Tier one shows without the tears

Re-imagining online collaboration

The times when we celebrated single project owners or individual champions of an idea are extinct. Collaboration is everything. Boomer or Millennial, collaboration is the common mantra. Yet it can be an elusive quality in large scale projects.

However, in a world now embracing IoT and the singularity of eco-systems, far-flung stakeholders with diverse interests and perspectives must come together. In this disruptive, fast-paced environment, managing large global projects with a singular vision, whilst juggling disparate agendas, requires a rethink of how collaboration is achieved.

In a digital savvy age, it’s natural to assume solutions are social enterprise platforms and online collaboration tools. Well, you’d be doing well if 10% to 15% of a project team embraces the application. Old habits die hard: email, txt, phone calls and the tough-love of a devoted project manager, more often than not, still hold the show together. Well, until now.  

Now, collaboration can be taken to a new level.

The key is seeing online collaboration platforms not as a receptacle for collating and hoarding knowledge, but as the nexus for a vibrant (online) community that inspires and engages. Crucially, a private online community not only shares ideas and project inputs, it also provides approved participants with feedback and recognition visible to senior management. Successful online collaboration platforms give kudos to participation.

To achieve all this, the project manager needs to re-imagine his or her role as a ‘Community’ Manager. Think communion.

Communions are about the co-creation of ideas. Places in space and time where ideas are conceived, developed, explored and brought to fruition. Communions explore the viability and potency of ideas. They encourage the sharing of knowledge, inspiration and achievements across the project community.

The role of the Community Manager should be, not to dictate strategy, but to orchestrate the inevitable myriad opinions, points of view and interests that sail through any project. Different players will champion individual products or services, but there needs to be a consistent tone of voice and single, supremely focused brand message. Treating online collaboration as an exercise in community building energises projects and harmonises disparate interests. It rallies the participants behind a singular common vision.

In practical terms, managing tier one projects, with their diverse stakeholders and patchwork of product interests, is most effective when the online collaboration is two way and proactive. For example, where the project’s Community Manager is recording daily 90 second video-bites about the project status, reinforcing project objectives and recognising individual contributions.

Senior management can dip in with their latest thoughts on what the group is seeking to achieve strategically at the trade-show. Contributors can leave their sound-bites and thoughts as well, all curated by the Community Manager.

What are the essential attributes of an OCCT?

Your OCCT needs to be super easy and approachable. Everyone should feel happy and able to use it, ensuring maximum reach. The tool should perform as a professional social media page, keeping everyone up to date and in touch on the progression of the project. Lots of short video-bites drive the dialogue and engagement. Easy to upload information on product demos and messaging. Robust version control. And templates and guidelines to assist product managers when they are collating information on their booth demos and products or services being show-cased. Don’t forget project update notifications via mobile. 

In the name of true collaboration, everyone should have access to, if not direct influence on, all parts of the project development. While they may not be allowed to make changes, they should be able to see what is happening across all areas.

Getting the most from your OCCT

The truth is online community collaboration tools can do a lot of the heavy lifting during a large scale project, which means you’ll need to invest less in in-house resources and third party services. But crucially, don’t wait for your people to come to you. You need to capture their attention and engage with them, encouraging and rewarding their enthusiastic uptake of the tools you provide.

What are the best OCCTs?  Truth is, off-the-shelf collaboration tools and even many community management platforms, are imperfect. Most are perfunctory destinations for file sharing in the case of collaboration tools. Which, if you’re lucky, some enable tagging comments to uploads. Community management platforms can be strong on discourse but weak on document sharing and version control. Our approach would be a hybrid community and collaboration solution with customisation. We’d look for information capture and version control, combined with the visually rich, micro-broadcast capabilities of a social platform and community management to drive conversations, and mobile notifications. That said some popular platforms are shared below. 

Andrew Reid, Director Corporate Strategy at Shelton Fleming, a creative agency that produces live events which transform how you see the wider-world, business and brands. We do this by designing intelligent, personalized experiences for global brands.

Further reading