Jun 16 2011   8:52PM GMT

Collaboration tool standardization prevents the death of ideas

Christina Torode Christina Torode Profile: Christina Torode


When I covered Microsoft, I appreciated the grass-roots SharePoint efforts across businesses small and large. Unsatisfied with the capabilities of a given collaboration tool, knowledge workers said, “No, thanks,” and opted to use a tool that simplified and suited their needs.

Now that I speak mostly with IT executives for, I see why such grass-roots efforts are the bane of their existence. As the collaboration tool count rose, their ability to harness and share ideas across the company sank.

But it is the knowledge workers who again are taking the lead — at least, they have at Intuit. The company behind QuickBooks and TurboTax was using SharePoint and “countless” other idea collection tools when employees began coming to Roy Rosin, vice president of product management and innovation, to say, “this [collection of tools] is where ideas go to die and not evolve.”

So, a group of employees started their own grass-roots effort, and built a collaboration tool called Brainstorm — which now is sold as an Intuit product. Brainstorm does what the collection of now-retired idea-creation tools at Intuit could not: It connects ideas to people who can help shape and improve them, or to decision makers who can act on them. In one place.

Getting back to the SharePoint grass-roots effort: I received an email a while back from a project manager who had been put in charge of centralizing hundreds of SharePoint instances, and wanted to know if we had written anything about how to consolidate SharePoint deployments. I directed him to a story by our TechTarget sister site about enterprise SharePoint deployments, but have not heard from him since. That makes me wonder whether he got caught up in some SharePoint centralization rebellion.

So, on the one hand, grass-roots IT can be a good thing: It can lead to innovation when employees take it on themselves to create new and useful tools for the company — and perhaps a new product for customers. On the other hand, rogue IT can take down an enterprise, as Senior News Writer Linda Tucci talked about in her recent blog post. At the very least, a standard collaboration tool can help you avoid idea dead zones.

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