Thursday, January 7, 2010


This is a cross-post from my blog on the military Social Media tool milBook. This post will provide a general overview of some of the aspects of Online Collaboration. I have been working in the field since 2002, and have done a lot of research on the topic. Online collaboration is an enabling technology for KM. While in the past the areas of KM and collaboration were developed separately, in the future these disciplines are now closely linked. From this point forward, consider any discussion of online collaboration to include the technology side of KM as well.

Online collaboration utilizes the organization's technology infrastructure to provide a wide array of capabilities that can be used in a synchronous or asynchronous manner. Synchronous collaboration is where the participants are communicating in real-time, either by text, voice, or video. Asynchronous collaboration is where information is shared by posting artifacts or text online for other users to access at another time. Asynchronous is generally the most common form of collaboration.

Collaboration can be grouped into three major areas: Virtual Presence, Virtual Spaces and Virtual Services.

Virtual Presence allows for users to locate and determine the status of others using the network. This allows users to select the most effective means of communication (phone, email, instant messaging, etc.) depending on the intended recipient's online status.

Virtual Spaces are any network location (workspaces, web portals, or chat spaces) where users can meet virtually and share information. They can be either persistent or temporary. Persistent spaces are generally used for asynchronous collaboration in that the information will be there for other users to access for a given amount of time in the future. Temporary spaces are synchronous collaborative sessions that only exist for the duration of the event, and then are closed. Sometimes there is an option to save or record the session, and this would become an artifact for asynchronous collaboration.

Virtual Services encompass all the different collaborative capabilities that are afforded by the enabling technology. How these services are provided vary from system to system, and not all capabilities are needed by all users or organizations. Here is a partial list of virtual services:

  • Text Chat
  • Audio (Voice over IP- VOIP)
  • Whiteboard
  • Video
  • Threaded Discussion
  • Shared Applications
  • Voting/ Polling/ Surveys
  • Automated Event Log
  • Data Management
  • Bulletins/Alerts
  • Calendar
  • User Display and Customization
  • Security

While securing the online collaboration system can be considered a service, it is a vital piece of any collaborative solution. These applications tend to force organizations into trade-offs between security and accessibility which can seriously inhibit the functionality of the system. Here are some considerations when securing online collaboration:

  • Authentication
  • Confidentiality
  • Integrity
  • Availability
  • Reliability
  • Maintainability
  • Non-repudiation
  • Protection
  • Detection
  • Reaction capabilities
  • Auditing
  • Software Assurance
This is just an overview of the technology aspect of KM, which is just one component of the overall Knowledge Architecture. All of these components (People, Process, Organization/ Culture, and Technology) must fit together well in order to realize the benefits of enhanced organizational effectiveness, improved decision quality, and increased innovation.

As always, I look forward to your comments and questions.

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