Five Tips for Info Sharing Success

SPECIAL REPORT: Information Sharing & Analysis

By Barbara DePompa, 1105 Government Information Group Custom Media

As federal agencies and departments strive to improve information sharing, industry experts such as Ross Mayfield, co-founder and CEO of Socialtext Inc., maintain there are several tips, tricks and best practice techniques that can be used to boost the chances for success in implementing any kind of collaborative, information sharing solution. These suggestions include:


Tip: Start small. Select a small project, program or process that can be made more efficient by incorporating better information sharing. Collaborative tools such as social networks, wikis, blogs and other online solutions must be used to help make information more transparent and discoverable, which can help an agency move more quickly and productively, and speed decision-making.


Tip: Adoption is all important. Focus not solely on the collaborative technology to be implemented, but on the adoption of that technology. Adoption is critical because the promise of enterprise collaboration solutions to dramatically improve decision cycle times and organizational effectiveness relies upon people actually using it.


Tip: Recruit champions. It's important to find leaders within the organization who will encourage the adoption of information sharing and connect the benefits of sharing information to a critical operational goal. Well-networked people with enthusiasm and a willingness to take a stand are more important than high-ranking officials in the organization.


Tip: Measure adoption rates. It's important to set metrics to help determine the benefits to be derived from, for example, sharing more information from the field. While certain implementation strategies encourage fastest adoption, adoption is not something that can be mandated. Adoption occurs when users decide that the solution provides them with a net benefit. It happens when users want to use the product, and when they take action as a result. Users very quickly weigh 'what's in it for me?' against any perceived pain, such as giving up the comfort of an old way of doing something, Mayfield explained.


For example, he continued, are users saving time in their search for personnel, expertise and information? This task alone can take a week or more in large organizations. Creating a collaborative environment that enables employees to locate internal experts quickly, based on profiles, blogs or other work-related information posted online can be an invaluable tool for users in large organizations, Mayfield said. Tip: Make info sharing a byproduct of getting the job done. The implementation of an information sharing environment can't be solely about sharing, just to share information. Instead, federal organizations should instead view the effort as an investment in a shared repository that can help employees discover information they need. Socialtext, for example, can automatically populate an information sharing environment using LDAP organizational directory information, and making that available to everyone on the social network. “A big bang approach to implementation would be to take an entire agency or department and build an online social network using LDAP and inviting employees to personalize their profiles. Where users once sent out a big email, disrupting others to locate expertise within the organization, using a Twitter-like interface instead, users can instead ask question and watch what experts say, or follow the blogs to seek out the knowledgeable experts in an organization, Mayfield explained.


Tip: Provide incentives. Employees should be trained in secure methods of data exchange, rewarded when they participate in information sharing initiatives and penalized when they don't. Mayfield foresees incorporating information sharing into performance appraisal systems, rating managers on how well they encourage collaboration, and workers on whether they follow through. Agencies have been asked to report their progress on participation and training.