Our current generation is without doubt the most "connected" generation yet. We have numerous tools available which allow us to convey our thoughts instantly in every possible media format and yet we still occasionally struggle to communicate with each other effectively.
I want to look at some specific examples of platforms for collaboration and see how our industry might be able to put them into useful practice as well as considering our motivation for contributing towards a collaborative approach.
Creating standards and policy documents is a very difficult and often thankless task which must be carried out in order for our industry to continue to progress.
If we were to sit everyone around a table to try and agree the wording of an important document then we could be there for a very long time (if indeed we were able to sit down in the first place).
Using free, secure applications such as Google Drive (formerly Google Docs) means that a collective of people could all work on a single document as and when they have time to do so, and at a pace that suited them.
All changes would be audited, commented upon and can be discussed in an easy manner alongside the document so that people can find a way to reach an agreement.
At any stage people can look at who has edited what and why and a final draft document would be the output of the process.
People may be hesitant at the idea of putting content out securely into ‘the cloud’. To those people I ask one simple question: "Realistically, whose servers are more secure? Is it Googles data centres or your own servers?" What would an independent auditor say if comparing the two options on a like for like basis?
The primary consideration will always be one of risk versus reward. The opportunity to encourage engagement from an occasionally apathetic and yet well informed industry is one which we should strive to grasp.
Impact & Opinion
I recently had the pleasure of contacting representatives of all NSI Gold and SSAIB accredited ARCs. It was quickly apparent that across a broad spectrum of different types of alarm receiving centres, that the people I was talking to were all well informed, had a great deal of experience in their particular disciplines and were passionately interested in the industry on the whole moving forward and progressing.
They all had something useful and positive and unique to contribute. This is a valuable resource which our industry ought to be taking the fullest possible advantage of (in the nicest way possible).
The same I am sure can be said of installers, manufacturers and other interested parties.
Often the difficulty can be in taking the wide variety of people and preferred contact methods they may have into account when trying to gauge the opinion of the whole.
We could use tools such as private LinkedIn groups and built in polling facilities:
This can quickly help to identify the collective opinion of individual members. However, though users can comment on polls in such groups it is important that a facility somehow remains for users to contribute comments anonymously if they wish as it may be that an unpopular or controversial opinion may in fact be an important point for all to consider.
It is also important that such questions remain relevant, neutral and help to identify or resolve key concerns in the day to day operation of such facilities, as this will promote participation and engagement while providing useful output for interested parties.
Why would potential competitors want to share information and ideas? Everyone knows that our industry historically has thrived on secrecy and that unique technology can give businesses a cutting edge over others with whom they are in competition, so why would anyone want to share?
There is value in effective collaboration which can simply not be achieved in isolation.
We have gone from being one way consumers of information to instead being very effective communicators of information. What seems interesting to one person could inspire another to actually create an innovative idea or approach.
It is now recognised that there is a "cognitive surplus" which is often untapped and which is willing to give input autonomously to the benefit of the greater good.
Now, whilst I am very mindful of intellectual property and issues related to it, there are issues which are broader and affect all interested parties within a group.
These are the types of challenges to which a collective group of experienced and interested people can help to overcome. Given the opportunity to participate and with enough barriers to participation removed, then people will go out of their way to help.
Many individuals in our industry have valuable contributions to make, it is a question of giving them an opportunity to have a voice whilst accounting for their hectic schedules and any genuine concerns.