Leaders are often inspirers. And so bright shiny toys get leaders excited. The promise of what a new piece of software, a new webtool, a new gadget can do! O, the possibilities!
And so Facebook Groups and Google Drives and Dropboxes and Evernotes and intranets and Task Management software get used in the hope that we will be able to better plan our services, streamline our committees, better manage our conference, better collaborate in REAL TIME. Remember Google Wave?
But collaborative software is mostly useless for collaboration.
- Any effective collaboration still needs a clear leader/facilitator. Collaborative tools often blind us to this need, so we either have aimless projects that run out of steam, or really one person is doing most of the work, it just happens to be online.
- There will always be a significant percentage of people who won't log into the tool. They won't read the notifications. They won't comment in the shared google doc. So it hasn't actually made collaboration easy for the whole group. That will required either extra time, enforcing and training. Or multiple methods of communication.
- These tools, although seeming intituitive, always have frustrating quirks. I remember years ago deleting the entire DropBox content of Redeemer City To City's incubator, when I was just trying to remove my local copy. User-friendly is never entirely user friendly to every user, even if the software uses colloquial turns of phrase and has lots of white space in its UI.
- Although shared drives in theory avoid the duplication of documents, in practice they end up with duplicated because the drive folders still need curating and tidying and merging. Before you know it you'll have 'Timetable Sunday Franks Notes_DRAFT' and 'Sunday Timetable Frank V2' and 'timetable FINAL notes'.
- Collaboration can promote pointless iteration - everyone adds, changes, edits, shitfts, suggests, emails, cuts, pastes. Sometimes one 'point man' who requests and collates data is just cleaner and quicker.
- Live shared docs still get accessed at certain times and only rarely get used while still live. They tend to get downloaded or printed. This requires clarity on cut off dates for additions and edits.
Look, this stuff has its place. But largely to enhance good disciplines of project management and collaboration. Without those disciplines in place it is all just a fast, high-tech version of sticky notes.
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