'Cultures of participation' and IT success

'Cultures of participation' and IT success

Summary: New Enterprise 2.0 technologies, such as wikis and wisdom of crowds tools, remind us of the essential link between culture and collaboration in creating successful projects.


Many important business ideas and trends, including Enterprise 2.0 and Social CRM, are rooted in social networking technologies that help individuals come together spontaneously to form collaborative, ad hoc affinity groups.

These new technologies, such as wikis and wisdom of crowds tools, remind us of the essential link between culture and collaboration in creating successful projects.

Given the significance of collaborative groups, I read with interest one particular slide in an SAP-sponsored academic research paper on peer support in enterprise software. This slide portrays the historical relative impact of various technologies on collaboration and information sharing:

Projects succeed or fail based on collaboration. Therefore, improving an organization's project success rate requires attention to cultural dimensions. For example, many companies find that communication between business and technical groups is challenging. This communication gap leads to information silos that directly impede project success.

I asked HR technology and service delivery expert, Naomi Bloom, to comment:

Ensuring that project team members have the right capabilities, are well-organized to succeed in their communications and collaboration, have the right incentives and behavioral enablers in place to support communication and collaboration as organizational imperatives, are given relevant development opportunities --  and the list goes on -- is the work of effective human resource management (HRM) applied to the needs of project-based work.

Communication and collaboration are essentially human behaviors, which can be hired for, managed, learned, incented, obstructed, evaluated and rewarded, encouraged or discouraged by an organization's HRM policies and practices. Thus, at the heart of successful project cultures is effective HRM. The two are inextricably intertwined.

When analyzing IT projects, I often use a framework that links culture to IT and business activities. Although the items shown in this diagram are non-technical, they are the true drivers of IT success or failure.

My take. "Culture of participation," as the paper terms it, is a bedrock concept describing the most basic business activity: people working together to achieve specific goals. From a narrow project failures perspective, it's high time we recognize that technology solutions alone do not increase success rates. The real answer lies in collaboration, communication, and cross-boundary participation.

Topics: IT Employment, CXO, Collaboration, Enterprise Software, Software

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  • Definitely agree participation is key

    I couldn't agree more that the aspects outlined in the graphic depicting IT project success are immensely critical. With almost 20 years of IT project participation in large and small IT shops, the projects that had those aspects were hands down more successful than the ones missing even one aspect.

    Knowing that every IT project you might participate on doesn't have strong representation of all aspects, I've posted a series of articles on techniques an IT manager might employ to survival weak projects for those interested: http://bit.ly/1HddJW
  • Human Factors are Often Overlooked

    Thanks for another great post Michael. All too often the human factors are overlooked. We invest so much in the development and advancement of frameworks, methodologies, processes, systems and tools - and none of them are worth a hill of beans if we don't address the dimensions of human behavior that are key to any success in any endeavor.

    Steve Romero, IT Governance Evangelist
    Steve Romero
  • RE: 'Cultures of participation' and IT success

    Collaboration doesn?t mean putting out lots of information for people to consume e.g. writing, publishing, PCs, Internet, and "collaboration tools" or having the means to so. To me, it means having the interest and willingness to work in a cooperative, respectful way, where everybody shares part of the burden.

    Today, so many people think that collaboration is making their burden yours and expecting you to carry it for them.