Collaboration, though vague in definition, seems to be one of the more powerful end results of successful social media efforts. Whether it’s collaborating internally to improve business processes and efficiencies or gang-tackling a product improvement with your own customers, social media tools seem to tear down silos and connect people across disciplines for the betterment of the company.

I’ve been asked to participate in a live web-TV show next week on collaboration for BusinessWeek. New Tools for Collaboration – Best Practices for Building a Competitive Advantage will be the subject of BusinessWeek’s live video webinar on Thursday, March 18 at 1 p.m. ET/10 a.m. PT. I’ll join Bloomberg BusinessWeek Assistant Managing Editor Jim Ellis and fellow panelists Harry McCracken of the Technologizer blog and Richard Migliori, EVP and Chief Medical Officer at UnitedHealth Group for a live discussion of the world of collaborative software and practices.

While I have plenty to say on the topic, I’d love to take your ideas and examples to BusinessWeek’s program. Please jump in the comments below and tell me how your company or business uses collaborative software. What platforms and programs to you use to improve internal workflow? What examples of collaborating with external audiences can you share? How has the use of the tools and principles of collaboration improved or changed how you do business?The discussion will certainly enlighten and inform the readers and fellow commentors here. And the best examples will probably percolate to the BusinessWeek discussion next week.

Tell me your collaboration story below. Then go register for the BusinessWeek live event. Doing so means you’re collaborating with me to talk about collaborating. Now that’s pretty cool.

The comments are yours.

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About Jason Falls

Jason Falls

Jason Falls is the founder and chief instigator for Social Media Explorer's blog and signature Explore events. He is a leading thinker, speaker and strategist in the world of digital marketing and is co-author of two books, No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide To Social Media Marketing and The Rebel's Guide To Email Marketing. By day, he leads digital strategy for CafePress, one of the world's largest online retailers. His opinions are his, not necessarily theirs. Follow him on Twitter (@JasonFalls).

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Comments & Reactions

Comments Policy

Comments on Social Media Explorer are open to anyone. However, I will remove any comment that is disrespectful and not in the spirit of intelligent discourse. You are welcome to leave links to content relevant to the conversation, but I reserve the right to remove it if I don't see the relevancy. Be nice, have fun. Fair?

  • http://www.ccctoday.com/ Julian Bradder

    I'd be happy to get involved. I currently have a Beta website that enables marketplace collaboration for B2B Communications technology and services vendors. We've a lot in the pipeline for the site that will create a highly collaborative and connected operating environment for individuals and companies on buy and sell side of the market. I've some good opinion (well at least I think so) on where this is all heading. We are working with some high profile F500, mid tier and small organisations in developing systems and processes that enable this new way of working. We're based in the UK.

  • http://twitter.com/klrichardson Kevin Richardson

    @JasonFalls

    Thanks for the opportunity to share. I look forward to the event next week and learning from the round table. I hope the roundtable will take the lead and make the web TV event collaborative as well (backchannel chat, etc).

    I have been involved in collaborative technologies in a variety of industries for the past 12 years. The challenge & opportunity never gets old. In thinking through the examples that I have, no example speaks louder to me than the “supply chain challenge” portal we set up for the hardware distribution company I worked for. As the supply chain leader for this company it was my job to ensure that our customers got the parts they needed on time. If we were late, things like locomotives, wind turbines and medical devices didn't get completed on time. No pressure right?

    So, after coming on board and getting out to the field to meet with all of the customer buyers we developed a “supply chain challenge” for all of our customers. They could use a website we built to collaborate on ways for us to serve them better. Our model was a Guiness beer website that allows the visitor to mix their beer recipe and then receive feedback from Guiness about the quality of their beer and what could be changed to make a better beer.

    We used the site to engage both our most adamant supporters and toughest critics…even customers who had left us for a competitor. The idea was simple: use this tool to show us how you think we can (1) increase quality, (2) lower ship times (3) lower on-hand inventory (4) lower costs.

    The results were amazing. 83% of those we asked to participate did. Many customers formed teams. We both monitored and participated asking questions, providing education and taking copious notes. Not only did this engage our customers but it won us some business back and allowed us to lower costs to our customers while also lowering our costs.

    The only rule: all ideas must be win-win (key to collaboration).

    To me this is the essence of collaboration. Let's agree that individually don't know it all but collectively we can come to a better set of conclusions…and have more fun along the way.

    I hope this helps.

    Best,

    Kevin

  • http://www.opinionatlarge.com Opinion@Large

    I focus a lot on communication, and the tools that facilitate communication in collaboration. Most importantly, I don't get caught up with needing to use this tool or that tool, but make sure I am flexible and allow the tools to adapt to the course and flow of the team. Trying to force communication into a certain channel will reduce productivity.

    Thanks for the opportunity to share.

    Best,

    Eric

  • http://www.blogcastfm.com/ Srinivas Rao

    Hey Jason,

    I think this is a really interesting topic because I feel like the future of of social media and blogging is going to be very collaborative by nature. My own story of collaboration is one of using Skype(not necessarily known as a collaboration tool), but has enabled me to collaborate with an external audience. A few months back I started a series on my personal blog called “Interviews with up and coming bloggers.” Every week I'd interview a different blogger and make that available via a podcast.

    About a month ago, one of the bloggers I interviewed, came back to me and approached me about a joint venture based on the idea of doing these interviews. The result was a new site that we launched together called BlogcastFM. Every week we interview 3 bloggers and share those interviews in a podcast.

    So, I guess what I would say is this is really a testimonial to Skype as an incredibly powerful collaboration tool. It's been the driving force behind BlogcastFM and I can't imagine life without it.

  • matterhornpat

    As a small business owner, efficient collaboration is crucial in tackling large projects.

    Tools such as basecamp, highrise, backpack, mindmapping, google docs, online meetings (GoTo and now testing DimDim) have all helped bridge gaps, and organize communication.

    What used to be a tangled mess of emails, forwards, CC:, sketches, and sending of files has become more “contained”.

    When we begin working with a new partner, we immediately educate them on how we use project management software to help move their project along quickly. It has helped streamline communication and eliminate most of the “I didn't get that” responses.

    Working with other businesses in other parts of the country or the world used to be nearly impossible for us (in rural area of West Virginia). We now have viable business partnerships across the US, Canada and even into Portugal and Australia. Without tools like online meeting, cloud hosted mindmapping, and skype, this would be nearly impossible.

    Also, we use mindmapping to help sort out internal processes. As the digital world continues to evolve, their are no “blueprints” so we get creative in piecing together parts and pieces of solutions for partners.

    Anxious to hear how others work with these types of tools…

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      Find me. Need some minor deets. Will pimp Matterhorn to the world next week.

      J

      • matterhornpat

        See you tonight…thanks Jason.

  • http://endlessknots.netage.com/ jessica lipnack

    Jason, I've done two of these web TV shows on collaboration for Bloomberg BusinessWeek TV, both hosted by the esteemed Mr. Jim Ellis, and they're a lot of fun. So much so that I blogged about each one. The setting is spectacular – the NASDAQ studio in Times Square and the production quality is top-notch. Enjoy. Here are the links to my posts about the shows, fyi: http://tinyurl.com/ybvyyqc and http://tinyurl.com/cx5o65

  • http://www.firstpagegoogleresults.com/ video search optimization

    well, It gave me the great opportunity of testing our Moodle site with some experts in the field of e-collaboration.

  • ronaldladouceur

    Jason, again, you're on it. Even modest social efforts bridge departments and pierce silos.

    But why is social media driving collaboration despite the continued existence of structural and political barriers that kept collaboration from flourishing in the past?

    There are lots of reasons. But in our opinion, two stand out: First, the insatiable appetite for fresh and relevant content make the job of social too much for one person or one department. And second, the natural competitive desire by employees to be a visible part of their organization’s posting culture keep participants engaged and interacting.

    When we were building our social media management product, Zeitgeist & Coffee, we attached a “conversations” forum — an actively managed message board — to the tool almost as an afterthought, and simply as a way to collect fodder for posts. But the pull of social media turned the forum into the thing.

    To solve for the social media problem, organizations are forced create cross-department communication forums or protocols of one kind or another. The daily demands of this real-time media drive participation. The cool thing is, conversations about social media within these forums inevitably bleed into discussions about general business strategies.

    Of the many enhancements we've made to Zeitgeist & Coffee since its launch 9 months ago (and since your review last October), most have been geared to enhancing its pull and general marketing utility, with the goal of turning it into a favored forum for strategic collaboration.

  • robmunz

    I‘ll go so far as to say; “Vague in definition is precise.” How weird of a sentence is that? While it’s an odd idea, it’s certainly a true statement when it comes to collaboration technologies. Obviously, you recognize that, as you assemble what defines the space. As the CEO of inMotioNow.com, a content review and approval solution that enables publishers, content producers and brands to manage and streamline approval processes through the use of a shared online environment, we are often considered collaboration. Whatever the moniker handed to these technologies, the results are what matters. As an example, inMotion user GA Communications, whose end client is F500 Company SuperValu, produces marketing materials that require 300+ stakeholders to approve before publishing – every week. By using inMotion’s version of collaboration, the inherent friction in a complex process is removed. The result is faster time to market. Another thing we’ve witnessed is how new media itself mandates the adoption of these new technologies. With our client Disney Online, new types of tools are needed to address the challenges that are compounded by working with varied types of content including animation, video and interactive assets and having to move these assets through various levels of approval. Old collaboration around a conference room table managed through paper trails is no longer viable. Add to that the sheer number of folks now involved in processes, the extra requirements of legal and compliance, and tools go from a nice to have to a must have. At inMotionNow, we have begun to explore these ideas as we build content into an informational/educational site CreativeWorkflowROI.com. I am always happy to have a conversation around this subject.

  • ronaldladouceur

    Jason, again, you're on it. Even modest social efforts bridge departments and pierce silos.

    But why is social media driving collaboration despite the continued existence of structural and political barriers that kept collaboration from flourishing in the past?

    There are lots of reasons. But in our opinion, two stand out: First, the insatiable appetite for fresh and relevant content make the job of social too much for one person or one department. And second, the natural competitive desire by employees to be a visible part of their organization’s posting culture keep participants engaged and interacting.

    When we were building our social media management product, Zeitgeist & Coffee, we attached a “conversations” forum — an actively managed message board — to the tool almost as an afterthought, and simply as a way to collect fodder for posts. But the pull of social media turned the forum into the thing.

    To solve for the social media problem, organizations are forced create cross-department communication forums or protocols of one kind or another. The daily demands of this real-time media drive participation. The cool thing is, conversations about social media within these forums inevitably bleed into discussions about general business strategies.

    Of the many enhancements we've made to Zeitgeist & Coffee since its launch 9 months ago (and since your review last October), most have been geared to enhancing its pull and general marketing utility, with the goal of turning it into a favored forum for strategic collaboration.

  • robmunz

    I‘ll go so far as to say; “Vague in definition is precise.” How weird of a sentence is that? While it’s an odd idea, it’s certainly a true statement when it comes to collaboration technologies. Obviously, you recognize that, as you assemble what defines the space. As the CEO of inMotioNow.com, a content review and approval solution that enables publishers, content producers and brands to manage and streamline approval processes through the use of a shared online environment, we are often considered collaboration. Whatever the moniker handed to these technologies, the results are what matters. As an example, inMotion user GA Communications, whose end client is F500 Company SuperValu, produces marketing materials that require 300+ stakeholders to approve before publishing – every week. By using inMotion’s version of collaboration, the inherent friction in a complex process is removed. The result is faster time to market. Another thing we’ve witnessed is how new media itself mandates the adoption of these new technologies. With our client Disney Online, new types of tools are needed to address the challenges that are compounded by working with varied types of content including animation, video and interactive assets and having to move these assets through various levels of approval. Old collaboration around a conference room table managed through paper trails is no longer viable. Add to that the sheer number of folks now involved in processes, the extra requirements of legal and compliance, and tools go from a nice to have to a must have. At inMotionNow, we have begun to explore these ideas as we build content into an informational/educational site CreativeWorkflowROI.com. I am always happy to have a conversation around this subject.