Robert K. Ackerman at SIGNAL Magazine has been tracking how virtual collaboration tools and methods are faring in the intelligence community.
Users set free to explore these new cyberspace systems have uncovered new capabilities and have driven the introduction of still more collaborative systems. The result is that finished intelligence reports now are richer than before virtual collaboration was adopted. An issue is viewed through more than one perspective; and the overall effect is timelier, more agile and more accurate intelligence reporting to decision makers.
He notes that projects based on instant messaging, social bookmarking and enterprise blogging have developed quickly because of only limited upfront structure, forcing users to take responsibility and adapt the tools to their needs.
"We basically told them what they could and couldn't do, but we didn't necessarily tell them how they could use the tools to do their jobs… We let the community as a whole decide the best way to use the capabilities to satisfy their mission."
When Intellipedia was fielded, the intelligence community decided that it would not use it as an encyclopedia but instead as a place for live collaboration. Now, Intellipedia has more than 100,000 contributors across its domains.
On the other hand, one of the remaining cultural challenges has been getting people to think about communicating and collaborating across agencies first, based on the taxonomies of the issues, rather than only within the traditional reporting structures of their hierarchies.