What if someone you wanted to reach had only five minutes for you?
You want the people to focus their attention to your message, or to review your document, or to respond to your call to action - you want them to focus on the important, not on learning yet another new feature and another new tool.
Simplicity is the most important characteristic of any collaboration software on the edge of network.
Two ways to control complexity and drive simplicity on the edge are small number of software features, and interaction scenarios to simplify your interaction processes.
All interactions across the edge of network fall into a small number of scenarios. There are only a few ways to run a success online discussion - whether time-limited or unlimited, moderated or non-moderated. Same for sharing documents: it's either for peer review, a draft for comments, final version for limited distribution, or maybe collaborative contributions to a report.
Each scenario has it's own rules for success, accumulated from experience of many organizations and groups over the years.
Start with email. You can't assume anything about the people you are trying to reach: not the level of knowledge, not the time they have to dedicate to you, nor their motivation. The only thing you can assume is that everyone has an email address.
Any collaboration software helping you to succeed on the edge of network must fully integrate email, both on sending and receiving end. Mailing lists are still the most popular means of interaction in international development. Because they start with email.
Email works not only because everyone has it and knows how to use it, but because of its asynchronous, store and forward architecture that lends itself well to the nature of low-throughput communication and engagement. This is the key thing to rememer about email: the web and 'social sowftware' does not replace it, but complement with different communication architectures.
Beyond email, successful edge collaboration software will solve the problem of keeping everyone on the same page, extending the concept of inbox to a group level, and will make it easy to perform interactive tasks like document versioning, large-scale facilitation, and similar.
Owning one's own words and identity is important. Experience in the edge of network has taught us that when people are able to put their own logo on their content and online communities, they are willing to put more effort and drastically improve their success.
Large online services promote their own logo and brand, and by necessity have to commoditize you, turn you into an item on the our customers page.
Running your own service is hard and expensive, and counting on IT department is usually very frustrating - their mission does not include interactions beyond the edge. Most collaboration software is strongly branded by IT people themselves - they are in it for the tools, after all. There's too much focus on the 'expertize' and 'policy' of using software X or Y. It's the consequence of introducing complexity and then managing it through restrictions.
The best solution is a white label software, something that gets out of the way of your own identity and brand.
Demand your right to own your identity: from the internet address, the name in the email address, to ability to expose your logo and colors, not vendor's.
* Reach beyond the edge.
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