Collaborative workflow: the new kid on campus: moving beyond collaborative software to implement tools that enhance process and increase productivity.[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]
Students, staff, faculty, and alumni are frequently in need of support for special projects, curriculum collaboration, and technology. Helpdesk solutions for IT administrators have been widely adopted among larger institutions to streamline IT support. But, with tight budgets, there's a need for a streamlined, collaborative workflow that allows staff, support specialists, department heads, administrators, and professors alike to be more productive, in a shorter period of time and with less staff. New technology that combines the features of workflow collaboration and social software should touch all facets within an institution to get the job done.
Collaborative workflow is expected to provide synergetic synergetic /syn·er·get·ic/ (sin?er-jet´ik) synergic.
Synergistic. efficiency gains to all members of a group. The removal of communication barriers between team members, whether they're in the same department, in several departments, or across multiple campuses, would allow more efficient work on joint assignments. Barriers such as information silos and organizational boundaries would be minimized.
Ideally, collaborative workflow is to service management what "Cirque du Soleil Cirque du Soleil (French for "Circus of the Sun") is an entertainment empire based in Montreal, Quebec, Canada and founded in Baie-Saint-Paul in 1984 by two former street performers, Guy Laliberté and Daniel Gauthier. " is to movement: a collection of parallel, sequential tasks that communicate and coordinate with seamless precision to achieve a desired outcome. The main difference between pure-play collaboration software See collaborative software. and collaborative workflow is that the latter is both goal-oriented and structured. Collaboration is then carried out in a project framework with specific objectives in mind.
Prior to the 1980s, IT functions were performed at the data center--often a faceless, monolithic division housing fields of mainframes, humming softly in locked rooms. The insulated, air-conditioned splendor of the computer room was an unfortunate metaphor for the data center, all too often an unresponsive ivory tower ivory tower
A place or attitude of retreat, especially preoccupation with lofty, remote, or intellectual considerations rather than practical everyday life. of corporate information gatekeepers.
The introduction of the IBM PC A PC made by IBM. IBM created the PC industry in 1981 when it introduced its first model with 16KB of RAM. However, it was way off in its estimates, projecting that 250,000 units would be sold in the first five years. In fact, about three million IBM PCs were sold in that period. in the early 1980s was the "French Revolution" of computing--ushering in a power shift from the data center to the knowledge workers. This change ultimately led to the democratization de·moc·ra·tize
tr.v. de·moc·ra·tized, de·moc·ra·tiz·ing, de·moc·ra·tiz·es
To make democratic.
de·moc of computing, but in the short run led to a period of utter chaos.
The new model lacked standards, was fraught with trial and error, and required an ever-increasing level of support. It came not only from the "computer department," but soon included fellow team members helping each other. Peer support and "user" groups began to form, and although not explicitly shown in financial statements, led to an alarming drop in worker productivity.
By the early 1990s, studies published by well-respected consulting groups stated that organizations were spending a shocking amount of money on peer and informal technical support about three times the amount spent on hardware (and that's when a typical IBM PC cost approximately $5,000!). Many managers felt the PC revolution had gotten out of control.
Against this backdrop (and especially when campuses started implementing local area networks), the modern helpdesk was born. The data center had lost its monopoly, but the resulting power vacuum A power vacuum is an expression for a political situation that can occur when a government has no identifiable central authority. The metaphor implies that, like a physical vacuum, other forces will tend to "rush in" to fill the vacuum as soon as it is created, perhaps in the form needed to be filled. For many, a resolution was found in standardizing and automating processes. Universities, faced with budget constraints, formed their own user organizations and folded technology into their own professional development programs.
The early helpdesks incorporated fairly simple workflows: problems were reported, dispatched, routed to a tech, resolved, and closed. As decentralized computing Decentralized computing is a trend in modern day business environments. This is the opposite of centralized computing, which was prevalent during the early days of computers. matured, customized workflow solutions such as change management, configuration management, and problem management enabled IT to focus on the bottom line--resolving problems and rolling out new applications faster, more reliably, and with greater ease. Workflow applications brought to the modern enterprise what Henry Ford's assembly line did for manufacturing: efficiency, uniformity of outcomes, and increased throughput.
When new technologies get introduced to the marker, they go through a gestation period Gestation period
In mammals, the interval between fertilization and birth. It covers the total period of development of the offspring, which consists of a preimplantation phase (from fertilization to implantation in the mother's womb), an embryonic phase . Even before widespread adoption of the internet, social computing Social computing is a general term for an area of computer science that is concerned with the intersection of social behavior and computational systems. It is used in two ways. had gained a foothold with CompuServe, Prodigy, and America Online See AOL. . Social communications and collaboration have evolved around popular developments such as email, chat rooms, bulletin boards, and Wikipedia, all of which have been around long enough to be embraced by an entire generation now old enough to be in higher ed decisionmaking roles.
For this reason, administrators recognize the value of collaborative features of social software, and wish to harness them within their existing infrastructure for project management and communication between students, faculty, and administrators.
Social software tools may be distracting to users, as they are not structured or goal oriented. Without stated goals, commitments, timelines, and performance measurements, social media tools do not align with the productivity goals of workflow components and their benefits are merely anecdotal.
Collaboration is more essential than ever. As budgets shrink, objectives and projects must be completed in a timely, succinct manner. With collaborative workflow, all parties granted access--cross-department or internally--have the ability to collaborate and manage projects through document sharing, email, or instant messaging. Students working with professors, faculty working together, and IT support at the campus level can benefit from today's new workflow tools.
All members of a campus have become service providers for one another. To maintain a competitive edge, institutions need to implement a cost-effective solution that streamlines services. With every professor, administrator, and in many schools, student, having a computer at their fingertips, and all of these devices tied to wireless networks within an infrastructure that spans the entire campus, opportunities exist for collaboration tools to be implemented to enhance departmental projects across the network.
To be effective for institutions, a collaborative workflow solution should include:
* Goal-oriented project/task infrastructure
* A secure infrastructure that enables faculty/administrators/staff and students to collaborate, while retaining confidentiality
* Role-based access control The identification, authentication and authorization of individuals based on their job titles within an organization. Contrast with mandatory access control and discretionary access control. See least privilege. (RBAC RBAC Role-Based Access Control (informatics)
RBAC Rule-Based Access Control (informatics)
RBAC Recreational Boating Advisory Council (Canada)
RBAC Re-Use Business Assistance Center ) to tasks, documents, and calendar items
* Communication tools for increased teamwork within the project/task infrastructure
* Document management to enable multiple users to coordinate tasks and workflows
* Social software tracking and usage from within project parameters
Collaborative workflow will enhance processes by integrating collaboration tools within an institution. It will increase productivity and efficiency by reducing information silos and the typical friction points of time, space, and organizational structure.
Online Collaboration Tools
What kinds of collaboration tools are being used by higher ed administrators for more efficient execution of projects these days? Here are a few examples:
* activeCollab: This project management and collaboration tool installs on the server or local network and allows for full control over files and communications. www.activecollab.com
* Cisco Collaboration Applications: Cisco Jabber allows for collaboration from any workspace, with easy access to presence, instant messaging, voice and video, desktop sharing, and conferencing; and Cisco Quad enterprise collaboration platform connects people to the information and expertise they need and allows for sharing knowledge and ideas. www.cisco.com/en/US/products/ps10680/
* Google Apps for Education: These free website and document creation tools offer real-time editing, sharing controls, and compatibility with any operating system. www.google.com/apps/intl/en/edu/
* Microsoft SharePoint 2010: These tools make it easier for administrators to share ideas and expertise, create custom solutions for specific needs, and have the right information for decision making. http://sharepoint.microsoft.com/en-us
* TeamDynamix Suite: This integrated project portfolio management, service desk, and operations work management tool is tailored to higher education, allowing administrators to prioritize efforts, manage resources, and meet commitments on time and on budget. www.teamdynamix.com/ProjectSolutions/Solutions.aspx
Igal Hauer is the CEO (1) (Chief Executive Officer) The highest individual in command of an organization. Typically the president of the company, the CEO reports to the Chairman of the Board. and founder of HelpSTAR (www.helpstar.com), a provider of helpdesk software that recently released a service desk collaboration solution.