Matters of trust within a collaboration system

When considering a collaboration system, it's essential that you don't stop after evaluating the features that would be most attractive to your particular teams. You also need to discuss how you will get individual users, project managers, IT staff, and business executives to trust the system. No matter how potentially useful the features are, without trust in the system, users won't adopt it and you won't realize all of its benefits.

The trust of individual users and project managers operates at the process level. Can I trust that the information will be available to me anywhere, anytime -- and is the information organized so that as the amount of data grows, I can quickly and easily find whatever bit of information I need whenever I need it? Do I trust that the information I've sent through the system has actually been received -- and that recipients will see only the latest version of a document? Can I trust that access to proprietary data will be properly controlled so only people with proper authorization can see it -- and can I verify who has accessed and revised a document via an audit trail?

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Without trust across the organization, your collaboration initiatives may be doomed long before you can ever realize their full benefits. But abandoning these initiatives dooms your organization to lower productivity, less agility, fewer opportunities, longer project lifecycles and, ultimately, a loss of competitiveness.Trust is equally important to IT staff and business executives. What is the technology being used and who owns it? If a collaboration platform is owned by one party of a multiparty project, can I trust the owner with my proprietary data? If the collaboration platform is cloud-based, do I trust the types and levels of network and information security being used? And, as a business executive, do I trust that the platform will add tangible value and deliver a measurable ROI? Will it protect my business from overruns, litigation, damage to reputation, and other risks if a project goes bad?

Here are five collaboration best practices that will enable you to move forward with your collaboration initiatives while encouraging high levels of trust by all stakeholders.

1. Comprehensive Document Management: The solution must allow easy-to-use document approval workflows, but it must also ensure document delivery and access, while providing sophisticated version control, easy-to-use search capabilities, and an audit trail of who has accessed and revised documents.

2. Platform Neutrality and Independent Data Model: The solution should not be owned by any party, and the rights of all parties must be equally protected. Your proprietary information should never sit behind another company's firewall. The data model should support this neutrality by making each organization a separate entity within the system with complete control over its own information. No organization should be able to access any other organization's information without specific authorization to do so within the system.

3. Comprehensive Access and Availability: The solution should ensure that any user with an internet connection and PC, laptop, or tablet can access information anywhere, anytime, typically via a standard web browser. Because of the increasingly large size of project files, the system should also take advantage of content delivery network (CDN) technology to accelerate downloads and improve resilience.

4. Information Protection:  To protect its production systems, the solution should employ the highest levels of network security, and it should protect all network traffic with SSL-encrypted connections. Comprehensive multi-tenant access controls must ensure that users see only the information they are permitted to see. And the entire solution should be ISO 27001-compliant, which means that the solution has adopted the highest standards across a range of areas, including information classification and handling, disposal of media, and the hiring, discipline and termination of staff with access to data centers.

5. System Reliability and Resilience: To optimize availability, system performance should be monitored 24x7 with engineers always on-call to resolve any issues. To ensure resilience, the platform should employ redundant hardware and power, data replication, and disaster recovery sites. In addition, production and disaster recovery sites should be protected by the highest levels of physical security, including security guards and entry systems, and sophisticated HVAC controls and fire suppression.

Leigh is the Co-Founder & CEO of Aconex, the world's most widely-used online collaboration platform for the Construction and Engineering industry

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