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Saturday
Aug062011

5 Things to Consider Before Implementing a Collaborative Solution

Since it's coming up on the Fall, I thought I'd list a few things to consider if you are considering a collaborative solution for your school or organization.

1. Purpose - Purpose should always drive decision making. The purpose of having a set of collaborative tools for your organization depends on what outcomes your organization is trying to achieve. If the purpose is that you want your oragnization to create and share documents, then you can bet being more efficient is the answer. Collaborative solutions are all about making the way we learn and work, better. Don't implement a solution because you want to be like the "Joneses". Those of us who've used Outlook, Notes, Google Apps or other collaborative tools know...these tools make our lives better, period. Take the time to find out what you are trying to achieve with them and evaluate from there.

2. Flexibility - How portable and flexible does your learning or working environment have to be? Does your organization allow wireless devices like Smartphones and tablets? One of the best features of a modern day collaborative solution is that information is available real time, allowing a user to be more flexible. Work is no longer a place you go to, it's a place that comes to us. Learning is no exception. If you need a solution that allows your users and students access to information anytime, anywhere, then you need a collaborative solution that is Internet-based, portable and flexible.

3. Infrastructure - What kind of infrastructure do you have in your place in your organization? Wait, didn't I just mention that you didn't need equipment in order to install it? You don't, however the type of infrastructure you have is important because once you have installed Google Apps on your domain, you need to be able to use it. Google Apps works through your browser, therefore bandwidth (the amount of time it takes for a person to download and upload information from the Internet through a browser) and connectivity are important. The tools aren't the only thing to consider when making a selection. How much support staff will you have? People can be a part of your infrastructure too. How long will you need to train them? What kind of collaborative solution resources will your organization be able to take advantage of? 

4. To email or not to email? We receive many requests from organizations asking us whether they can install Google Apps as their collaborative solution but keep their email service as is. The simple answer is yes, you can have both an email service and a separate collaboration solution. However, having to manage two systems - an email system and a collaboration solution on separate platforms can be time consuming. There are other factors to consider here: size of the organization, type of other services the organization uses, how many users are what we would call "technology literate" and how many users are open to "change" - "the flexbility factor". If you are going to go this route make sure you train some power users and give them time to support others during the early implementation phase. Email is an important and essential tool for everyday communication. The stronger the adoption of the collaborative solution, the more likely it is you will want to consider the same solution as your email provider.

5. Cost - Putting the cost aside...well, okay, we can't. Google Apps for Education and Non-Profits is free. Google Apps for Business has a cost of $50/user attached to it. Other options like Office 365 and Lotus Notes have varying price structures. As a non-profit, K-12, or university institution, you and your IT folks will want to evaluate your "must have" features and weigh the cost before making a decision. 

If you haven't read the Software and Information Industry Association (SIIA) Guide to implementing software you should. It offers some great advice about how to implement solutions, and barring the language for software that has to be installed on a device, the planning guide is excellent. K-12 SIIA Software Implementation Toolkit

 

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