Last Tuesday at the Mountain View campus of LinkedIn, David Coleman, author of Collaboration 2.0, spoke on collaboration at the SDForum’s Web 2.0 SIG. While highlighting a few of the thousands of collaboration products on the market, Coleman praised Chatter as an effective collaboration tool and dismissed SharePoint as a “micro-silo” that hinders rather than fosters collaboration.
Dell uses both Chatter and SharePoint internally, and I’ve been involved in quite a few SharePoint projects as a consultant. And in my experience, both tools can be useful for collaboration, though each is suited to different levels of collaboration.
Chatter, a micro blogging product from Salesforce.com, works well for broad, but shallow collaboration. I use it to keep tabs of what goes on within Dell as a whole. I follow Michael Dell’s chatter feed as well as those of a few other leaders. I follow the social media group since I have a particular interest in their work.
But when I need to collaborate intensely within a team on a project—jointly drafting documents, tracking issues, keeping to a calendar, monitoring tasks—then SharePoint is better suited for the job. Chatter just does not offer project collaboration functionality. I do not know of any team within Dell that uses Chatter to organize around projects.
I think of SharePoint as a room arranged for a specific team to work together on a project together. The room may even have a lock on the door to protect confidentiality. Chatter is a bit more like an enterprise water cooler, shared by all and suitable for micro conversations. Both tools foster communication, and hence collaboration, but in different ways.
(As an aside, SharePoint 2010 includes a great deal of social media-like functionality that can, where appropriate, carry conversations outside of the walls of a workspace, which I think makes for an interesting collaboration space.)
Are these really different levels of collaboration? Anybody else have other different takes on these two tools?