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The Collaboration 3.0 approach

Web 2.0 is a term initially used for a 2003 conference, after the dot.com bubble had burst, to indicate a kind of turning point for the Web. Whatever validity the term might have had a few years ago has seemingly been lost as buzzword-addled companies paste the moniker on their products, with little if any understanding of what it was supposed to mean (some aspiring Web 2.0 applications don’t even use the Web).

Today we have Web 2.0, Business 2.0, Collaboration 2.0, Enterprise 2.0, Work 2.0, even Religion 2.0. The list goes on. But the designation 2.0 doesn’t really indicate a mature product. If there is one thing we’ve learned from Microsoft time and time again, it’s that Version 3.0 is the one that counts.

Indeed, what we consider to be Web 2.0 is child’s play compared to the early Collaboration 3.0 processes and technologies that a few leading companies have been quietly deploying. Collaboration 3.0 is a very high level of collaboration and knowledge sharing, where multiple companies across the globe work together as if they were all part of one giant enterprise.

The way business is conducted is not only increasingly global but increasing distributed across multiple organizations acting as one very large enterprise. Different companies, however, have different systems, different knowledge sharing philosophies, different processes and different ways of controlling and ensuring access.

A new approach to collaboration and knowledge sharing is needed to ensure that knowledge workers in cross-organizational work settings are as successful, if not more so, than within a single company.

When work transcends traditional enterprise borders, new control, management and compliance issues arise. Building a successful cross-organizational work environment requires dramatic rethinking in management practices. It’s not good enough just to allow information created by Company A to be accessed by Company B; managers need to ensure a path for comments from Company B’s knowledge workers to be captured and shared with colleagues in Company A, and for that process to continue back and forth as work progresses.

Recipients of such information also must be aware of policies relating to its use from Company A. With whom can the information be further shared? What are the prerequisites for granting access? How does one maintain control over information? How do managers ensure they do not go too far as unnecessary controls and restrictions on information can result in knowledge workers not having access to the information they need?

Further, those in Company A must understand their own organization’s policies for protecting confidential and proprietary information that cannot even be shared with partners.

One example of a Collaboration 3.0 innovator is Boeing, which unveiled its 787 Dreamliner aircraft on July 8, built on the innovations begun with the design of the 777 aircraft more than a decade ago. In 1995, 50 percent of the 777 was manufactured by external partners. With the Dreamliner, Boeing took that concept one step further. Seventy percent of the aircraft is not just being manufactured but was designed concurrently by partners located in 11 countries, and then assembled virtually in a computer model maintained by Boeing.

By bringing the partners into the program during the design phase (previously, they would have built parts to Boeing’s specifications), Boeing obtained key knowledge it did not possess from partners who know their products better than Boeing does. Equally as important, the partners brought with them an understanding of how the parts would be manufactured. That collaborative innovation streamlined the design process, making it possible for Boeing to bring the new aircraft to market significantly faster.

What we now think of as advanced collaboration, where we meet in online workspaces or share documents, is nothing compared to designing a complex piece of machinery—such as an aircraft—in which two or more parts that are being independently designed will eventually be attached to the same product. Concurrent design entails far greater complexity than one might imagine; Boeing and its partners had to completely restructure their design and manufacturing processes. Many had to change software to use the same product life cycle management software, Catia, from Dassault Systemes. But that was only part of the solution.

Rick Mutter, Boeing’s 787 chief IT architect, had to find a way of ensuring that all Boeing 787 partners were working from the same designs and on the same technology platform. Mutter accomplished that by partnering with Citrix (citrix.com) to deploy Presentation Server, which, because it was designed for text-based business applications, required improvements to render graphics quickly and smoothly.

Boeing’s Collaboration 3.0 platform allowed the company to cut the time required to complete the aircraft from an industry-standard six years to four-and-a-half years.

In an increasingly global economy, the type of cross-organizational collaboration embodied by Boeing will become more common—but at the risk of creating yet another buzzword, they will only be successful when managers understand that Collaboration 3.0 processes and tools need to be part of the equation.

(If you want to learn more about Collaboration 3.0, point your browser to basex.com/3dot0 for an expanded look at the subject.)

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