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Friday 22 March 2019

Secrets of successful collaboration: 17. make information technology support people and their collaborative relationships

Collaborations will ensure information technology supports people and their collaborative relationships. They will achieve this by doing the following: 
  • Valuing people's existing relationships by placing them at the centre of information technology planning and implementation. Collaborations will identify existing informal and formal understandings and relationships between people and, where advantageous, ensure these are supported by the introduction of IT.
  • Tailoring IT to the needs and contexts of their people. Part of this will be about safeguarding the above mentioned existing relationships, but it will also be about ensuring IT supports people within their day-to-day environments. Will it be reliable, available and accessible within these environments and will people be able adapt it to their needs?
  • Pacing the introduction of IT so people are given time to become familiar with it and, importantly, ensure the understandings and relationships they value and depend upon are safeguarded.
  • Providing people with training that will enable them to understand IT, use IT, and confidently adapt IT to their needs and contexts.
  • Making IT intuitive and unobtrusive. Enabling people to blend IT easily and flexibly into day-to-day activities and interactions by making IT tools easy and natural to use.
  • Ensuring IT offers additional and easily accessed opportunities for face-to-face contact. As well as supplementing "in the same room" face-to-face contact, this will encourage the above mentioned intensive and purposeful communication. 
In addition to the above, collaborations will acknowledge that people must do the heavy lifting of relationship building (with IT taking a supportive role). This acknowledgement will not be an easy one to give because it runs counter to the centuries old assumption that technology exists to save labour by doing the heavy lifting associated with tasks.
The above assumption holds true for lorries, tractors, cranes, washing machines, dishwashers and microwaves, etc. It is not, however, an accurate assumption to make about IT.
The new information technology works in a somewhat different way. It is true that IT can save immense amounts of time by automating tasks such as record keeping and calculating, etc. It is also true that IT can speed up and facilitate communication. IT cannot, however, do the work of forming trusting and respectful human relationships and ensuring not only the effectiveness but also the quality of communication; it cannot reliably close the loop of dynamic human interactions.
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