How technology can support community projects

Technology invites us to change the way we work. After implantation of Information Systems conditioning operational performance in structures, many tools have been developed to facilitate communication, project management and interaction. Technologies have greatly improved means of communication and access to information: building a work environment, inform and empower the individual employees, manage projects and measure performance, create opportunities for exchanges and discussions and facilitate creativity are now easily integrated elements in the workplace. The flow of appropriate information is crucial in the life of a project. Current tools are used to quantify and rationalize the management of a project. The exchange of information they provide is not merely to inform an employee on elements he directly needs, but to give him a view of the entire project as well as the work of others. It’s a way to stimulate the exchange of ideas and enrichment, and also to allow the inclusion of anything the worker would be almost not able to do without these tools. In other words, technologies are there to provide tools for work intelligence.

Beyond technology, the concept of “collaborative work” now refers to work that is not based on the traditional hierarchical organization, and more specifically to a new way of working (possibly integrated in an economic production model) where many people work through ICT. The collaboration offers all project participants to enroll in a principle of continuous improvement for each task. It organizes the work sequence of parallel tasks, and provides stakeholder a useful and usable information on other tasks. Collaborative work, such as group work (which is a variant) is not necessarily synonymous with effectiveness, efficiency or speed. Technology is not magic. The result depends on the motivation of its actors to collaborate, their number, the time they can devote to this work and skills. It has the major benefit of combining the capability of creating and potentially get the best from available resources in a group, if the elements of this group are motivated.

Famous examples demonstrate the effectiveness of this model : for instance ScientificCommons puts millions of scientific papers available to all (18 million articles from more than 7 million authors in early 2008, spent more than 37 million publications recorded in mid-2010).

At smaller scales, the success of collaborative work, in addition to the technological requirements they impose, is conditioned by two factors: a suitable reconciliation between individuals and the encouraged possibility to interact outside work structured relationships, which is also allowed by new technologies (eg telework sites, connected sites, etc..).

Technology and networking is revolutionizing many areas of knowledge, and changing the way we position ourselves. If we look past the buzz and beneath the surface at what attendees really want, it seems to be not technology at all, but knowledge, applied learning and promising relationships. Lose sight of the real purpose of using technology is easy. The more we use technology, the more it is challenging to determine what is the need and what stakeholders will benefit from.

As Soren Kaplan said, “what do people remember six months after they attend a conference? Not new theories and PowerPoint presentations. Not even the content. They remember their overall experience. While content is an important part of the experience, the location, the hallway conversations, the happy hour discussions, and the informal networking are the things that generate memories. Content may draw attendees in the first place, but personal interactions leave the lasting impression. Looking beneath the surface, you uncover what really matters to people: applied learning through sharing and discussing stories, creating and rekindling relationships, and developing new business opportunities.”