Building a Self-Sufficient Collaboration Team

One of the most important lessons that I’ve learned in 30+ years working in the information management sector, with most of the past 2 decades focused almost exclusively on collaboration technology: one collaboration solution does not fit all. The faster an organization can recognize that different teams and business units are using different platforms, tools, and approaches to collaboration – and why – the quicker they will shift their focus from the technology to the outcomes being achieved.

Photo by Jessica Sysengrath on Unsplash

Photo by Jessica Sysengrath on Unsplash

I realize that this sounds like marketing-speak or yet another empty platitude, but in my experience, we need to focus less on the technology, and more on what people are able to achieve. I also think we need to provide teams with guard rails, and then get out of their way. Users are better at self-managing than we thought, and yet many (most) organizations are overly restrictive on not only the tools they use, but on how they use the tools.

Different teams often come to different conclusions as to the best technology fit for their needs. A few years back, I ran across one company that used SharePoint on one team, and IBM Connections on another. How each team approached collaboration was very different, and, interestingly, their management team gave them great leeway in the solutions they could select, even though the integration of these systems would inevitably cause the organization great pain. That may be an extreme example, but the point is that organizations need to be prepared for the unique needs of different teams or projects.

Of course, this must be balanced with common sense. It is important to understand your governance, compliance, and security limitations, and then work with your employees to find the right technology that can fit within these limitations while also delivering the capabilities they need. Give teams a range of options in the tools they select, help them understand the limitations of each, and then let them shape their own collaboration experiences. In other words, lay down the guard rails, and then let them be self-sufficient.

We have self-driving cars; why can’t teams be more self-sufficient with their collaboration platform?

When left on their own, employees generally do the right thing. With proper end-user education and oversight, surprisingly few posts or actions break collaboration policies and need to be removed. Communities are not perfect, but they generally do a decent job of self-policing their members. Remember that the more controls you put on a system, the less likely people are to use that system.

Christian Buckley

Christian is a Microsoft Regional Director and M365 Apps & Services MVP, and an award-winning product marketer and technology evangelist, based in Silicon Slopes (Lehi), Utah. He is the Director of North American Partner Management for leading ISV Rencore (, leads content strategy for TekkiGurus, and is an advisor for both revealit.TV and WellnessWits. He hosts the monthly #CollabTalk TweetJam, the weekly #CollabTalk Podcast, and the Microsoft 365 Ask-Me-Anything (#M365AMA) series.