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Form Groups as Part of a Social Collaboration

In very few businesses does the whole organization work on every project. Likewise, most of the real work accomplished through social collaboration networks happens through smaller groups rather than the main company feed. Just understand the use of the word "group" generically here because the terminology varies between social platforms, and some of the more sophisticated products provide multiple types of groups and communities.

For example, Jive has basic collaboration groups, project groups, and spaces, which are sort of super-groups that can include subspaces and projects, each of which has its own associated content and activity. Only an administrator or community manager can create Jive Spaces, which are often more formal reflections of the corporate hierarchy, such as a space for the human resources department used to post benefits plan descriptions and policy documents or host discussions about how policies are being interpreted.

On the other hand, Jive Groups can be created and administered by ordinary users to discuss a common professional interest, which may cut across the hierarchy, such as sales presentation tactics. The approval of a community manager may or may not be required, depending on how Jive is configured.

In IBM Connections, a group is a Community, and a project is an Activity.

In any social collaboration platform, you can use a Groups tool to gather everyone into a virtual workspace to collaborate on a project and manage tasks free from the distractions of the main activity stream.

How projects fit into social collaboration

Project workspaces focus collaboration around multiple people working toward a single goal or set of goals. Social networking within a project group can be good for eliminating status report meetings. After everyone can easily keep tabs on everyone else, there is little need to make everyone go around the table announcing their progress.

Social network communication can be good for loose project coordination, where it's helpful to know who is running behind or running into trouble but project outputs do not need to be precisely sequenced.

For instance, Yammer doesn't provide specific project or task management functionality, but many of its users say their projects run more smoothly anyway as the result of team members sharing their status on a regular basis and heading off problems more promptly.

Social software that defines a specific group type for projects typically provides additional tools for structuring and sequencing tasks, as well as visualizations like Gantt charts for measuring progress toward project completion. Social project management can also take advantage of the graph structure of social collaboration, making it possible to assign tasks with @mention references to a user profile from the status line or a drop-down list based on the user's connections.

One reason for segmenting collaborative activity using groups is to avoid distractions from the purpose of that group, whatever it may be. The group activity stream can be kept free of irrelevant posts by only admitting people with relevant interests and expertise.

Meanwhile, content of interest to only that group can be prevented from cluttering the main company feed.

How to configure levels of privacy in a group

Groups can be configured to be open to anyone who wants to join, or they can be closed, meaning that every member of the group must individually be granted admission by the group manager or administrator. Groups can also be secret and invitation only, with their existence and all the content associated with them invisible in search results.

The exact gradations vary between platforms, making it important to understand what configuration options such as open, closed, public, private, and secret mean in practice. For example, is activity within a group displayed in the company-wide feed as well? Is content created within a group displayed in global search results? Can you do a targeted search of just the content contained within the group?

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