Tag Archives: email

Seven must-have attributes for collaboration tech

Over the past 20 years, “collaboration” has been used to categorise a wide variety of products: instant messaging, email, chat, calendaring, document management, content management, learning management, publishing, discovery, crowdsourcing, and many others.

Even with a range of products this broad, I have repeatedly found seven attributes that separate winning collaboration products (i.e., products people choose – or even demand – to use) from also-rans:

1. Intuitive: Pass the “no instructions needed” test

To foster collaboration a product needs to be truly intuitive. The best way to measure this is with the “no instructions needed” test: if you can put the product in front of any intended user (i.e., your target market) and they can understand enough to explore and use it on your own, you have passed. If not, you have failed: over time people will say your product is too hard to use (and will use it only when forced to do so).

2. Easy: Complete key activities in three clicks or fewer

Collaboration and convenience go “hand in hand.” If your product takes too much effort to use, people will not use it to collaborate. Based on lots of user feedback the hurdle for convenience is three clicks. If something takes more than three clicks to do, it is too complicated. If you can get to what you need in three clicks or less, you have a winner. If your product cannot, one of your competitors will find a way to do and take your market.

3. Convenient: Eliminate work; do not add to it

This is one I am seeing many people forget lately. To make work easier, and drive organic demand, your product needs to eliminate work. It needs to align with the work activities people do as part of their everyday job and remove time, activities and/or systems. If it just “adds another system people have to use (and cut-and-paste from)” it is adding work and will (at best) be a passing fad that will fall out of use.

4. Fast: Pass the “Two x 95-p” test

One of the things that the Internet and broadband have done is raise expectations for speed and response. Watch a person click a button (a browser, a smart phone, a TV electronic programming guide, etc): if response does not take less than two seconds (95% of the time or more), the product will be considered slow and exasperating. This is even truer for enterprise systems that people are required to use to perform their job. You need to be fast—and consistently fast.

5. Ubiquitous: Operate everywhere and anywhere

The whole reason to use a collaboration product is to let people who are not sitting right next to each other collaborate with ease. This means your product must work everywhere and anywhere—passing both the “no instructions needed” and “two by 95p” tests. This is not a trivial demand. However, it is essential. If you do not believe me go to one your international offices or mobile team members and try to collaborate using main office-oriented products.

6. Timely: Collaborate from the same data, at the same point in time

There is an old joke about asking six blindfolded people to touch different parts of an elephant and tell you what it is: one thinks it is a tree trunk, one a fire hose, etc. The same is true for collaboration products: if you are working from out-of-date data you are wasting your time. (If you don’t believe me, think about the last time you responded to an email in a chain only to find out minutes later that your response was out-of-date or irrelevant). Winning collaboration products let everyone work from the same data, at the same point in time.

7. Trusted: Provide utility-class reliability

Collaboration occurs all the time (often at unpredictable times). Collaboration is not “down for maintenance.” If people cannot count on a collaboration product to be there, they will not use it (because they cannot trust it). They will find other tools: saving documents to local disk, writing things down on paper to enter them later, sending them via email, etc. Winning collaboration products are “always-on.” Always-on does not equal 99% reliability; it requires 99.99% reliability or more (Would you use your credit card in public if it failed one percent of the time?)

Why did I pick seven attributes (and not ten)? Ten would be artificial. These truly are the attributes I have seen over and over trip up otherwise good collaboration products and set the winners apart from others (regardless of market or industry).

Social Networks for Business Tip #3: Pick your destination before you leave

I have found ten common themes that apply irrespective of what your enterprise does, your market is or what technology platform you are using. The post below is my third of 10 tips; each with a particular theme. These are intended to be read in the order presented, as they will build upon each other…


If you don’t know where you’re going, how will you know when you get there?

dest1In my last post in this series, I wrote about the importance of first defining what business problem you are trying to solve before diving in with technology. However, you still have one more thing to do before beginning implementation: defining what success looks like.

This, too, may seem trivial. It is not. If you don’t define what business outcomes you must achieve to solve the problem at hand you—

  1. Will not implement your community in a way that enables you to measure business value or
  2. Be able to determine whether you have succeeded to address the problem at hand.

We have all seen this. You implement the new technology at the request of a business unit leader. The solution launches and works from a technical perspective (it may even be on time and under budget). However, within six months, people (usually business unit leaders) begin to indicate that the solution was a failure and that the team needs to do something else. The rest of this post describes how to avoid this.

Define success in business terms

Your defined your Problem in business terms. You need to do the same with a your definition of success. You can then use value chain analysis to map your community against your enterprise to determine what you have to deliver through your community to achieve this.


Yes, this is harder than defining success in terms of counting “eye balls,” registered members, comments or ideas. However it is no different that what you have been doing for before social media (or the Internet or even “Old Media” advertising) existed. Once you have done this, you will have three benefits:

  1. Specific requirements you must implement within your community both to trigger the value chain and to measure how much you have done this
  2. The ability to track your progress towards solving your business problem
  3. True business metrics to demonstrate the return on your investment (ROI) to your CFO or Board

This isn’t as hard (or theoretical) as it sounds

At the most base level, communities do two things:

  1. Attract and engage stakeholders (staff, customers, voters, etc.) and
  2. Capture their ideas, opinions and interests regarding this engagement

It is easy to tie this to many value chains. Here are five examples:

  • Members join your topic- or brand-based community >> You get leads to market and sell >> You can measure the conversion rate of members to paying customers.
  • Members join your community >> They add content >> This generates pages and page view >> This increases advertising inventory and revenue
  • Members Tag their content based on topics of interest >> You now know what topics they care about >> You use this to build affiliate marketing campaigns (e.g., cross-registration, sale of targeted leads) – this is very lucrative
  • Members Tag and Rate others’ content >> You know which topics are most popular >> You can now sell access to targeted advertising campaigns based on volume and interest – also lucrative
  • You promote a contest or marketing campaign >> You enable participants to click through to what you are promoting register or purchase>> You can measure the cost per participant of this channel vs. others.

What value chain you need for success will drive what data you need to capture and what systems you need to integrate (in batch or real time). It is much less costly to know this before you build your community than after.

Examples of those who have applied this well

It is always easiest to understand how to apply this by looking at good examples. Here are three. (Click on the logo to visit the community that demonstrates this concept. Please note that I am not disclosing any numbers here due to basic professionalism and protection of privacy)

Men’s Health

Rodale wanted to boost revenue and brand loyalty in a way that fully aligned with their mission. They created the Belly-off Community and liked it to online and in-print promotions. Men read about tips to lose weigh online and Men’s Health magazine, then go online to upload their photo, compete to lose weight, get ideas from others and simply get moral support. The result was a hugely popular community that increased subscription and online advertising revenue. It also expanded a new lower-cost online channel to maintain engagement with subscribers.

HGTV’s Rate My Space

Scripps wanted to boost their online revenue and become the place for people to think about home improvement. They created on online community to let people share their improvements, ask questions and provide feedback to others. The community expanded Scripps inventory to present ads (increasing ad revenue) and enabled topic-based add targeting (enabling even more lucrative affiliate marketing with companies such as Lowes). The site created so much value that it led to the creation of a TV show.

Kodak’s Idea Center

Kodak had a large number of registered online customers. It provided a community that used photo sharing to encourage conversion of shared content to purchased products (e.g., mugs and calendars with uploaded photos). It leveraged community interaction to enable customers to highlight their creations, creating demand for other customers to do the same. Did this site have as many “eye balls” as Flickr? No. Did it create a clearer value proposition and easier-to-measure business results? Yes.

Note: Kodak’s Gallery and Idea Center community is now known as ShutterFly