IT departments are kept busy when it comes to providing systems, tools and procedures that turn the vague concept of collaboration into a real business benefit.

But what happens when the time comes for techies themselves to collaborate? That's a completely different issue.

IT people carry the stigma of being particularly non-collaborative, but the stereotype of the loner programmer barricaded in a server room is not necessarily accurate. "It depends so much on the organisation that you work in," says Jeffrey Hammond, an analyst at Forrester Research who studies high-performance application development teams.

"In any organisation, you get what you value," Hammond says - and traditionally many IT departments have not valued collaboration, operating instead in a command-and-control fashion. "As a result, these organisations have turned off the collaborative - and more importantly, the creative - skill sets of many of their employees," he says.

That could be a problem, because effective collaboration is increasingly perceived as an imperative for corporations, a trend that information technology isn't immune to. As IT departments are downsized, with low-level tech jobs outsourced or replaced by managed services, the remaining IT staffers - who are often dispersed throughout the world - must not only work more closely with business units, but also share knowledge with one another to avoid having to reinvent the wheel.

The good news is, their prickly reputation notwithstanding, IT employees can be as creative and collaborative as anybody else, Hammond says. In a survey of application developers last year, Hammond found that nearly half of the respondents said that they wrote code outside of their jobs and some 20 percent said they participated in open-source projects. "That's a hint that these folks are interested in collaboration," he says.

What's the best way to nurture that desire for collaboration and creativity in your IT employees? We checked in with several companies that have had success in tapping the power of IT collaboration. Here are their stories.

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