their own organizations, but in the solutions they roll out across their organizations.

Step One: Examine how other lines of business collaborate

No team should operate in a bubble – but especially the teams that are tasked with making companywide decisions regarding relevant technology. Often, collaboration solutions can get rolled out on features, rather than cultural fit. As developers fall in love with the tools they personally use, this can falsely predict the comfort that other lines of business will experience when using the tools themselves.

Ultimately, different groups of people share information differently, for a variety of business purposes. It is essential to have visibility into different levels of the organization to create a unified understanding of how people work. The culture should dictate the tools, rather than tools helping change the collaboration culture.

Step Two: Pick your tools beyond bots and chat

The array of collaboration tools is more comprehensive than many developers realize, and various tools serve a diverse degree of needs. For example, many organizations are too large or complex to rely solely on chat applications, while Wikis can be hard to search and find relevant information. Unified communications is a critical way to add audio and video to voice, but document sharing capabilities are constricted to specific interactions, rather than cataloged and organized in an online space.

The best solution is presumably something that utilizes the best of each tool, rather than calling a tool a strategy. Think about a mix of tools that best suit your team's needs, combining chat with Wikis, shared landing pages and centralized spots to house relevant content.

Step Three: Scale your tools wisely

Regardless of the mix of tools, a key consideration is to scale and integrate tools consistently. Many popular chat apps have limits on the number of accessible users, necessitating additional workspaces and areas for mass access to thousands or tens of thousands of people.

Additionally, the mix of tools must serve as a unified, organized mix of capabilities. Some collaboration providers look to integrate and sell multiple tools together, others do not. Examine a technology partner that can provide a holistic look at multiple capabilities, and build collaboration tools around business needs.

At the end of the day, collaboration is about value and efficiency. Developers must understand that it's more of a business issue than a technological issue, and work to improve their own practices and solutions that most efficiently bring people together. As some of the "early adopters" of many collaboration frameworks, this presents a clear opportunity for the developer community to change business culture for the better. When done right, collaboration can be a key business accomplishment – it's time for the community to recognize its importance and act accordingly.

Stephen Hamrick is VP Product Management, Collaboration Software, at SAP

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