One constant in the 20 years I've been working in and around organizations and their social platforms is lack of understanding of the diversity of tool types. Today that lack of understanding of the diversity continues, but the diversity and the dimensions in that diversity have increased. Since 2004 I've run workshops, given talks, written about this diversity and worked with a lot of organizations (and vendors) to better understand this diversity.
Most organizations learn about the complexity and diversity the hard way, when they realize one size doesn't fit all and trying to force that makes a mess. This starts a path of discovery, which starts with realization they need far better understanding.
This is a very high level breakdown of that tip of that understanding (features and functionality stated are not exhaustive, but used here to validate the differences). Over the years I have modified the names of the components in the diverse offerings based on need. Each of these components have different features and functionality along with different social interaction design models that map to the needs they are addressing.
The Collective social tools focus on gathering information and knowledge with an aim of being complete and having a full understanding. It is a tool type important for law firms, research and development, competitive assessment, brainstorming, general research, and more. Those people whom are participating are not necessarily focussed on others, but on capturing information and knowledge with a focus on completeness.
Collective services usually also have organizational capability for structure, categories, tagging, and sometimes curation. There can be discussion on or around elements in the service. There are often also alerts for new additions to collective area where one is participating. These services are not to be confused with general file storage services, which have different purposes and functionality.
The Cooperative (formerly I labelled this as community and then as team / group / community / network stack) focusses on sharing. This type of service is often considered "social" generically. The Group and Community levels are often the focus when talking about Enterprise Social Network (ESN) class of social offering. Across the cooperative services sharing, discussion, and interacting with others are the focus. But, there are different features and functionality and social interaction models at the different scales within the cooperative service dimension.
The Team services in the Cooperative dimension focus on teams that are working together on a project. The Team services focus on relatively small groups up to around 15 or so members. The people know each other, or are getting to know each other, so have some comfort working out loud. Team focussed service include focus on tasks, responsibilities, progress, status, calendar, etc. in addition to sharing ideas, work, voting, and other common social interactions.
Many organizations try running teams in tools and services focussed on Group and Community dimensions, but find that is a really difficult fit as they are missing the core elements needed to for teams. Team focussed service are abundant and many organizations have more than one service focussed on Teams to fit diverse team work models in organizations. Team tools are also not intended to scale to large groups of people interacting and lack of features and functionality for larger scales are often not included.
Group focussed services are aimed at subject focussed discussions and sharing of information and knowledge. Group services are often focussed to serve a few hundred or more in group spaces. Threaded discussions are common as well as the ability to tag within and sometimes across spaces.
Groups services also often focus on networked individuals and being able to follow not only subjects, but people. Group services are often used with a focus on knowledge and information capture and reuse.
Community focussed services are aimed at scaling across an organization. Often service that focus here talk about these services as social intranets. Sharing of information in work related structures spaces and groups is the focus. Community services focus on keeping information up to date and current.
Community services tend to have some reflection of organizational structure and traditional departments (HR, product, sales, etc.) as well as subject focussed areas, like the Group services offer. Community services have broader reach, but often also have governance and compliance capabilities built-in or easy add-on services.
The Network scale focusses not only to encompass everybody in an organization, but also service as a facility for working with trusted partners (consultants, contractors, business partners, and even customers). The working beyond the boundaries of the organization easily and how those relationships are set with boundaries of shared participation are a common focus.
The scaling for Network focussed services is a big focus. They can be tailored to follow supply chain and have open communication / sharing of events and discussion in-line with these services. Often the configurations can be broad, but often they don't do everything well, particularly where Teams and Group scale services focus. Permissions, federated spaces (more than one segment can own what is within a space).
Real Collaboration is where conflict, criticism, and diverse options worked through are common and required to get resolution. While other dimensions are focussed many views and breadth as a final result, the final result of collaboration is one output from the collaborative work of many. These services focus on working together openly in the creation, decision making, and have the capability to enable negotiation, mitigation, and decision capturing. Capturing decisions (what options are moving forward and what isn't selected) are essential in organizations that want to move quickly, intelligently, and efficiently. Often the decision of options not chosen and why are more valuable down the road that the what is selected as things change over time and knowing the other options and the reasoning for not selecting them can greatly reduce transition and iteration time to better hone a solution to changing realities.
Cooperation and Collaboration are not often clear, but Cooperation has many people working together in roles that coordinate efforts as the result of teams and other levels. But, Collaboration is work, ideas, approaches, and perspectives overlapping and need to be worked out which of them works best as part of the whole.
Sadly, this is a term used for many products, but the services do not remotely offer features and functionality that enable real collaborative creation, editing, nor working through and capturing all decision points.
This past year or two I went back to including Communication services (particularly open node where the communication is open to see over time, not closed node as in email where new participants to a group have not background of history not salient junctures) as they have become a category that stands alone again. General communication services can be targeted at teams, groups, or other larger scales, but are most common with smaller scale environments.
These services are the conversational glue around and between the different services. They can connect the various services and act as and umbrella for the other services as an aggregation point for streams to monitor, search, filter, and converse back into other services. Communication services focus on the conversation between individuals and groups in an open manner, but also serve as an alert system for what is going on inside other services.
This break down of the diversity into smaller actual dimensions, which may not have clear lines of distinction at time, is essential to understand. Focussing on getting the fit right for an organization requires understanding their gaps, needs, and problems they are hoping to address first (that often doesn't happen first as getting a poorly fit tool often is a good driver to understand values derived and where there are areas that must be addressed) before selecting and framing what a collection of tools that fit the diverse needs would look like.
This is just one of The Lenses in my Social Lenses workshop for clients and in groups (online and off). I will be offering a paid online workshop in the near future if you would like to learn more.