1) Bring out the skeletons in the closet. Collaboration projects don’t fail because the technology supporting them isn’t good enough. To the contrary, the technology is almost always the easy part. Organizations may appear to have good relationships on the surface, but when they begin to share information, whatever lingering tension exists among them will come out. Everyone’s first instinct will be to blame the system rather than confront the source of the tension head on. CIOs and their project managers need to draw these issues out and address them head on.
2) Design the system around the group’s needs. This is a bigger version of the ERP problem, where users resist changing their business processes to fit a system. Whereas a CIO (or at least the company) can force an employee to use a system or follow a method, no organization can force another to do so if a collaboration project is truly one of equals. By taking the time up front to understand each organization’s business processes and building a new, collaborative process that retains the parts that each partner feels are most important, CIOs increase the possibility that organizations will actually use the new system.
3) Make every party feel important. If multiple parties are going to collaborate, it is important that no one group take over— even if it is by far the biggest or is footing most of the bill. Participants will drop out of the project if they begin to feel that it is serving one group’s needs ahead of others. Small steps can help ease these feelings; consider hiring an independent project manager and spreading the meetings across all of the partners’ offices.