When Users Resist
Alas, some IT professionals learn the hard way that even the sharpest collaborative tools can be blunted if users fail to foster a collaborative culture. Geoffrey Corb, director of IT for student information systems at The Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, had that unfortunate experience.
Corb was an early user of JIRA, an issuetracking tool from Atlassian. When Atlassian expanded to a wiki product, Confluence, Corb thought he'd use it to track discussions between Johns Hopkins and other schools that were implementing the same student information system. But the interaction needed between the schools just wasn't there, and the implementation failed.
Undaunted, Corb refocused his use of Confluence on managing the implementation of the student system within Hopkins. He then set out to make the wiki the exclusive place for content on the project. But this time, he took small steps, not giant ones: "Instead of sending an agenda for a meeting around by email," he says, "we would put the agenda up in the wiki and send out a notice that it was there." Little by little, contributors became familiar with the wiki and began to produce more content for it.
The productivity of Corb's IT team has increased since it started using Confluence. "It has empowered us to not just make decisions," he says, "but to consider alternatives that might otherwise have not made it to the table by broadening the group suggesting alternatives."
Johns Hopkins fully implemented the student information system, which covers all students in each of the university's nine schools, in July, two years after the project started. Corb contemplates using Confluence to manage work on a new course management system. Better yet, some of the departments involved in the student information system are using Confluence on their own projects. "We're encouraging more of that," Corb says, "because it allows us to see what's going on in the minds of their constituents."
And what employee or manager couldn't benefit from that kind of X-ray vision?