Real-time Collaboration: Building a Collaborative Community Within an Organization

Discuss the feature articles on the LDS Tech Home Page.
User avatar
Posts: 490
Joined: Wed Jul 18, 2007 3:38 pm
Location: Salt Lake City, Utah

Real-time Collaboration: Building a Collaborative Community Within an Organization

Postby McDanielCA » Tue Oct 13, 2009 7:36 am

Real-time Collaboration: Building a Collaborative Community Within an Organization was originally posted on the main page of LDSTech. It was written by Jeromy Hall.

I work on a fairly large portfolio team within the Information and Communications Systems department—approximately ninety people who are organized into five or six project teams, each focused on delivering products for the Missionary and Public Affairs departments of the Church.

But we have a problem: the project teams have become siloed. This is because we do not have an effective means of cross-portfolio collaboration in real-time.

This problem manifests itself in a number of ways, including the following:

  1. When a technical problem is discovered by a team, a cultural boundary causes the team to feel that they’re on their own to solve it.
  2. We have no discoverable history of successes and failures, and consequently project teams either re-invent the wheel or repeat the mistakes of other teams.
  3. The perception of bureaucracy causes us to be inefficient while we wait for meetings and use the organizational hierarchy to disseminate lessons learned and best practices discovered by project teams.
  4. We think and behave in ways that prevent synergy and cause miscommunication, both of which lead us to false thinking. For example, we tend to promote false assumptions such as the following:
    • “My problems are unique.”
    • “Everyone sees my problems.”
    • “Everyone would see the same solutions as I do.”
    • “If I can’t solve it, nobody can.”
Recently, we have made attempts to break down silos by building a collaborative community within our organization. We wanted to give our people a “voice,” or the means to speak up and collaborate in real-time. To this end, we identified our core problem solvers and communicators (or Mavens and Connectors, to borrow from Malcom Gladwell’s book The Tipping Point) by using an organizational network analysis. These folks are the leaders who drive the work, unstop the blockages, and seem to always have that “magic sauce” for getting the work done. When we gathered the majority of them into a room to discuss this issue, they didn’t need convincing that this was a problem worth solving. In fact, some of them had already found innovative methods for collaborating within their teams. Our discussion included the use of a blog as well as other COTS (commercial off the shelf) collaborative solutions.

Having seeded our community with Mavens and Connectors and provided the community with the technical forums necessary for real-time collaboration, we are now learning a great deal about breaking down silos by building a community within our organization. First, this has to be a community-driven initiative and not a management-driven program. After all, communities need guidance, not top-down direction. Thus, our Mavens and Connectors have the passion and are creating real-time collaboration with the entire community. Second, to get people to participate, they need to see what’s in it for them. They need to see the purpose and value of the community. Therefore, management is providing guidance in the form of overarching objectives (e.g. create synergy, give people a voice, etc.) and are letting community members decide how the forums are used.

We are just beginning to see the breakdown of our silos as our community begins to collaborate in real-time. However, this effort is very much in its infancy and we are far from claiming success. We would love to hear feedback on what we’ve accomplished so far, as well as ideas about how collaborative communities are being built within other organizations.

Jeromy Hall is a software quality assurance manager for the Church.

New Member
Posts: 5
Joined: Sun Feb 01, 2009 10:24 am
Location: Clearfield, UT

IRC, campfire, wave

Postby jeromatron-p40 » Tue Oct 13, 2009 8:07 am

I've been surprised since I've been working here how little IRC is used here. It's free and has been around for ages.

Campfire is a decent option for certain things, including realtime communication in groups.

Google wave seems to be an up and coming contender for collaboration but it, too, is in its infancy.

New Member
Posts: 1
Joined: Wed Oct 14, 2009 8:05 am
Location: United States

Yea, Jeremy gets it!

Postby dougbrockbank-p40 » Wed Oct 14, 2009 8:27 am

I worked on a team that conceived, designed and developed the knowledge base and Self Support Web site for the Global Service Desk which is used by technicians to resolve computer-related questions and problems for users at the Church Office Building, Mission Offices, Employment Centers, etc.

To date, the system contains over 25,000 knowledge base articles and relies on the premise that "we are smarter than me".

I believe knowledge management is more than process and tools. It's about creating a culture that values capturing, structuring and reusing knowledge. However, I believe that tools which easily enable people to engage and collaborate, you find greater knowledge sharing.

It's about creating incentives for the knowledge worker to participate, such as rating content, posts and comments.

Since that time I've left Church employment, I've continued studying the rich, engaging user interfaces of Web 2.0 displaying features and functionality that get people talking.

Here's what I've found as I that enables engagement on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and other Web 2.0 sites:

"What are you doing?" -

Displayed prominently on those sites that gets people thinking what they are doing so they can share it - right now!

Rate, review, recommend and comment

Content is dynamic and not static. These features give people a voice and enable rich, engaging content, multi-threaded conversations and not one way communication.

"Most Popular", "Recent Comments", "Recent Posts" -

Fresh content is always of interest. People want to see what's popular and new.


That's right..get points by contributing. Go to and see how you can accumulate points just by registering.

I recommend that if you are designing online tools, that you likewise follow these and other popular Web 2.0 sites, study their features and functionality and then implementing similar features on internal Web sites.

Return to “LDSTech Featured Article Discussions”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest