Enterprise collaboration and digital workplace tool implementations are fraught with stories of failure. Centralized collaboration models where there’s no strategy, lack of support, and poor adoption are often at the root of such collaboration failures. When users can’t get a collaboration platform—Microsoft SharePoint, Office 365, Slack, Microsoft Teams, you name it—they’ll do whatever they can to work around the platform. Moving from a centralized to a decentralized collaboration model is one way to give users the features they require while making them accountable, as well.
Collaboration Platforms Aren’t an IT Priority
Setting up SharePoint or Microsoft Teams checks a box in some corporate cultures. That’s it. The IT department then moves on to the next project, and the proper care and feeding of the collaboration platform amounts to nothing more than fielding, more often ignoring user complaints and feedback, so that problems linger with the internal collaboration platform and users do their best to work around the platform to get their tasks done.
For example, in my travels as a technical writer, I’ve come across SharePoint missing features that I wanted to use to create a team site. Upon further investigation, the answer was always the same: SharePoint didn’t have an owner (or actively engaged executive sponsor, for that matter). Sometimes, calls to IT got me permissions to turn on those missing features. A time or two I was waved off the effort because IT couldn’t be bothered to support SharePoint.
Freelancers, Contractors, and Partners Are Part of Your Project Team’s DNA
If freelancers, contractors, and partners are part of how your organization works on projects, then your organization is a definite candidate for a decentralized collaboration model because it offers the additional flexibility you need to open access to third parties. Relying on IT to manage access for these users can be bureaucratic and time-consuming, meaning that platform access finally comes through when the project is winding down.
In today’s age of compliance, opening a collaboration platform to nonemployees remains one decentralized collaboration model where you may need ongoing cooperation to ensure security and compliance. It’s essential to create corporate policies and training for teams that may be opening their collaboration sites to external parties.
BYO and Shadow IT Policies Are in Place
The best reason to move to a decentralized collaboration model is that you already have bring your own (BYO) and shadow IT policies in place: They’re part of your culture. So, with the blessing of your security team, it’s time to move to a decentralized collaboration model. BYO and shadow IT signal that your users already have the keys, so enabling them to manage their work collaboration tools is a no-brainer.
Your Power Users Are Demanding It
The most vocal SharePoint advocates I’ve ever met in my career were federal government trial attorneys. They weren’t precisely the user community you’d expect to be clamoring for such a solution. SharePoint and its security represented a solution for some business problems they were facing at the time.
I say, place your collaboration bets on power users (if you have them) because they sit face to face with the business challenges that enterprise collaboration platforms are meant to solve.
The Democracy of Cloud and SaaS
The cloud and Software as a Service (SaaS) in particular help make a decentralized collaboration possible because you’re taking many of the infrastructure management and daily operations tasks off your already-overtaxed IT department. These solutions have the consumer user experience that users have come to know and expect with applications. When you go for a pay tier, role-based privileges enable you set up the right administrator and user privileges, so your business users are ready to go when they receive an invitation to join the SaaS application.
Collaboration by the Users for the Users
What I propose in this article isn’t without upfront steps your enterprise must take to ensure security, governance, and compliance over the content and communications that take place through your enterprise collaboration tools. The good news is that this work takes place at one level, and what comes from that work can become a set of standard policies to govern team-level collaboration sites.