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Collaborative Tools

Publication date: Jun 21, 2007

I attended a conference in Boston this week related to the use of Web 2.0 technologies (e.g. Wikis, Blogs, IM, RSS) within the enterprise (as opposed to the use of these technologies by consumers). These technologies are an enabling technology that support collaboration processes and project management in a new fashion.

This was the second occurence of the Enterprise 2.0 conference. My direct interest in these collaborative tools is two-fold:

  • How can these tools be used to support me in my role as a trainer? One of the attendees suggested the use of a Wiki during training. One would seed the Wiki with the contents of the training and subsequently make this wiki availble to the trainees, both for note taking as well as to support a collaborative exercise. There's probably not that much of a use-case for using a wiki during a training if one can't think of a collaborative/group exercise. There was one vendor (Altus showcasing an online training/knowledge sharing application, see the conference presentations for an example. We (as a company) have used on-line presentations, shown in sync with the slides in the past. The new aspect was that the transcribed text (of the presentation) is searchable, and that URLs (e.g. from Blogs) can be created to any specific part of the presentation. This also allows for video based additions/comments related to a specific part of the presentation.
  • Are there any new tools out there that can be used to support the collaborative process of an open standards organization like HL7? HL7 already uses e-mail lists (but we all know the problems and limitaytions of that technology), and a Wiki. Are there any other tools that would be helpful in supporting the work of hundreds of volunteers located all around the globe?

We also had an IBM presentation on some stuff they're experimenting with, Many-Eyes is an online application for the visualization of data. The aim is to motivate individuals (within a company) to share the data available on their local harddrive by allowing them to create "cool" visualizations. And the visualisations offered by this site certainly are very nice. Not just to create a visualisation for use in Powerpoint, but also as a dynamic tool for analysing the data from various perspectives.

The big question is whether these collaborative technologies are ready to be used in an enterprise environment. On the one hand they've moved out of the pure consumer space and can be adopted in smaller/medium sized organizations. The bigger organizations (I spoke with some guys from Morgan Stanley, the investment bank), with requirements for central management of software applications, single signon and security still have problems with 2.0 technologies.

When looking at HL7 (as a worldwide volunteer-based organization) the main hurdles to adoption of these tools is related to the fact that the users can't be "forced/coerced" to use an application, nor can they be trained to use it, so the tool has to show a clear advantage over existing tools (such as e-mail), otherwise global adoption won't happen. The best way to increase the use of collaborative technologies is to expand the use of the current technogies, i.e. by installing/using all sorts of extensions to the current Wiki.

-Rene

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Ringholm bv is a group of European experts in the field of messaging standards and systems integration in healthcare IT. We provide the industry's most advanced training courses and consulting on healthcare information exchange standards.
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